NFL Week 14: Cardinals vs Lions Prediction and Best Bet

Kurt Boyer

Handicappers aren’t supposed to come on blogs full of advertising and “win!” promises, only to declare that we’ve made gigantic mistakes. But the mistakes are all evident on the NFL scoreboard every week.

I’m not batting 1000, so it’s worthwhile to go back and look at bet-recommendation losses and how they happened. More instructive than looking at the wins, that’s for sure.

Prior to last weekend’s Cardinals-Packers scrum in Green Bay, I wrote that Arizona was in no psychological condition to go to a foreboding, icy field 2 time zones away and compete with a desperate Aaron Rodgers-led team. Glendale beat writers were opining that the Big Red had already quit on head coach Steve Wilks, one of the worst hires of any NFL front-office over the past 10 years.

The Pack seemed like a lock on the wide point spread. Instead, they were eliminated from playoff contention. The negative media coverage seemed to light a fire under the visitors, who won 20-17 despite rookie QB Josh Rosen’s poor accuracy day and the failure of David Johnson to rush for 75+ yards.

I don’t think my mistake was to say that Arizona is poorly coached. The Cardinals have hired a lot of lousy skippers in their history and they hired another stinker in 2018. The offense is rudderless, and the defense rarely tackles well or wins the line of scrimmage. A surprise win over Green Bay underscores that the Cards are under-achievers, even though the Cheeseheads ironically axed their long-time HC Mike McCarthy after the result.

Below-average coaches have a deceptive effect on handicapping. We forget that the Big Red (or the Big Blue) roster didn’t fall off a turnip truck to get where they are – they’re elite professional athletes. We blame “bad” players for the bad records of NFL teams that disappoint us, instead of the combination of 2nd-choice leadership, bad breaks and injuries that is more-often responsible for a sad W/L record. All 32 teams are capable of waking up and playing excellent ball on (all together now) any given Sunday. 

Las Vegas has seen it all. NFL odds-makers weren’t about to overreact to the upset Arizona win at Lambeau, even though the Cardinals are playing at home in Week 14 against the struggling Detroit Lions.

Who: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals

When: Sunday, December 9th, 4:25 PM EST

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Lines: Detroit (-3) at Arizona (+3) / O/U Total (40.5)

Handicapping the Detroit Lions at the Arizona Cardinals

Bill Walsh wrote that NFL reporters and editors will “completely change their point of view in 24 hours.” The more modern-times method is to just pretend you never had your previous one. Kent Somers, who had written for AZ Central that the squad had quit for the season, danced around his scheduled crow-eating session by implying that a bunch of rookies had earned the upset:

Rookies usually have to wait their turn in the NFL. If you happen to play for the Cardinals, however, there’s no time like the present and thanks to a bunch of first-year players and other new young faces alike, the kids actually helped deliver an improbable win on Sunday.

On a cold and gusty afternoon full of rain and constant snow flurries at Lambeau Field, the Cardinals got everything they could out of their youngsters – and a game-saving catch from their aging superstar wide receiver – and it propelled them to a 20-17 upset over the Green Bay Packers. Second-year kicker Zane Gonzalez, signed off the scrap heap a week ago, kicked a 44-yard field goal with 1:45 left to play and the Green Bay’s Mason Crosby missed what would have been a game-tying 49-yarder as time expired, lifting the Cardinals to just their third victory of the season.

Start with first-year running back Chase Edmonds, the team’s fourth-round pick out of Fordham. Getting some key carries during two opportunities inside the red zone, Edmonds managed to finish with 51 rushing yards on five carries and he scored both of the Cardinals’ touchdowns on runs of 6 and 8 yards. The Cardinals also got 91 all-purpose yards out of rookie receiver Christian Kirk, who caught three passes for a team-high 54 yards.

Weird, I only see a couple of actual rookies listed there. Seems like the winning play was made by good old Larry Fitzgerald. But a blossoming of young talent on the Cardinal offense is always welcome, especially since Rosen desperately needs a life buoy.

Meanwhile, I’m not buying the Arizona defense after 1 or 2 encouraging performances. The unit could potentially shine, if the offense rules for 3 or 4 quarters and gives it a long field and a short opposing TOP to contend with, but as it stands the best athlete (Patrick Peterson) wants out of dodge.

The host offensive line is makeshift (that’s happened to the franchise a lot too) and will not be able to consistently block a Detroit pass rush that, while inconsistent in ’18, features LB Devon Kennard.

Matt Stafford’s offense has produced some efficient drives against the Bears and Rams in the past couple of games, and it’s likely to find success against a much-weaker defense in Arizona. LeGarrette Blount is a popular “sleeper” pick in Fantasy leagues this week, and could have a fine day if the 4-8 Lions stake out a lead early. However, if Fitzgerald makes a great early grab for a TD (he never runs out of those) then look for Stafford to open it up.

My Pick on the Over/Under Total

This contest looks to have a tight finish, making a FG point spread for 2 losing teams into a non-value proposition. But I’m really liking the Over, which can still be wagered vs a line of (40) at a few betting sites.

Under bets have been winning a lot as the season drives into a cold winter. But there’s no Arctic blast at University of Phoenix, and a good QB with nothing to lose is visiting town. The forecast calls for 68 degrees and almost no wind at the Big Toaster.

Look for a 27-23 or 31-28 type of final score, and a win on the Over.

Read More Like This