Cincinnati Bengals (8-1 SU, 7-1-1 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date/Time: November 22nd/8:30pm ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +5/ARZ -5
Over/Under Total: 48
The last few weeks have seen the mighty fall in quite spectacular fashion. Cincinnati took its first hit to an otherwise flawless record last week and now travels to Arizona to take on the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football. This is the first meeting between these teams since 2011 so there is a fresh feel to this cross-conference battle, and both teams have a lot to play for with each in tight battles for playoff seeding and home field advantage.
Both teams are exceeding expectations this season but Arizona is getting the love this week as the online betting sites have the Cardinals as five point favorites. It is tough to get behind a Bengals teams that basically came up totally empty last Monday Night but they are 4-0 against the spread in their last four road games and have won 9-of-12 ATS following a straight up loss. Arizona is 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home contests and has lost just 10 games against the spread in their last 33 overall.
It is hard to imagine what all went into Cincinnatis 6-10 loss against Houston. The Bengals were rightfully heavy favorites and even knocked Brian Hoyer out of the game while ahead 6-3. You would have figured that the top scoring defense in the NFL could have handled T.J. Yates but it was not to be and Cincinnati enters the week stinging a bit over a game Im sure they thought was a gimme. The Bengals still have a 2.5 game lead over the Steelers with a head-to-head win against Pittsburgh so the sky isnt falling yet but a loss will shrink that margin with Big Ben and Co. on bye this week. It is not a secret that Cincinnati has struggled in big games with Andy Dalton at the helm. The Red Rifle has played exceptionally this season but fell to 4-12 in stand-alone and playoff games after Mondays loss. Some of those odd win-loss records are meaningless in the greater scheme but Dalton coming up small in primetime appears to be a real factor.
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Seattle, on the other hand, is rolling strong off a 39-32 win in Seattle. The Seahawks might not be the juggernaut they have been in recent years but any win against the 12th man is impressive, especially one that had Carson Palmer lighting up that Seattle secondary for 363 yards and three scores. Arizona enters the weeks as the top offense in terms of total yards per game and second in points at 33.6 per contest. Even Arizonas losses cant be critiqued too harshly as losing in Pittsburgh is never bad and the loss to the Rams came when St. Louis was much hotter than they are now.
If you throw out the Houston game as a simple anomaly, the Bengals have been one of the most impressive teams in the league. Wins against Seattle, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Kansas City proved that Cincinnati is for real and there is plenty of reason to suggest they could rebound this weekend. The Bengals are 5th in scoring at 26.1 points per game and move the ball equally well through the air and on the ground. Dalton has succeeded with some of the best offensive weapons around and has found a true red-zone go-to in Tyler Eifert. The big TE has nine touchdown catches so far and has emerged to join A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, making coverage schemes difficult for the opponent. The run game is versatile and can beat you with the pass as well given the playmaking of Gio Bernard. Arizona possesses the 3rd ranked defense in total yards allowed and gives up just 92 rushing yards per game so one would suspect much of the offensive playmaking will again be on the shoulders of Dalton.
The Cards are making the best out several players that were thought to be well past their primes. Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald might all be on the downside of their careers but they are currently producing like mad. Johnson is part of a dynamic backfield that includes a shifty Andre Ellington again as well as rookie David Johnson. All three Cardinal runners have three rushing scores and each have come up big when needed. Fitzgerald might be the steadiest option at Palmers disposal but John Brown and Michael Floyd have come up with big games as well, each with at least three touchdown receptions. Cincinnati is a bit of bend-dont-break on defense so they will yield some yards but guys like Carlos Dunlap (8.5 sacks) have often ended drives with that one key play that keeps the points off the board.
This is a heavy-weight fight with both teams capable of scoring and keeping the other off the board. It isnt urban legend that Dalton is a different player on the big stage, there have been too many sub-par performances under the lights to ignore. The Cardinals might slow up offensively if they have to play in some bad weather but the home field conditions this weekend will leave the Bengals trying to figure out who to cover. Eight different Cardinals have at least on TD catch and the running game is there to gobble up yards if Cincinnati goes into too much nickel. I think there are better days ahead for the Bengals and they will be a factor in the AFC playoffs but make it two losses in a row for them as Arizona gets a comfy 28-21 win.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Arizona
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