Two of the NFC’s favorites will face each other in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season. The New Orleans Saints, expected to win the NFC South, and the Arizona Cardinals, a favorite in the very strong West division, will match up with each other on the league’s first Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians has quietly put together one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the NFL taking the Cardinals to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009. Arians was named the league’s Coach of the Year as a result. What is even more impressive about the Cardinals success last year is that they did it playing three quarterbacks. Hopefully, they don’t have to do that again. Carson Palmer returns healthy after a knee injury ended his 2014 season prematurely. Even with a healthy Palmer behind center, New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds only favor the home team by just a field goal (-2½) with the over/under total at 48.
Looking past the season opener, Arians and the Cardinals will need Palmer to stay healthy because the drop-off to No. 2 QB Drew Stanton is noticeable. Arizona upgraded the offensive line by adding Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati to help ensure that Palmer plays all 16 games. Running back Andre Ellington returns after an injury as well and the Arizona running game will also help take pressure off of Palmer and the passing game. The Cardinals finished 31st in rush offense last year, something that will need to improve if they are to contend with Seattle for the NFC West title. For those looking to bet on New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds, it is important to note that Vegas currently has 62% of the NFL picks for week 1 taking the Cards laying the points at home.
In New Orleans, Drew Brees returns for his 15th NFL season. He and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards last year with 4,952. Brees also threw for 33 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. He lost his number one target in TE Jimmy Graham in free agency, but has one of the most unheralded groups of receivers in the league. Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Nick Toon give Brees ample targets in the passing game. The Saints beat Arizona, 31-7, the last time the two teams met back in 2013. Arians has the Cardinals on a different level now, which will make a New Orleans victory even tougher this time around. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals can be seen live on FOX at 4:05pm EST from the University of Phoenix Stadium.
It has been the most miraculous turnaround of the past five years. The Arizona Cardinals hired Bruce Arians just two years ago and have 21 wins to their credit. The Cardinals went 11-5 last season, finished second to Seattle in the NFC West, and earned a wild card berth in the playoffs. A repeat performance is likely if Arizona can stay healthy. Even if they do not, it is possible that Arians and his staff can work the same magic they worked in 2014. Sportsbooks certainly think so with Vegas Super Bowl predictions cautiously listing the Cardinals as +2500 favorites to win the championship, +1400 to win the NFC Conference while NFL odds have Arizona at +400 to win the NFC East. Quarterback Carson Palmer, now 35 years old, is aging and coming off injuries that cut his season short. Arizona started the season 9-1 last year but after Palmer’s ACL tear faltered down the stretch with backup QB Drew Stanton.
The Arizona Cardinals won only two of their last six games. It didn’t help matters that starting RB Andre Ellington was lost for the season in December. Arizona averaged a paltry 81.8 yards per game. Regardless, hopes are high once again in terms of Super Bowl predictions as a healthy Palmer returns as does wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. While Fitzgerald (32) is no longer an elite receiver, he is still a very capable No. 1… if he has the QB that can get him the football. The former Pitt All-American was on track for another 1,000-yard receiving season before Palmer was lost for the year. The running game, as well as pass protection, gets a boost with the addition of Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. The Cardinals also signed A.Q. Shipley to start at center and drafted 6-5, 307-pound offensive tackle D.J. Humphries out of Florida. Arizona also added Northern Iowa running back David Johnson (6-1, 225) to try and take some of the pressure off of Ellington.
Arizona did lose some key contributors to its fifth-ranked scoring defense. First and foremost was the loss of coordinator Todd Bowles who became the new head coach of the New York Jets. Linebacker Larry Foote retired, defensive end Darnell Dockett signed with San Francisco, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie is now a Jet. The Cardinals did add linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley to offset the loss of Foote, but will count on DE Calais Campbell to become a force on the defensive line. Arizona generated just 35 sacks last year and will need to do better if they are to compete for the 2015 NFC West title. Campbell had seven and team-leader Alex Okafor had eight. Arians has done a masterful job of resurrecting the Cardinals to make a run in Super Bowl predictions. His best coaching job may need to come this season as the Cards have two dates with Seattle and must play the entire AFC North, arguably the toughest division in NFL odds.
Cardinals Update (9/9/15): Arizona are now +3300 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +1600 to win the NFC Conference and +500 to win the NFC West.
Yes, the Carolina Panthers did not have a winning record in the regular season. Yes, they are hosting a home playoff game. Yes, they do have as good a chance as any of making it to the NFC Championship game. And yes, bookmakers are favoring Carolina to win the NFC wild card game against Arizona on Saturday. NFL playoffs betting odds in Vegas currently have the Panthers favored by nearly a touchdown (-6) vs the Cardinals while the over/under total has been posted at a low scoring 37.5. Gamblers looking to play the moneyline would need to risk -255 on Carolina while Arizona would pay out +215 on a $100 wager for the win. The Panthers reached the playoffs by winning their final four games of the regular season, including a 34-3 demolition of Atlanta last week, to finish 7-8-1 and clinch the NFC South Division championship. It sure wasn’t pretty, but the Panthers got it done when they had to.
After starting the season 3-2 (the losses were to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, both playoff teams), Carolina went two months between victories. Following a 37-37 tie with Cincinnati, the Panthers lost six in a row spanning most of October and November. They broke out their funk by pounding on division rival New Orleans in Week 14. Running back Jonathan Stewart ran for 155 yards on 20 carries and quarterback Cam Newton resembled his former self adding 83 yards rushing to go with 226 yards passing and three touchdowns. If Arizona is to have any chance of covering the 6-point spread as underdogs in NFL playoffs betting, the defense will need to find a way to tame the Panthers offense. Easier said than done however as the Cardinals are near the bottom of the league in pass defense and Newton’s passing game has been one of the keys to the Panthers’ turnaround. Tight end Greg Olsen and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin each have over 1,000 yards receiving and Stewart averages 4.6 yards per carry. The Arizona offense, on the other hand, is simply anemic.
The Cardinals haven’t scored more than 19 points in a game since early November. Some of that can be attributed to losing starting quarterback Carson Palmer to a season-ending knee injury. Backup Drew Stanton also injured a knee and the Cards are now down to third-stringer Ryan Lindley, a third-year pro out of San Diego State. Lindley started the final two games of the regular season, both Arizona losses. He was 18-of-44 in a blowout loss to Seattle and while he threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to San Francisco last week, he also threw three costly interceptions. An improving Carolina defense got exactly the match-up it had hoped for in the NFC Wild Card Round. The Panthers have given up just 43 points in their last four games and it doesn’t appear that Arizona will fare any better. That being said, recent wagering trends for NFL playoffs betting odds have Carolina going 2-4 against the spread in their last six at home against Arizona while the Cardinals are 7-3 ATS in their last ten road games.
The Detroit Lions (7-2) can prove to the rest of the NFL that they do indeed belong in the league’s upper tier. In order to do so, they will have to go to Arizona and beat a Cardinals team that owns the NFL’s best record (8-1). The NFC conference battle can be seen Sunday at 4:25pm EST on FOX from the University of Phoenix Stadium. Lions vs Cardinals odds in Vegas currently have Arizona listed as 1-point betting favorites at home with an over/under total of 41. The Cardinals, unbeaten at home this season, will have to make do with their backup quarterback, Drew Stanton. Starter Carson Palmer will miss the rest of the season after suffering an ACL injury in a win against St. Louis. Stanton came in and threw a 48-yard TD pass to John Brown to give the Cardinals the lead for good in the 31-14 win.
Stanton spelled Palmer earlier in the year when nerve trouble sidelined the Cardinals starter. The Michigan State graduate has a little something to prove himself. The Lions drafted Stanton in the second round back in 2007. He wound up starting just three games in four years in Detroit. Stanton didn’t step on the field between 2011 and 2013, but found success in replacing Palmer. He started and led Arizona to wins over the Giants and the 49ers. He was also at the helm during the team’s only loss, a 41-20 setback in Denver. Stanton and the rest of the Cardinals offense will have to contend with the NFL’s best defense. The Lions give up just 283 yards a game, over 20 yards a game less than the No. 2 49ers. If that’s not enough, the Lions offense welcomed back WR Calvin Johnson, who had seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Lions 20-16 win over Miami last week.
Detroit is equally adept on offense with Matt Stafford (2,496 yards passing), running back Joique Bell (357 yards rushing), and wide receiver Golden Tate (66 receptions of 909 yards). The Lions have plenty of weapons. Arizona will have its hands full on both sides of the ball Sunday but have the betting trends in their favor having recently gone 5-0 ATS in their last five games overall and when playing Detroit at U of Phoenix Stadium. Gamblers looking to take the Lions should note that the squad is just 7-17-1 against the spread in their last twenty-five games on the road and 1-4 ATS in their last five games against the Cardinals. Vegas is reporting that 52% of the wagering action is on the UNDER 41 mostly because of Palmers' injury however the total has gone OVER in five of the last seven games when Arizona is playing at home against Detroit.
Dallas saw its six-game win streak come to an end last week when Cowboys QB Tony Romo injured his back and running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, decided to become fumble prone. The Cowboys allowed Colt McCoy, who replaced Kirk Cousins as the Redskins QB, to direct a game-winning drive in overtime to give Washington a 20-17 win last Monday night. Despite the loss, the Cowboys are still battling for first place in the NFC East as they face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The big question remains however, will Tony Romo start for Dallas in week 9? As such, Cardinals at Cowboys odds in Vegas have cautiously listed Dallas as 3-point favorites while the over/under NFL betting total has been posted at 45.
Despite the loss to Washington, Murray became just the eighth player in league history to rush for over 1,000 yards in just eight games. The former Oklahoma star now has 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns. Romo, who had back surgery in the offseason, left last week’s game in the third quarter, attempted to come back, and exited again in the fourth. If he is unable to go in Week 9, Brandon Weeden, who led a game-tying drive to send last week’s game to overtime, will get the start. Whether it’s Romo or Weeden, Dallas and Murray will have to contend with the best run defense in the league. Something will have to give as the Cowboys have the best run offense in the NFL. The Cardinals had the league’s best run offense before giving up over 100 yards to Philadelphia. Currently, they allow just 77.9 rushing yards per game.
Arizona is coming off a three-game win streak and their only loss is to a very good Denver football team. Rookie wide receiver John Brown caught a 75-yard TD pass from QB Carson Palmer with just 1:21 to play in the game to give the Cardinals the win. The difference in this one may come down to defense. If the Cardinals can limit the Cowboys offense (the run defense averages an NFL-low 78 yards per game) they have a chance. Likewise, Arizona will have to slow down Murray and whichever QB starts for Dallas. NFL betting trends for week 9 slightly favor a Cardinals win having recently gone 5-1 against the spread in their last six games and 4-1 ATS when playing on the road. Dallas has also been quite profitable for gamblers this season going 5-2 against the spread in their last seven game but are a worrisome 3-6 ATS in their last nine home games.
After a bye week, both teams get back at it on Sunday. The Cardinals are the NFC’s lone unbeaten team remaining and must go into a hostile environment at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. Despite Arizona being undefeated, Cardinals at Broncos betting predictions favor Denver at home by 7.5-points in week 5 while the over/under total has been posted at 48.5. Head coach Bruce Arians is building a winner in Arizona and it starts with defense. The Cardinals are fourth against the run yielding just 72 yards a game on the ground and are giving up just 2.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. The defense will have to continue its stellar play as starting quarterback Carson Palmer is likely to miss Sunday’s game with nerve damage in his throwing shoulder.
Palmer’s backup, Drew Stanton, has played well and has not committed a turnover. He has only completed 51 percent of his passes, but the Cardinals defense and running game have picked up the slack. Having to face the Cardinals defense is probably not what the Denver running game had in mind this Sunday. The Broncos have only rushed for 75 yards per game so far this season putting them near the worst in the league. Second-year RB Montee Ball has struggled somewhat and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Broncos QB Peyton Manning is nowhere near the torrid pace of a season ago. Still, he is completing 67 percent of his passes and has eight TD passes in three games. The Broncos will have to crank up the offense Sunday against Arizona if they are to cover the spread in week 5 betting predictions.
With a single TD pass on Sunday, Manning will enter some elite company. The future Hall of Famer has 499 career TD passes. Only six players in the history of the game have thrown even 300, one of whom happens to be one of the quarterbacks bosses in Denver, vice president of operations John Elway. History may be with the Broncos. They are 3-1 against Arizona since 2001 and the Cardinals have lost the last four games in Denver. Although the Broncos have been a profitable team over the last twenty two games going 17-5 SU, it is important to note that Denver has also gone a dreadful 1-5 against the spread overall and when playing at Mile High. Arizona on the other hand has gone an impressive 6-1 SU, 5-2 ATS and 4-0-1 against the spread when playing on the road.
Following one of the most exciting week 1 season openers in recent history, Monday night football presents an equally intriguing double header of action. The first game will feature the Giants taking on the Lions at 7:10pm EST and will be followed by the San Diego Chargers taking on the Arizona Cardinals. Both games can be seen live on ESPN with the Chargers vs Cardinals kicking off at 10:20pm EST from the University of Phoenix Stadium. NFL odds currently favor the Cardinals at home by a field goal (-3) vs the Chargers with an over/under betting total of 47. Gamblers looking to play the money line would need to risk -$160 to win a $100 wager on Arizona while an upset by New York on Monday night would pay out +$140.
The league's comeback player of the year, Philip Rivers, and the visiting San Diego Chargers will be looking to build upon their playoff run of last season and make the necessary changes to reach the AFC championship. Starting week 1 with a road win would surely help their cause. Rivers carried the team last year to a 9-7 overall record by completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 4,478-yards and 32-touchdowns. The passing game should be just as potent this year with Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates returning but the running game should also pose a threat for defenses with a backfield consisting of Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead and free-agent Donald Brown. San Diego has been a profitable team to bet on for Monday night football games having gone 4-1 against the spread but are also an impressive 8-1-1 ATS when listed as road underdogs.
The Cardinals on the other hand will be hungry to start the year with a "W" after missing out on the playoffs last season despite going 6-2 when playing at home and finishing with a 10-6 overall record. Carson Palmer exceeded expectations last year throwing for a career-high 4,274-yards with 24-touchdowns and could be just as impressive this year with and offense that includes All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and free-agent Ted Ginn Jr. With running back Andre Ellington injured last week in practice, don't be surprised to see former Steeler Jonathan Dwyer carrying much of the load. Although the Cardinals are favored at home on Monday night, gamblers would be wise to note that Arizona has gone a dismal 1-6-1 against the spread in their last eight MNF outings and 2-7 SU when facing the Chargers.