Tonight’s game is a NFC West battle between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. On the surface, it seems like this might be a pretty obvious win for the Seahawks. They’re a preseason favorite after all, and the Cardinals have been a running joke ever since Kurt Warner retired. The line of 6.5 backs that up. But maybe the game might be a bit closer than you would think? Let’s take a look.
Seattle is 5-1, backing up that preseason hype. But the record may not be as great as it seems. The one loss is to the Colts, which is forgivable, but the wins include games over the Jaguars (which essentially shouldn’t count), the Texans in overtime (looking worse every week), an ugly game against Carolina, and a win over Tennessee last week where the game was close well into the fourth quarter despite the Titans starting Ryan Fitzpatrick. So the Seahawks haven’t exactly faced a murderers row, although the big win over the 49ers still seems to mean something.
In going 5-1, the Seahawks have put up pretty good passing numbers, although Wilson is throwing picks about as often as anyone and is getting sacked a lot. The rushing game has also been doing pretty well. But Seattle has really been shining on defense, where they boast the 3rd best pass defense (by yards per attempt) to go along with the 2nd best interception rate and an above-average sack rate. They’re also a tiny bit above average against the run just to keep up appearances. You have to assume these numbers are somewhat inflated by the 49ers blowout and playing the Jaguars, but they still happened so it’s hard to argue with them. Seattle is definitely a solid team, even if the opposition has been potentially underwhelming.
But the Cardinals haven’t been total slouches this year. They’re 3-3, with all three losses coming on the road. Two of them were to the 49ers and Saints, which is nothing to be particularly shamed about. The wins are against the Lions, Tampa, and Carolina, which is decent enough. If you like the ‘games against common opponents’ thing, then Arizona has a leg up on Seattle due to its better victory over the Panthers (although the loss to the 49ers mitigates that if you want to be picky).
Arizona’s passing game has been less than great, with lots of interceptions to go with a below-average yards per pass. They have done a decent job of keeping Carson Palmer upright, for what it’s worth. Rushing has been a bit below average thanks to the corpse of Mendenhall. Instead the Cardinals have been relying on the fifth-best rushing defense in the league and a decent pass defense that gets an above-average number of interceptions. It isn’t exactly a thrilling description, but we’re talking about a 3-3 team here.
Ok, so what do we have? A pretty average Arizona team going against a very good defense that has a good-to-pretty-good offense to go with it. Sounds like an advantage for the Seahawks, and it is. But the game is in Arizona, and you never know what will happen if Wilson’s above-average interception rate meets up with the Cardinals’ above-average interception rate. Yoshi 1 is still going with rampant homer-ism and expects the Cardinals to win close; Luigi and Yoshi 2 aren’t that optimistic, but they have Arizona covering the spread. I wouldn’t be surprised per se if they’re wrong, but that’s why I have a model. If my gut were that great, I wouldn’t need it.
Speaking of which, this is the first week (I think?) where the Thursday night game made it into my SuperContest picks. The game didn’t quite make the cut for Luigi, but we’ll see it a little later. Using the Hilton’s lines, I take the five games with the biggest disagreement between the predicted difference and the point spread. This week, Luigi is going with Colts +6.5, Vikings +3.5, Titans +4, Bills +8, and Browns +10. I would feel better if Luigi would stop picking crappy teams to cover (and/or going against the Broncos), but the SuperContest has been going pretty well so far, so who am I to judge. Luigi’s general winner picks: Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New England, Philly, Chicago, Carolina, San Diego, Tennessee, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Denver, Minnesota.
Rounding out the SuperContest picks, Yoshi 1 is going with Indy, Arizona +6.5, Cleveland, Jets +4, and Rams +6. So a few different picks there. Yoshi 2 is going with Indy, Cleveland, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Buffalo, or the same crowd as Luigi (although a couple other games are close to those Titans/Bills numbers). Hopefully these most-confident picks keep doing well, and we’ll see if we get a good game tonight.