So, here I sit on the eve of my 38th birthday, cold can of Coors Light at the ready as I comb through the NFL betting odds for Week 7.
Jeez, 38. I know I’m getting old when players I followed during their college careers, into the NFL Draft, and throughout the pros are retiring. And what’s more so, some of those guys are now earning immortality in the Hall of Fame.
That’s a likely landing spot for the Arizona Cardinals’ trio of 30-somethings: Carson Palmer (37), Larry Fitzgerald (34), and Adrian Peterson (32). Especially if those guys continue to have days like they did last Sunday.
Arizona went “grown-ass man” on the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning 38-33 as a 2.5-point home underdog in Week 6. Palmer, Fitzgerald and Peterson – in his first game for the Cards after being dealt by the Saints – put up 555 combined passing/receiving/rushing yards and six total touchdowns in the victory.
This week, the stately gentlemen of Arizona travel across the pond for a divisional matchup with the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium in London, England at 1 p.m. ET. Oddsmakers opened the Cardinals as 2.5-point neutral-site pups but that line has since moved to +3.5.
Arizona is already in the UK, having left through the night Monday and has a strict schedule in place to get players used to the 8-hour time change. The Cardinals returned to full practice Wednesday while their opponents, the Rams, don’t hit the Old Country until Thursday, opting to stay in North Florida after playing at Jacksonville in Week 6.
Now, it’s just not Arizona’s prep for the London game that has me taking the points. Nor is it my soft spot for aging athletes as I creep up on 40… well, maybe a little. What has me cuckoo for the Cards this Sunday is that star corner Patrick Peterson will suit up after leaving last Sunday’s game with a quad injury.
Peterson was locking down Bucs’ deep threat Mike Evans before he got hurt. But once he went down, Evans erupted for 95 yards on three catches and a touchdown and nearly brought Tampa Bay back from a 31-0 hole.
Along with Peterson, fellow corners Antoine Bethea and Tramon Williams as well as free safety Tyrann Mathieu make this perhaps the best secondary in the NFL - one that can’t wait to get another shot at L.A. quarterback Jared Goff.
Goff has taken two big steps backwards after a hot start to the season. In his last two games, he’s posted passer ratings of 48.9 and 86.2 with one touchdown and two interceptions, completing a combined 33-of-68 (48.5%) of his passes. Granted, those were against two stingy defenses in the Seahawks and Jaguars, but opponents have much more tape on Goff and Sean McVay’s offense to study then they did in the first four weeks.
And let’s not forget Arizona crushed this kid in a 44-6 win on New Year’s Day 2017, holding him to 13-of-20 passing for 120 yards and sacked the then-rookie seven times. A lot has changed since then, but that game and this secondary will continue to haunt Goff.
The Cardinals do a good job stuffing the run, ranked ninth versus the rush (90.3 rypg), and give up just 3.3 yards per carry. If Arizona can take Todd Gurley out of the equation, like they have the last three meetings, it puts all the pressure on Goff to beat that talented secondary.
As I get up there in age, I’m having a tougher time trusting our youth.
Pick: Cardinals +3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5, 41.5)
The Bengals could be the best 2-3 team in the AFC right now. Cincinnati was blown out in Week 1, losing 20-0 to the Ravens, and ever since then the betting public has turned up their nose to Cincinnati. And that’s too bad because the Bengals are 3-1 ATS in that span. Here’s what Cincy has done since Week 2:
• A 4-point loss at home to a very good Houston team in Week 2
• A 3-point overtime loss at Green Bay in Week 3
• A 31-7 flogging of the Browns in Cleveland
• And a 20-16 win over Buffalo at home
The Bengals are coming off a bye in Week 7, having rested and recovered from some key injuries while also giving them a full week to focus on new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s play calling. Since Cincinnati canned Ken Zampese and replaced him with Lazor, the Bengals are averaging 25 points behind a passing attack picking up 258.7 yards per game in those three outings. The Bengals also boast the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing an average of just 16.6 points on 262.8 yards per game.
This is just too many points to give in what should be a classic AFC North Battle Royale.
Pick: Bengals +5.5
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-3.5, 38.5)
Brace yourself for some crazy talk: The Jets are just one win away from playing Over their season win total of 3.5. And it’s only Week 7.
New York pushed the Patriots to the limit last Sunday, and who knows what would have happened if the officials would have ruled Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ touchdown an actual touchdown. Gang Green is playing beyond expectations right now and a lot of the credit goes to the defense.
Outside of allowing 45 points to Oakland in Week 2, New York is giving up just 17 points over those other five outings. Now granted, the Jets haven’t faced too much offensive firepower besides New England in that span. But, hey… we’re talking about the J-E-T-S here. They checked Tom Brady to a season-low 257 yards through the air and already roughed up the Fins for a 20-6 beating as 5.5-point pups inside MetLife Stadium back in Week 3.
Miami is set up for a big letdown spot, coming off a win over the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins were down 17-0 in the third quarter and in true Atlanta fashion, the Falcons gave up 20 unanswered points. Atlanta has been outscored 72-40 in the second half this season, so I’m putting this collapse more on the Falcons and less giving the Dolphins any due.
Pick: Jets +3.5
Last week: 2-1 ATS
Season: 8-9-1 ATS