Good TNF game, tough spread: Packers +6½ at red-hot Arizona Cardinals

Thursday, 28 October 2021 18:25 EST

Now how did this happen? A Thursday Night Football game in which both sides are bona fide Super Bowl contenders with most of the marquee names set to play? Very nice indeed – but is

Green Bay Packers +6½ at Arizona Cardinals, over/under 51 points

potentially lucrative for NFL bettors? Statistical trends and intuitive thinking naturally are at odds (so to speak) with one another; nevertheless, let’s consider some of the following…

•  Packers WR Davonte Adams is out due to Covid protocol, as is Allen Lazard; the two take 132 yards per game combined with them. Of course, since at least Tuesday’s broadcast of “Pardon the Interruption,” the cat is already debagged about Adams’s significance to the non-fantasy game, namely that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 6-0 SU (also 5-1 ATS) without Adams. A slightly deeper dig reveals that just one of these six opponents would eventually be playoff contenders.

•  Additionally, bettors are apparently chased away from what was Packers +4½ by the absence of Green Bay defensive coordinator Joe Barry but geez, guys, didn’t Arizona themselves already establish the irrelevance of such a temporary minus? NFLbets sure remembers Cardinals 41 at Cleveland Browns 17 in week 6: The Cards came into town without Kliff Kingsbury and left only after laying waste to the Browns backfield and their insurance pitchman Baker Mayfield – so we lost ets.

•  Then there’s Aaron Rodgers playing as a significantly-sized underdog. Rodgers’ Packers have gotten a spread of +6½ or more in just four games when he’s the starter: The Packers are 1-3 SU/2-2 ATS in such games and, intriguingly enough are 0-2 SU/ATS in TNF games. This is far too small a sample size to depend upon, though amazingly interesting in this case.

•  As for problems associated with the short week, Rodgers seems to have that sorted, too, with an incredible 10-5 SU/10-4-1 ATS career mark on Thursday. To dampen this a bit, Rodgers is just 3-3 SU/3-2-1 ATS against teams not named the Detroit Lions or Chicago Bears in Thursday games.

•  Since 2010, underdogs on TNF are a well awful 47-109 SU (a .301 winning percentage), but a not-at-all bad 72-79-5 (.478) ATS; this gap increases more radically than otherwise as the point spread increases: TNF underdogs of 6 points or more are a sad 11-52 SU but 27-34-2 ATS, or .175 versus .444. But check this out: Seemingly paradoxically, 16 times in these games has the favorite won outright while the underdog covers the ’spread, a success rate of just 9.64%, well below the expected 36.666%!

Conlusions: If you believe the Packers have a shot in this game, the betting is terrible. Packers +6½ or +7 is paying out at just -130 to -160 at the sportsbooks. (What, you want Aaron Rodgers, 7 points and 10/11 odds? Come on!) The Packers money line (ML) is currently at +220 but in a vacuum would fetch a line of at least +450 based on the ’spread and big underdogs’ previous efforts on TNF. We’ll come back to this.

At 7-0 SU/6-1 ATS, the main argument against betting Arizona is simply that they’re due for a loss. Fair enough that with each win do the odds decrease on another win. But such a dropoff would not have a statistically significant effect on the Cardinals until well later in the season, i.e. 8-game winning streaks are not exactly nothing in the NFL, but such records are hardly unicorns…

The truth is that Cardinals have, numbers aside, been a wonder to behold this season, outscoring opponents by an average score of 32-17 in the process. They have a top-5 offense statistically in points scored, turnovers allowed and most rushing categories. The defense is number one overall in points allowed; top-5 in turnovers generated and passing yardage surrendered; and top-10 in nearly every other dreamable defensive stat.

In Cardinals games in 2021, the over has gone an even 3-3 and thus far has purely been a product of the opposition’s offense: In six of their seven games, Arizona has put up 30-plus points and an over/under of 51 points here seems like a trap.  

For this game, J.J. Watt is out for the Cardinals – shocker! – but Chandler Jones is back after his turn on the Covid list. Essentially no other injuries to Cardinals players are notable. Nothing numerical suggests that Arizona will lose this game, and only the possibly irrational belief in Rodgers makes one think twice. So NFLbets’ll guess that going minus two wide receivers against a crazy-good Cards defense led by the relatively fresh Chandler Jones is not capable of miracles. Take the Arizona Cardinals -6½ vs Green Bay – even better: MyBookie has an offering of “Arizona wins by 1-13 points” at +137…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.