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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 3:00 PM

When the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night on NBC (in a game that was time changed from the afternoon to prime time), NFL fans will get a close look at two teams who are on a very short list of Super Bowl hopefuls.

*Cincinnati is currently 8-1, and well-positioned to earn a first round bye along with the New England Patriots in the AFC brackets.

*Arizona is currently 7-2, and well-positioned to earn a first round bye along with the Carolina Panthers in the NFC brackets.

The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers are still in the discussion, though their hopes have faded in recent weeks (Denver’s with the injury to Peyton Manning, and Green Bay’s with a slump and a potential injury issue with Aaron Rodgers). Plus, being #2 seeds behind New England and Carolina respectively would likely mean having to win a conference championship game on the road. Still, so few teams are really in the Lombardi Trophy discussion that a game like Bengals/Cardinals looms large because of its rarity. Maybe it’s not a Super Bowl preview. It is a rare glimpse at the caliber of play we may see in the big game come February.

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about Bengals/Cardinals Sunday night.


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Cincinnati: 8-1 (#18 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

Arizona: 7-2 (#29 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

Arizona can’t really be thought of as a “soft schedule” pretender because they were so impressive last week in Seattle. Yes, an easy slate is a strike against them. Maybe it’s not as big a strike as skeptics were thinking. Cincinnati is a clean 8-1 against what amounts to a league average schedule. Unfortunately, that loss was so ugly to Houston the other night that it’s hard to imagine greatness in the postseason. Andy Dalton usually falls apart in the postseason. He fell apart under pressure this past Monday.



Cincinnati: 5.9 on offense, 5.4 on defense

Arizona: 6.5 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Cincinnati’s offensive stats have taken a hit the past two weeks. After lighting up the scoreboard early on, cooler weather and a drop in intensity has calmed things way down. The defense is probably better than people think. Arizona clearly has championship caliber stats. And, they would have beaten Seattle worse last week on the scoreboard if not for a fumble return TD for the Seahawks. Once you adjust for schedule strength…Arizona’s still slightly better. If you assume this is the kind of game were the Red Rifle turns into an Orange Pumpkin, that’s an even bigger edge for the hosts.


Turnover Differential

Cincinnati: +3

Arizona: +1

Not great numbers at all nine games into a season. It’s good to be on the plus side of zero. But, these two barely qualify…which could be a strike against them come January. Remember that both teams like to throw deep downfield. That can set up interceptions, or fumbles in the pocket if the quarterback waits too long to throw.


Market Performance

Cincinnati: 7-1-1 ATS (5-4 to the Over)

Arizona: 6-3 ATS (7-2 to the Over)

Cincinnati’s first non-cover of the season was the outright loss to Houston as a double-digit favorite. So, maybe it’s best not to over-react to one flat performance. Both have been underrated by the markets. Both offenses have been driving games to go Over their totals. That’s a 25-10-1 total for “teams and Overs” with the duo. The market was caught napping with both offenses.


Current Line: Arizona by 5, total of 48.5

That’s a lot of respect for Arizona, which may be too heavily influenced by everyone’s most recent memories. If you ONLY look at Arizona beat Seattle and Cincinnati losing to Houston, then it’s easier to like the hosts. But…if you look at the full season…and account for schedule strength, that price isn’t justified. Cincinnati can hang tough in a shootout, and has the slightly better turnover differential.

That’s your challenge this week. Can you trust Andy Dalton to play well on the road in a big game? The raw numbers suggest he can do it. But, those raw numbers aren’t counting his choke jobs from prior years! Either he’s learned from his mistakes or he hasn’t. Figure it out and your pick is made right there.

JIM HURLEY has been working with his full team of experts to devise the proper attack. You can purchase the final word for all Sunday action on game day right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games begin. Be sure you check on combination packages that include college football through the Final Four, the NFL through the Super Bowl, and college and pro basketball.

We’ll see you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK with our Monday Night Football preview. Another Super Bowl hopeful will be facing an interesting test…their first of two tests over the next six days.

Monday: NFL TV Preview…Buffalo at New England

Midweek: NFL TV Preview…Chicago at Green Bay (Thanksgiving Night!)

Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview…to be determined

Sunday: NFL TV Preview…New England at Denver

November football is awesome! It’s only going to get better as we work our way toward the college and pro championships. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!


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