Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM
The Arizona Cardinals are still trying to prove to themselves and the rest of the NFL that they’re a true championship caliber team. The Philadelphia Eagles are still trying to prove to themselves and the rest of the NFL that they’re a playoff caliber team. That sets up big drama Sunday night on NBC when both teams will be trying to pass crucial litmus tests.
Arizona first seemed to do that with a big road win at Seattle awhile back. The problem is…since then…they could only manage 3-point home wins over Cincinnati and Minnesota when facing other playoff bound teams. Home field advantage is worth three points by itself…which means Arizona wasn’t technically any better than Cincinnati or Minnesota. That’s “in the mix” rather than championship caliber.
Philadelphia spent most of 2015 enduring a lost season. But, playing in the pathetic NFC East has allowed them to stay in the playoff hunt despite a 6-7 record. Heck, 6-7 is tied for first place! The team has looked better lately, scoring wins over Buffalo and New England the past two weeks (though the win in Foxboro was a miracle thanks to three non-offensive touchdowns). There’s still time to close strong. Frankly, beating Arizona to end a New England/Buffalo/Arizona trio would pretty much establish the Eagles as playoff caliber “right now.”
BIG GAME! And, a game where some very important questions are likely to be answered. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Arizona: 11-2 (#24 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Philadelphia: 6-7 (#23 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
It’s helpful for our analysis that the teams have played similarly ranked schedules. That means we don’t have to tweak the stat differentials. On the other hand, it’s a strike against both that they’ve played such soft schedules. Arizona would probably be 10-3 or 9-4 against a league average schedule (nothing to sneeze at, but not quite “championship” caliber), while Philadelphia would be 5-8 or 4-9 and firing people! There’s a possibility that what both teams are trying to prove this week just isn’t true. Arizona really isn’t a serious championship threat. Philadelphia really isn’t a playoff team.
Arizona: 6.4 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Philadelphia: 5.1 on offense, 5.5 on defense
This is where Arizona really shines. Carson Palmer and company can really abuse mediocre or worse teams. That’s put them at +1.1 in YPP differential. Philadelphia grades out as a bad team…with a -0.4 differential while playing a poor schedule. Maybe the Eagles should be firing people anyway. Huge edge to the Cards.
Both teams are on the right side of zero. Arizona plays a risky game…so that’s a tribute to how sharp Palmer has been. The Cards are +6 within a high-risk approach. If they can keep that up, who knows what’s in store in January? Philadelphia plays a “safe” spread offense that’s supposed to avoid turnovers because passes are short to receivers in space. So, +2 is a disappointment for the potential of that strategy. Edge Cards.
Arizona: 7-6 ATS
Philadelphia: 6-7 ATS
Arizona has failed to cover three of their four games since the Seattle road win. That means they were 6-3 ATS at their peak. The market had underrated them, but has overrated them since by a fairly good bit. Remember the bad market miss at home against the Vikings? Philadelphia was 4-7 ATS after their low point on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit. They’re 2-0 ATS since with the miracle win in New England and last week’s nailbiter vs. Buffalo. Potential here for Arizona to be the clearly superior team…but not by as much as the market is suggesting.
Current Line: Arizona by 3.5, total of 50
Remember, Philadelphia is the home team. So…the market is suggesting very strongly that Arizona is for real and Philadelphia is a pretender. Arizona would be around -6.5 on a neutral field, and around -9.5 at home! That’s consistent with the full season stats we just read, and the notion that Arizona is great at abusing mediocre or bad teams…just as they get ready to face another mediocre or bad team. YOU have to decide if Arizona is currently playing to their full season power given the disappointment vs. Minnesota…and if Philadelphia got its heads back on straight after the disaster in Detroit.
JIM HURLEY has some thoughts about how this one is going to play out. It just might show up as a major release! You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure you check on our explosive BOWL PACKAGE and combination offers that also include basketball.
A mix of NFL and bowl action coming up in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s what’s the holiday fortnight looks like…
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Detroit at New Orleans
Midweek: NFL TV Preview…San Diego at Oakland
Bowl Preview: UCLA vs. Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl
Next Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Next Monday: NFL TV Preview…Cincinnati at Denver
Coming Soon: College Football previews for Baylor-North Carolina, Oklahoma-Clemson, and Alabama-Michigan State!
Just days before Christmas…and all through the house…BIG JUICY WINNERS from pointspread routs! Be sure you STUFF YOUR STUFFINGS WITH ALL THE MONEY thanks to JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters