The ATS Pick: Cardinals +7.5
We like the Arizona Cardinals for the home cover versus Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Christmas day NFL action. We cite the following historically reliable system as the basis for this play.
Underdogs that made the prior postseason have proven solid bets facing non-division opposition after dropping their last three to five games...
Teams in this position have delivered a statistically significant 19% return on investment since 2003-04 and have suffered only five seasons with cover rates below 50%.
The NFC West Arizona Cardinals are getting better than a touchdown from the NFC South Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Christmas Day, after losing their last four.
The Cardinals' backup QB, Colt McCoy, has been ruled out following a concussion last week (McCoy assumed the starting role only after Kyler Murray suffered a knee injury in week 13). Arizona will start Trace McSorley, a sixth round pick in the 2019 draft. We expect McSorley is not as bad as his performance last week suggests and that the true difference between the Cardinals' second and third string quarterbacks does not rationalize the extreme line movement that has materialized since McCoy went down (see the image below).
P.S. We will grade our wager at Cardinals +4.5, the level we locked in earlier this week.
The O/U Pick: OVER 41.5
Consistent with the idea that Trace McSorley is likely better than the world thinks, we are also betting on higher than expected aggregate offense. But the basis for our o41.5 play is not that we have a man-crush on McSorley; in fact, we strive to approach our work with objectivity and dispassion. Instead, we point to the following history-based system to rationalize this position.
In intra-conference, non-division, primetime NFL Sunday action featuring a home team that posted no more than 20 points of offense last game and a road team off a loss, the OVER has proven good for a (statistically significant) 20% long-term return on investment...
This system has suffered cover rates below 50% in only five seasons since 2003-04, and is 4-2 so far this year.
Explaining the enduring success of this O/U angle, we expect that home teams whose offense disappointed last game, and road teams off losses, tend to focus on scoring more points in their next action. Further, we hypothesize that teams' offensive schemes are generally more effective playing outside their division (because non-division competitors face each other less often and, by extension, are less familiar with the opposition's offensive propensities). Accordingly, higher than expected scores are more probable in these instances.
Since falling as low as 39.5 Wednesday, sharp action has steamed the line back up its opening level of 42. This recent dramatic move higher has unfolded despite the UNDER being backed by 75% of the O/U handle, based on wagers tracked by Sports Insights.