The playoff picture in the NFC is going to be even more defined after this upcoming weekend. The Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles have to produce their best football of the season.
Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 1:00 PM ET
Odds: Philadelphia -3
The Arizona Cardinals have managed to remain tied with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West through 12 weeks of the season. The 7-4 Cardinals are winning with an attacking defense and an offense that has found a noticeable level of stability under veteran quarterback Carson Palmer. The Cardinals appear to be benefiting from the leadership of head coach Bruce Arians, who – one must remember – was the interim coach for the Indianapolis Colts last season when regular head coach Chuck Pagano had to undergo cancer treatments. Arians led the Colts with distinction, and that was surely a reason why he gained his first legitimate (permanent) head coaching gig with Arizona. Arians is making the most of it. The Cardinals were wobbly in the first month of the season, but they’ve steadily improved as the season has continued, thereby affirming the idea that Arians is exactly the man they needed to replace Ken Whisenhunt, a coach who led the Cardinals to the first Super Bowl in franchise history a few years ago.
The Cardinals will be opposed by a Philadelphia side that’s coming off a needed bye week. Eagle quarterback Nick Foles – who played his college ball in the Grand Canyon State as a member of the University of Arizona Wildcats – has been a godsend for Philadelphia this season as the backup to injured quarterback Michael Vick. Foles threw seven touchdown passes in one game earlier this season, and he’s become the reliable passer head coach Chip Kelly has needed in the City of Brotherly Love. Foles has been slowed by injuries in his own right this season, so a bye week might give him the added mobility he’ll need to dance out of pressure in the pocket. This matchup sets up well on the betting lines for the Eagles, who should turn their bye week into a focused display against the Cardinals.
Pick: Philadelphia -3
Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets
Sunday, 1:00 PM ET
Odds: Jets -2
The Dolphins and Jets are highly erratic teams, making this game a crapshoot. Ultimately, this game is about real estate, in that the three biggest keys will be “location, location, location.” The Jets have been terrible on the road this season, and they’ve been pounded each of the last two weeks in road games against Buffalo and Baltimore. However, New York has gone 4-1 at home this season, taking down the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. That kind of trend is hard to bet against. If you’re going to make a choice, the Jets appear to be more logical pick on the point spread.
Pick: New York Jets
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:25 PM ET
Odds: 49 -7.5
The 49ers regrouped against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. They expunged the sour taste of losing after falling short in consecutive games. The Niners’ ability to come up with a strong outing on both sides of the ball should enable them to handle the Rams at home. Yes, St. Louis is a hot team right now, having played its two best games of the season in recent weeks against Indianapolis and Chicago, but the 49ers present a level of defensive ruggedness that should be much more physical than what the Rams are ready to withstand. The Niners should be able to take control in this game.
Pick: San Francisco