INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (7-3)
at ARIZONA CARDINALS (6-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Line: Arizona -3, Total: 45
A pair of surging clubs meet in the desert Sunday when the Colts visit the Cardinals.
Indianapolis has won six of its past eight games after a 30-27 victory at Tennessee last week, and is now 4-1 SU (3-1-1 ATS) on the road this year. Arizona’s 27-14 romp at Jacksonville marked its third straight win, but this team has also been tough at home this season, going 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS). While the Colts had a balanced offense in Week 11 (229 passing, 137 rushing), the Cardinals were extremely pass-heavy with 402 yards through the air, but just 14 rushing yards on 24 carries. Indy has won four straight meetings SU in this series (2-2 ATS) including a 31-10 romp in Arizona in 2009. However, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator and interim head coach for the Colts last season, so he'll be well-prepared to game-plan against his former team. Indy is a strong 13-5 ATS (72%) after the first month of the season since the start of 2011, but Arizona is 15-3 ATS (83%) at home versus teams averaging 235+ passing YPG in the second half of season since 1992. The Colts could be thin in the secondary with CB Greg Toler (head), S Delano Howell (neck) and CB Josh Gordy (groin) all listed as questionable, while Cardinals CB Justin Bethel is questionable with a concussion.
Can the Cardinals win their fourth straight contest on Sunday afternoon? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are surging in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 60% ATS record (29-19-6) over the past four weeks. StatFox Brian went 2-1-2 ATS in Week 11 to improve to 70% ATS (14-6-2) over the past five weeks where he's been above .500 every week. Brian has not had a losing week in NFL Best Bets since Week 3. StatFox Gary has four perfect weeks in NFL Best Bets since Week 4, while StatFox Scott is 58% ATS (15-11-1) in that same timeframe. StatFox Dave is 54% ATS (7-6-1) in NFL Best Bets since Week 8.
Last week's balanced offense was nothing new for the Colts who average 237.0 passing YPG (17th in NFL) and 112.9 rushing YPG (12th in league). They also do a nice job in key situations, ranking 12th in the NFL in both red zone efficiency (56%) and on third downs (39%). That has led to a hefty scoring offense of 25.2 PPG (9th in NFL). QB Andrew Luck has improved in every statistical category in his second NFL season, increasing his completion percentage from 54.1% to 59.4%, his rushing average from 4.1 YPC to 5.6 YPC and cut down his interceptions from 1.13 per game to 0.60 per game this year. Luck has also been much better on the road in 2013, with an 83.4 passer rating (5 TD, 2 INT), compared to last year's 70.1 away rating (11 TD, 13 INT). He has done this without his top WR Reggie Wayne and top TE Dwayne Allen, but still has plenty of weapons, most notably WR T.Y. Hilton (707 rec. yards, 5 TD) and TE Coby Fleneer (439 rec. yards, 3 TD) who combined for 13 catches in last week's 30-27 win in Tennessee. The Colts have also gotten great play out of RB Donald Brown, who leads the NFL with 5.9 yards per carry and his coming off a game where he totaled 94 yards and two touchdowns. His emergence has been huge considering how poorly top RB Trent Richardson has played since being traded to Indianapolis after Week 2, rushing for only 272 yards on 2.8 YPC and 2 TD. Richardson has been slowed by a calf injury this week, but he is expected to play. The Colts defense has given up a too many yards (365 total YPG, 22nd in NFL), including 126.1 YPG on the ground (28th in league), but has been solid in the red zone (54%, 14th in NFL), which has helped keep scoring down to 22.0 PPG allowed (10th in league). Indy needs to do a better job forcing turnovers though, with just two takeaways combined in three November games. But this number could rise due to the Cardinals being extremely turnover-prone all season.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer has tossed 15 interceptions (14 TD) this season, but last week was the first time he did not get picked off in a Cardinals uniform. He has also taken 27 sacks in 10 games with a pair of lost fumbles. However, Palmer was brilliant in Jacksonville last week, completing 30-of-42 passes (71.4%) for 419 yards (10.0 YPA), 2 TD and 0 INT. A big chunk of that came on a 91-yard TD pass to Michael Floyd, who finished with 193 receiving yards. His recent emergence has helped take the attention away from star WR Larry Fitzgerald who has caught 21 passes, including three touchdowns, over the past five weeks. Top TE Rob Housler has also done a nice job in this offense, catching 10 passes for 127 yards and 1 TD over the past two games. While the passing offense has been decent (240.8 YPG, 15th in NFL), the ground game has been mostly awful this season with 85.6 rushing YPG (25th in league) on 3.6 YPC (27th in NFL). The lack of a quality short-yardage back has led to a miserable 32% conversion rate on third down (2nd-worst in NFL). Arizona ranks 25th in the league in time of possession (29:13), but the defense has not suffered. The Cardinals allow just 324.9 total YPG (9th in NFL), which includes a stifling run defense giving up only 81.4 YPG on 3.4 YPC, both of which rank second in the league. Although Arizona allows 243.5 passing YPG, that is mostly a product of opponents giving up on trying to run the ball, as the club has held opposing passers to 6.2 YPA, the fifth-lowest number in the NFL. The Cardinals allow just 21.2 PPG (T-8th in NFL) despite being average in both red zone efficiency (55%, 16th in league) and on third downs (38%, T-15th in league). But this unit has a slew of playmakers who have at least one takeaway in all 10 games, multiple takeaways in seven contests and 22 forced turnovers in all. Five different players have at least two interceptions, led by CB Patrick Peterson's three picks.