The Cincinnati Bengals were a Super Bowl favorite, and the Arizona Cardinals were the favorite for the worst record in the NFL this year. Both are 1-3 and the Cardinals have looked like the better team this year.
It is hard to believe, but this is what happens when your quarterback is trying to play injured, and your defense has been pushed around. The Cardinals have already pulled off the upset of the year when they beat Dallas 28-16 in their last home game as a 12.5-point underdog.
The Cardinals are a 3-point home underdog in this one, but we have multiple reasons why Arizona is a good upset choice for your NFL picks this week. You can find the best betting odds at all of our top sportsbooks.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, October 8, 2023 – 04:05 PM EDT at State Farm Stadium
Cincinnati’s Broken Offense
The combination of an immobile Joe Burrow and his lack of trust in his offensive line is having a disastrous effect on this offense. The Bengals are averaging 0.95 points per drive on offense, the worst mark in the league in a season where several offenses are playing poorly.
The Bengals simply cannot move the football. Their 944 yards makes them the only offense in the league that has not cracked 1,000 yards by Week 4. The Bengals are the first team since the 2019 Dolphins to have under 1,000 yards and 50 points in the first 4 games of a season.
Teams like this almost never rebound to make the playoffs, so this offense is broken and cannot hit big plays. Cincinnati’s average of 4.0 yards per play is tied with the Giants for the worst in the NFL.
Joe Mixon has some decent numbers at running back, but the Bengals have the 2nd-fewest rush attempts in the league. They just have not been able to get any leads in games outside of the win over the Rams. This is a pass-first offense, and right now, that option is broken.
In the games against Cleveland and Tennessee where Burrow’s pressure rate was above 27%, the Bengals scored 3 points in each game. In the games against the Rams and Ravens where Burrow’s pressure rate was under 14%, the Bengals at least scored 19 and 17 points as an offense in those games.
But the main point is this offense has not scored 20 points in any game yet this season. They also could be shorthanded this week.
Tee Higgins’ Rib Injury
Making matters worse for the offense is a rib injury to No. 2 receiver Tee Higgins, one of the best No. 2 options in the league. He left last week’s game with the injury and reportedly was not practicing on Wednesday due to it.
It is possible Higgins will give it a go on Sunday with the Bengals in must-win mode. But with a serious injury like ribs, it would be hard to expect him to play well, which should only make things easier for the Cardinals who are getting great production out of their new No. 2 wideout, rookie Michael Wilson. The rookie has caught 14-of-16 targets for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is averaging a whopping 14.8 yards per target.
Joshua Dobbs Is Blowing Away Expectations
If you thought the Cardinals were going to tank for USC quarterback Caleb Williams, then signing Joshua Dobbs in late August to start the season while Kyler Murray recovered from his ACL sure sounded like a way to do it.
Dobbs was in Pittsburgh as a backup for years where he never achieved anything. He ended up on the Titans last December when Ryan Tannehill was injured, and he had to start the final 2 games, including a game for the division title in Jacksonville in Week 18. Dobbs’ late fumble with the Titans leading ended up being a season-ending touchdown return.
Prospects were very low on this offense, but Dobbs is using his legs to be a very effective runner – 2nd in rushing EPA to only Patrick Mahomes according to ESPN – and the Cardinals are wisely limiting his pass attempts and just asking him to be efficient. Dobbs is ranked No. 8 in QBR (67.6), which is way ahead of Burrow (33.6), who ranks 29th.
Cards Protecting the Ball
A lack of turnovers has helped as Arizona has not turned the ball over in the last 3 games. In the 2 home games against the Giants and Cowboys, Dobbs has led the Cardinals to 28 points, which would be more than enough to beat the Bengals in 2023. The Cardinals even scored 16 points in the road games against the Commanders and 49ers, and Zach Ertz dropped a touchdown late in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers where the Cardinals were within a possession late in the 3rd quarter.
Arizona is simply playing better offense with Dobbs than the Bengals are with Burrow right now. No one imagined this would happen, but it has.
They say styles make fights, and if you look at Cincinnati’s losses, they were punched in the mouth by run-based teams like the Browns, Ravens, and Titans. Their only win was against the more finesse Rams, who lead the NFL in pass attempts and allowed 6 sacks of Matthew Stafford that night.
The Cardinals are building a run-based team with the way Dobbs can run on designed plays and scrambles, and James Conner is currently averaging a career-high 79.5 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. If Arizona can continue protecting the ball, it is going to win that side of the matchup.
Arizona has the 5th-lowest pressure rate on defense, but this unit rarely misses tackles and doesn’t blitz much. The Cardinals will keep plays in front of them and make sure the Bengals do not get big chunks. They may even blitz more if they smell blood in the water with Burrow not trying to move much on that bad calf.
No one thought the Cardinals would beat the Cowboys in Week 3. This would be a minor upset compared to that one. But the Bengals are playing so poorly that it is too hard to trust them right now. Instead, we’ll take the Arizona team that has already exceeded expectations on both sides of the ball to give the Bengals all they can handle Sunday.
NFL Pick: Cardinals (+130) at Bovada
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