NFL Week 16 Picks: Arizona Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, 12/24/11, 1:00 PM EST, TV:  FOX
Opening Point Spread:  Cincinnati -5.5
Current Betting Line:  Cincinnati -4
Opening Total:  40
Current Total:  41
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

The Cincinnati Bengals still have a great opportunity to get into the playoffs with two games left

Arizona enters on a four-game win streak and picked up a 20-17 come-from-behind victory over the Cleveland Browns as six-point home favorites last week.  The Cardinals will be looking to win five games in a row for the first time since the 1977 campaign, as the franchise has bounced back nicely from a 1-6 start to the 2011 season.  Offensively, the story has been the quarterback position, as Kevin Kolb and John Skelton have shared time under center.  Head coach Ken Whisenhunt isn’t sure who will lead his offense on Saturday at this time.  Arizona is 7-8 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points the last two-plus seasons.

The Cardinals have really relied on their defense to keep them in games this season, allowing just 17.4 points over the last seven games, which is a dramatic improvement from surrendering 26.1 a contest in the first seven contests.  Arizona rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson will get a chance to match up against Bengals first-year star A.J. Green on the outside, as both are enjoying tremendous starts to their NFL careers.

Cincinnati is still in the thick of the AFC playoff race and comes into this week’s contest tied with the New York Jets for the second Wild Card spot.  The Bengals finished their road schedule with a 5-3 record, which has the locker room excited to play its final two games of the year inside Paul Brown Stadium.  “We had to start with two on the road, and now we get the payback from the schedule,” commented Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.  The youthful roster came away with a 20-13 win over the St. Louis Rams as seven-point road favorites last week that snapped a two-game losing streak.  Cincinnati is 1-7 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points the last two-plus years.

The Bengals are looking for their first-ever win over the Cardinals under Lewis’ direction, dropping games during the 2003 and 2007 seasons.  Cincinnati rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has gone over the 3,000-yard passing mark this season, but some experts around the league are concerned that he’s hit a wall, failing to throw for 200 in his last three games.  The former TCU Horned Frogs star has tallied a 3-3 mark in front of the home fans, but has registered just six of his 18 touchdown passes inside Saturday’s venue.

Bettors will likely back the Bengals due to their 7-2 ATS mark following a straight-up win, while the Cardinals are 2-8 ATS as a road underdog of 3.5 to 10 points.

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