Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (-1, 40.5 o/u)
Two weeks ago, the Chiefs and Cardinals were two of the hottest teams in the league and looked like shoe-ins for the playoffs in their respective conferences. Now, both teams have lost two straight and need a win in week 14 to firm up their post-season hopes. The Chiefs and Cards will meet at the site f Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. Eastern.
These franchises have met 11 times in the past, and the Chiefs dominate the series with eight wins, including three in a row and five of the last six. The home Cardinals are one-point favorites for Sunday, though (and the over/under is at 40.5).
The Chiefs are one of the six AFC teams at 7-5 fighting for the last Wild Card spot. With four games left to play, Andy Reid’s squad is two games out of first in the AFC West, and have already lost both games to the division-leading Broncos. The moral of the story? A division title is out of reach, and the Chiefs will need to out-duel the five other Wild Card hopefuls to reach the post-season.
If the Chiefs miss the playoffs, they will likely look back on their week 12 loss to the then-winless Raiders as a turning point. In soggy conditions (which made passing difficult), the Chiefs gave up 179 rushing yards to the worst running game in the league. (Even accounting for that performance, the Raiders still average just 72.5 yards per game on the ground.)
Arizona has had its own struggles of late, but those struggles have mainly been on offense.
With Drew Stanton filling in for an injured Carson Palmer, Arizona has failed to put up more than 18 points in its last three games. Making matters worse for Stanton, this Sunday, he will have to face a K.C. defense that is the best in the league against the pass. The Chiefs allow just 196.8 passing yards per game, and have not allowed a 300 passer all season (including two games against Peyton Manning).
They are also among the top ten in sacks this year with 32. Justin Houston leads the league with 14.
Of course, Arizona boasts a solid defense, which led the team to a 9-1 start this season. The Cardinals are sixth in the NFL against the run, and are among the top teams in turnover margin.
The rush defense will have to be on high alert this weekend with Jamaal Charles coming to town. Charles has 807 yards and eight touchdowns on 162 carries this year, and dismantled the usually-steadfast Seahawks defense just three weeks ago, putting up 159 yards on the ground.
Despite dropping their last two games and falling to 9-3, the Cardinals remain unbeaten at home this season. With the 8-4 Seahawks now breathing down their necks in the NFC West, the Cards need a win over Kansas City on Sunday to stay atop the division.
While both teams will have the desperation factor on their side, look for the Cards to stay perfect at home.
(Photo credit: Landry Heaton (flickr) “Arizona Cardinals Concept-White Pants” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)