Pro Football Betting — Cards-Lions: Curtain’s Up For the Air Raid

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Kliff Kingsbury has never even coached a regular season game in the NFL, yet he has already become one of the professional game’s most polarizing figures. Admittedly he has brought some of this on himself, so there are going to be a lot of people looking for him to fail as he brings his Arizona Cardinals onto the field to face the Detroit Lions in the season opener, kicking off Sunday at 4:25 PM ET at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ.

Remember that if you’re a BetAnySports customer, you’ll be able to place wagers on this game as it is in progress, as you access Live Betting Ultra.

Kingsbury’s offense is the Air Raid, which will probably dictate anywhere from 65%-75% passes and generally sends four wide receivers on any given play. It is based on getting rid of the ball quickly to mitigate the effect of a pass rush, and that means Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, who is starting his first game in the NFL, is going to have to make some quick decisions.

We will say this; last year’s offensive line left Josh Rosen, more often than not, to run for his life. This year they are healthier, with new starters, and they have the benefit of a very mobile quarterback who the defense is definitely going to have to “spy.”

Can the receivers cut it? Well, there’s an interesting blend of youth and experience, when you consider the presence of veterans Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Crabtree (who knows the Air Raid very well from his days at Texas Tech); Christan Kirk, who has played in a similar offense at Texas A&M, with rookies Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson. These guys might all be very active in this game.

In the pro football betting odds posted on this game – with reduced juice, so you lay less than -110 at BetAnySports – the Lions are the favorites on the road:

Detroit Lions -3 (+100)
Arizona Cardinals +3 (-110)

Over 46 points (-101)
Under 46 points (-109)

Kingsbury says that he purposely held back a lot of the playbook in the pre-season, because he wanted there to be an element of surprise attached to it. That likely won’t last long, but it likely will be something of a factor in this contest. One of the things we’re curious about seeing is how the Cards are going to deploy David Johnson, who is potentially one of the most explosive rushing-receiving threats in the league. He is obviously going to supply whatever running game they’ll have, but he may also be split wide on a lot of plays.

In Detroit, they are talking again about going to the run moire to achieve more balance in the offense. And frankly, they’re not all that badly equipped, with CJ Anderson joining Kerryon Johnson in the rotation. But this was an offense that was only 25th in the league in scoring last season, so the Lions will need more sustained drives than they had in last year’s meeting in the desert, which resulted in just 218 total yards in a 17-3 win.

Arizona made some decisive moves on defense. One of them was to bring Terrell Suggs on board for what we assume will be a last hurrah, and he’ll add something to a pass rush that was tied for fifth in the league with 49 sacks. Jordan Hicks (from the Eagles) is the new middle linebacker. Another newcomer – and one who will have to produce early – is second-round corner Byron Murphy (from U-Dub), and gets the starting nod. That’s the problem for the Cards here – Patrick Peterson is on a suspension, while Robert Alford has been placed on injured reserve. That is something to overcome. But the good news is that new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph brought this stop unit to a more familiar 3-4 alignment.

The Cardinals’ was dead last in everything, it seemed, last year: rushing, passing, scoring, third down conversion percentage. But they have addressed this in the most radical way they know how. Some aren’t impressed; Rex Ryan, in a studio commentary role now, believes Arizona’s Air Raid is going to “get crushed” and points out that even with QB’s like Patrick Mahomes, Kingsbury could not manage even a .500 record as a head coach.

Well, eventually the Cards might wind up getting crushed. But again, we like a little element of surprise. We make note that Kingsbury had a number of winning teams as an offensive coordinator, and that Detroit’s Matt Patricia hasn’t shown us anything to indicate that he isn’t going to become just another former Bill Belichick assistant who failed as a head coach.

The Cardinals have, on balance, fundamental improvement on both sides of the ball, a lot of experience on the coaching staff, and a QB with a chance to be very dynamic. They are getting points at home against a team that won just six games last year, is playing on a foreign surface (grass) and doesn’t really know what’s coming or have the defensive depth to deal with it. We don’t know what’s coming either, but we’ll pay to find out, and would rather be grabbing points while that’s happening.

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