Merry Christmas to you and yours, and we were given quite a gift in the form of this holiday NFL doubleheader. The Indianapolis Colts, who have now won two straight, take their talents to Arizona, to play Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. While the Cardinals were long viewed as the best team in the NFL, they have dropped two straight -- including an inexplicable loss to the Detroit Lions last week. This matchup presents an opportunity for them not only to get back on track, but to prove that they are still a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Colts have hopped on the back of second-year running back Jonathan Taylor, and he's quickly found himself in the MVP conversation. Taylor leads the NFL with 1,518 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns and averages a second-best 5.6 yards per rush. Stopping him will be a key to victory for Arizona.
Below, we will break down this special matchup from a gambling perspective and examine the line movement, Over/Under and player props to consider. First, here's how you can watch Saturday night's matchup.
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
How to watch
This line opened at Cardinals -4.5 last Tuesday, but began to fall. It fell a full point to Cardinals -3.5 on Thursday and then to Cardinals -2 on Sunday night. Monday morning, it fell another half point to Cardinals -1.5 and then to a pick'em on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Cardinals then found themselves a one-point favorite.
The pick: Cardinals -1. So, we have one team coming off of a monster win while the other is coming off of an embarrassing loss. The public is beginning to view the Colts as a dark-horse postseason contender while simultaneously falling out of love with the Cardinals. This seems like a good spot to hop on Arizona. I also don't like that Carson Wentz and Taylor will be without three starting offensive linemen in Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Mark Glowinski.
This total opened at 49 last Tuesday. It received a bump to 49.5 on Wednesday, but then fell a full point to 48.5 Sunday. It bumped back up to 49.5, but eventually settled at 49 by Christmas Eve.
The pick: Under 49. This total is something I won't be playing, because I think Vegas did a great job at setting the line. My initial prediction was 48 points, and I think I'm leaning Under. The Colts may score the third-most points per game and the Cardinals are not far behind in eighth, but both have offensive injuries and both defenses are top 15 units. The lean is to the Under.
Carson Wentz props
Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over +130, Under -160)
Passing yards: 212.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
Passing attempts: OFF
Passing completions: 19.5 (Over -110, Under -120)
Longest passing completion: 34.5 (Over -110, Under -120)
Interceptions: 0.5 (Over +110, Under -140)
Rushing yards: 13.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
The Colts relied on the run game heavily against the New England Patriots last week. So heavily that Wentz completed 5 of 12 passes for 57 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It's better to go off of his averages instead of the last two games. Wentz is averaging a career-low 214.6 passing yards per game. That's still above this week's line, and if Taylor isn't dominating on the ground early or the Cardinals strike early, Wentz could be throwing the ball. Remember, Wentz threw for 306 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the lean is to the Over on yards, I have no read on completions numbers. Wentz could hit a deep shot or two in the passing game where the Over on yards hits but the Under on everything else wins. Passing touchdowns lean is Over because of the juice. He's thrown multiple touchdowns in eight of 14 games played.
Kyler Murray props
Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over -130, Under +100)
Passing yards: 262.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
Passing attempts: OFF
Passing completions: OFF
Longest passing completion: 37.5 (Over -110, Under -120)
Interceptions: 0.5 (Over -150, Under +120)
Rushing yards: 27.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
I'm going to take a flier on the Over in passing yards. Murray is averaging a career-high 276.3 passing yards per game and we could see more passing if James Conner, who is questionable, is inactive. The 1.5 passing touchdowns lean is to the Over as well, but I won't be playing his rushing yards prop. Murray could go for 61 yards like he did against the Los Angeles Rams or 3 yards like last week.
T.Y. Hilton receiving yards: Over 23.5 (+100). SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh alerted me to this prop. Hilton has gone Over this number in two out of the last four games and the Cardinals defense is allowing nearly 50 more passing yards at home than on the road. Oh's simulations have Hilton with over 30 receiving yards.
Christian Kirk receiving yards: Over 58.5 (-115). With DeAndre Hopkins out, Kirk is likely going to be the leading receiver moving forward. He caught three passes for 86 yards against the Rams and nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown last week against the Lions on 12 targets. I see him going Over this number on Christmas.
Jonathan Taylor rushing attempts: Over 20.5 (-125). Even if Taylor doesn't pop off for 170 yards again, Frank Reich is going to feed him. He's covered this number in four out of the last five games. The one game in question came against the Buccaneers, when he carried the ball 16 times. Fans were screaming for him to get more carries that game.