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Saints vs. Cardinals prediction: Ride low-scoring Thursday night trend

Key injuries plus a lackluster Arizona offense equals another TNF Under

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (left) is sacked during a Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers. Murray and the Cardinals are averaging just 19 points per game this season. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (left) is sacked during a Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers. Murray and the Cardinals are averaging just 19 points per game this season. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)Read moreJared C Tilton / Getty Images

There was a time not so long ago when Thursday night was must-see TV. For most of this NFL season, though, it’s been more like must-flee TV.

With the exception of Chargers-Chiefs in Week 2 — a game Kansas City rallied to win 27-24 — this season’s Thursday Night Football matchups have been duds. (The last two weeks alone have featured a total of two touchdowns and 40 combined points.)

Now, a pair of 2-4 squads — the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals — get an opportunity to breathe some much-needed life into Thursday Night Football. Will their resuscitation efforts succeed? Consider us skeptical.

Here’s our Thursday Night Football best bet for Saints vs. Cardinals.

Note: Odds updated as of 1:10 p.m. ET on Oct. 20.

Saints vs. Cardinals Prediction

  1. Under 43.5 points (at FanDuel)

Note: Odds current at the time of publication.

Saints vs. Cardinals Prediction: Analysis

Just how much have quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ offense struggled this season? Since a 44-21 blowout home loss to Kansas City in the season opener, the defense has surrendered an average of 19.6 points (23 or fewer in five straight outings). Yet Arizona has only turned that into two victories.

One was a miracle 29-23 overtime win at the Las Vegas Raiders (a game the Cardinals trailed 20-0). The other was a 26-16 win at lifeless Carolina (and Arizona faced a 10-3 halftime deficit in that one). In two games since, the Cardinals have tallied a total of 26 points.

New Orleans has been much more productive offensively, scoring 25-plus points in four of its six games. However, in their only road game since a come-from-behind, 27-26 win at Atlanta in Week 1, the Saints managed just two touchdowns in a 22-14 loss at the aforementioned pathetic Panthers (Carolina’s only victory to date).

The New Orleans defense has been leaky, allowing 26.3 points per contest (only the Browns, Seahawks and Lions have been worse). That includes 28, 32 and 30 points the last three weeks. However, the quarterbacks the Saints faced in those three games — Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins (88.7), Seattle’s Geno Smith (108.1) and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow (95.6) — all have passer ratings substantially higher than Murray’s (81.8).

Bottom line: As their 2-4 records suggest, both these squads are flawed, so it’s foolish to trust either with your money right now. That’s especially true after reviewing the injury report.

The Cardinals have three running backs who are questionable, including James Connor (ribs). And just as Murray gets stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins back from a PED suspension, he loses wideout Hollywood Brown. The speedster is out multiple weeks after suffering a foot injury in Sunday’s 19-9 loss at Seattle.

» READ MORE: NFL Week 7 survivor pool picks, predictions: Can Cowboys, Raiders bounce back from losses?

Meanwhile, the Saints’ infirmary is loaded with recognizable names, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston and backup Andy Dalton, and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas. Winston and Dalton have back injuries, and although both are listed as probable, Dalton is expected to start. However, whoever is under center won’t be throwing to Landry or Thomas, as both have been ruled out.

All of this leaves us eyeing the total, which has dropped 1.5 points from the opener of 46. It’s a move that makes complete sense, given Arizona’s struggling offense (and improved defense), the Saints’ banged-up skill players, and a slew of strong betting trends.

About the latter: The Cardinals have stayed Under the total in five straight games (42 combined points or fewer in the last four). Also, 10 of last week’s 14 contests featured 44 points or fewer.

Finally, NFL Unders are cashing at 60.2% for the season (52-39-3). That includes a 5-1 Under mark on Thursday Night Football. Combined point totals in those six games: 41, 51 (Chargers-Chiefs), 46, 42, 21 and 19.

On the bright side, it’s unlikely we will see a Thursday night snoozer on the level of Colts-Broncos in Week 5 or Commanders-Bears in Week 6. But this one still should come up short of 45 points.

Roll with Under 43.5 points at FanDuel.

Saints vs. Cardinals Odds (via FanDuel):

  1. Point spread: Saints (+2.5/-108) @ Cardinals (-2.5/-112)

  2. Moneyline: Saints (+120) @ Cardinals (-142)

  3. Total: 43.5 (Over -115/Under -105)

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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