Arizona Cardinals (5-10) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1)
It’s usually a smart thing to take well coached teams off a loss. They’re generally extra focused in a bounce back game the following week. Bill Belichick is 35-20 ATS off a loss since 2000. Mike McCarthy is 22-13 ATS in that spot since 2006. Mike Tomlin is 17-13 ATS in that spot since 2007. Sean Payton is 20-12 ATS in that spot since 2006. Of the current NFL Head Coaches who have won a Super Bowl with their current team, only Tom Coughlin (27-24 ATS) doesn’t have a very impressive ATS record off a loss.
Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring yet like the 5 I just mentioned, but everything he’s done so far suggests he’ll be in that group someday. He’s already got a very impressive, albeit limited, resume off a loss or tie, going 7-1 ATS and 8-0 SU. That one ATS loss was only because he declined a safety late against Seattle and it could have been a push depending on the line you got (it opened at -7, but went towards -9 before the game and the 49ers won by 7). Not only is he 7-0 in those games, but he’s doing it in impressive fashion, winning by an average of 17.8 points per game.
That being said, these 16.5 points are begging me to take them. This line is ridiculous. It’s the biggest one of the season, even bigger than Denver/Kansas City this week. I know the 49ers are very good and the Cardinals are bad, but it’s not like they’re the best team in the league and the worst team in the league. The Cardinals have lost just 2 games by more than 17 points this season. The biggest line anyone has covered this season is -13 (Houston/Tennessee), as 13+ favorites are 1-5 ATS this season.
Using the net points per drive method of computing line value, we can see the line value. The 49ers rank 5th at 0.70, while the Cardinals rank 25th at -0.34. If you take the difference, multiply it by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game) and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that San Francisco should be -14 here instead of -16.5. That might not seem like a ton, but it’s significant and it makes sense. For some reason, this line has shifted 1.5 points in San Francisco’s favor in the last week as it was -15 last week. All the 49ers have done in the last week is get blown out.
That calculated real line also doesn’t take into account these two teams’ injury situations. Justin Smith is out for the 49ers and in the 6 quarters he’s been out for, they’ve allowed 76 points. You can’t blame that all on Smith’s absence, but, on a defense full of talented players, he was their one irreplaceable player. He is constantly double teamed and frees up Aldon Smith (who has not so coincidentally seen a serious lack of production in the 6 quarters without Justin). Of all the elite pass rushers in the NFL, no one sees double teams less frequently than Aldon Smith, part of the reason why I feel he does not deserve defensive player of the year (which I’ll get into after this week).
Arizona, meanwhile, also has a stud 5-technique, Calais Campbell. He’s returned from injury and their defense has been playing better since, particularly in their last 2 games (he was limited in his first game back). In those 2 games, they’ve allowed a combined 24 points (14 of the Bears’ points were off returns and should not count against the defense). The quarterback situation in Arizona makes them a risk, but we’re getting so many points here that I’m not afraid at all to take the Cardinals, who are 3-0 ATS in the last 2 years as 12+ favorites (including 2 straight up wins).
Public lean: Arizona (50% range)
San Francisco 49ers 20 Arizona Cardinals 13
Pick against spread: Arizona +16.5 (-110) 4 units