San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
In NFC West matchups, the rule of thumb is to pick the home team. Since 2007, no other division comes close to covering at home at a rate as high as the NFC West, which is 103-74 ATS at in that time period. San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, and Arizona are all teams that are good at home and bad on the road generally. Given that, it makes sense that inside the division, the home team generally covers in NFC West divisional contests and that’s exactly what happens.
In that same time period, the home team in an NFC West divisional matchup covers at a record of 38-24 ATS. As well as the 49ers played last year, they still managed to go 1-2 ATS on the road in the division, 0-2-1 ATS depending on the lines (some had Seattle +2 rather than +1.5). They lost straight up in Arizona, beat St. Louis by just a touchdown, and beat Seattle by just 2, all of which were games they were favored in. There’s not a lot of data on this type of situation, but home dogs of 7+ in the NFC West have covered 2 of the 3 instances in that time period. Home dogs of 7+ cover at a high rate anyway, regardless, going 99-78 ATS since 2002.
Besides, the Cardinals tend to play a lot of close games anyway. This makes sense because they have a good defense, as much as their offense struggles. Dating back to last year, they’ve only lost 4 games by more than 7, out of 11 total losses, including only once at home, 32-20 to the Steelers. This week’s game is even more likely to be close because the 49ers are a more defensive oriented team as well. Some places have this line at 6.5 (-110), but pay extra for the +7 if you can because you might need it. +7 is at -120 right now.
Besides, this spread seems a little weird. Last week, San Francisco was anywhere from -7 to -8.5 at home for Seattle and they didn’t even cover, winning by just 7. Now they’re -7 in Arizona? Arizona beat Seattle and both teams have the same record. I’ll agree that Seattle is the better team right now, but 6 points better? I don’t agree with that, especially considering the home/road disparity in NFC divisional games.
Meanwhile, Arizona was +7 in Minnesota and pushed and now they’re +7 at home for San Francisco? Minnesota beat San Francisco and has the same record as them. Once again, I’ll agree the 49ers are the better team, but 6 points better? I don’t agree with that. Neither do the measures for calculating line value either. The yards per play differential method gives us a line of San Francisco -9.5 and the rate of sustaining drives method gives of a line of San Francisco -3. If you average those two out, you get lower than -7 and that’s not even taking into account that Alex Smith isn’t playing well right now and that they’re unlikely to continue rushing for 5.9 YPC, because no one does that. That’s the main reason behind their #1 ranking in yards per play.
Plus, just look at the spread last year. San Francisco was 10-2 and Arizona was 5-7 and the spread was just 3 and the Cardinals still covered and won. The 49ers aren’t as good of a team as they were last year because they aren’t winning the turnover battle like they were last year. This line is ridiculous. Normally I’d think this line was too good to be true, but the public likes San Francisco and the line still isn’t moving.
I know I mentioned early this week that I think favorites will have a good week this week, in order to help bring the dogs/favorites record eventually to within 10 games of .500, which it’s been in each of the last 10 years at least (right now it’s at 63-39 in favor of dogs). That doesn’t mean dogs should not be bet at all. It’s perfectly fine to take a dog if the favorite is publicly backed like the 49ers are this week. I really like Arizona this week. I also like the under this week. This should be a close, low scoring game between two of the top-4 scoring defenses in the league. Besides, the under hits at a record of 78-46 in NFC West divisional games since 2007.
Public lean: San Francisco (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Arizona covers)
Sharps lean: ARZ 12 SF 6
Final update: Line in Las Vegas Hilton is 6.5, but still the lean is on Arizona. I really like Arizona at +7. Pay extra for the extra half point if you can. If you can’t, it’s a smaller play.
San Francisco 49ers 16 Arizona Cardinals 13
Pick against spread: Arizona +7 (-120) 4 units
Total: Under 38 (-110) 1 unit