San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
Through 2 games, the Arizona Cardinals rank #1 in the league in rate of moving the chains differential. It’s only been two games, against a schedule that hasn’t been tough (New Orleans and Chicago), and it’s important not to forget that they ranked 17thiin that category in 2014. However, Carson Palmer has played very well in his return from injury and the Arizona defense also looks good again, despite some off-season losses. Again, they’ve had a weak schedule, but now they get big free agent acquisition guard Mike Iupati back from injury and I don’t think the 49ers are much better than the teams the Cardinals have already destroyed this year.
The 49ers started the season out well, beating Minnesota at home week 1, but then last week in Pittsburgh they looked like the bottom dwelling team most expected them to be this season, following an 8-win 2014 season and an off-season full of losses. I think the 49ers’ play week 2 is more representative of their talent level and how their season will go. As a result, I think we’re getting line value with the Cardinals as only 6.5 point home favorites. This line kind of reminds me of the line in San Francisco’s game in Pittsburgh last week, when they were 6.5 point road underdogs and got blown out. Pittsburgh and Arizona have similar talent levels.
It does help the 49ers that they are in their 2nd straight road game. Teams are 117-81 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 96-55 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 197-200 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.25 points per game, as opposed to 282-395 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game.
However, the 49ers are also in a bad spot, with a home game against the Green Bay Packers, one of the biggest games of their season, on deck. The early line has San Francisco as 6.5 point home underdogs, an appropriate line and bad news for the 49ers’ chances this week. Since 2012, teams are 65-105 ATS before being 3+ point home underdogs, 35-73 ATS before being 4+ point home underdogs, and 19-48 ATS before being 6+ point home underdogs. The reason for all three of those trends is the same: it’s very tough for NFL players to be completely focused with a huge home game on deck. Unlike last week, when I took Pittsburgh for a big play against San Francisco, I can’t bring myself to put money on the Cardinals this week because there is conflicting stuff, but they should be the right side.
Arizona Cardinals 20 San Francisco 49ers 10
Pick against the spread: Arizona -6.5