San Francisco 49ers (1-7) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)
The Cardinals have been one of the most underrated teams in the league this season. I didn’t bet heavily on them in their last game as 3 point underdogs in Carolina because they were coming off of a 5-quarter tie (which is usually a tough situation) and because Carolina was also underrated. I was hoping the Panthers would beat the Cardinals so we could get even better value with the Cardinals coming out of their bye in week 10. The Panthers did beat the Cardinals, 30-20, but the Cardinals also lost left tackle Jared Veldheer and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu for an extended period of time with injuries in that game. Those two are critical players for this team. On top of that, they’re still 13.5 point home favorites here because their opponents, the 49ers, have been so terrible this season, so we’re not really getting good line value with the Cardinals either, especially when you take into account their injury situation.
That being said, I’m still taking the Cardinals here. Despite their 3-4-1 record, they rank 6th in point differential and 1st in first down rate differential. Their losses to New England and Los Angeles were both very close, while their tie to Seattle could have been a win if one of a number of different things had gone their way. They have won the first down battle in 7 of 8 games and are legitimately a few plays away from being 6-2 right now, after finishing 13-3 and in first place in first down rate differential in 2015. Their offense isn’t what it was last season, but their defense has been even better. Their special teams have been problematic, but, even without Veldheer and Mathieu, this is still one of the best teams in the league.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have lost their last 7 straight by an AVERAGE of 17.29 points per game, so all of a sudden this line at 13.5 doesn’t seem so high. Just two of their losses came by fewer than two touchdowns. One of those 2 losses by less than two touchdowns was a 12 point home loss to these Cardinals week 5, even though the Cardinals were starting backup Drew Stanton in place of injured starting quarterback Carson Palmer. With Palmer back, the Cardinals should be able to win big here at home.
The Cardinals are in a tough spot as they have to turn around and play a much tougher Minnesota team next week, a game that could have significant playoff and playoff seeding implications. The Cardinals will almost definitely be road underdogs in Minnesota next week and favorites of 10 or more are just 54-73 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs, as teams can overlook significantly inferior opponents with a tough game on deck. That being said, the 49ers are also in a tough spot as they have to turn around and host the Patriots next week, a game in which they’re whopping 14.5 point home underdogs on the early line. That could be a major distraction for the 49ers. Underdogs of 10 or more are 48-79 ATS since 1989 before being underdogs of 10 or more again, while teams are 37-89 ATS since 2012 before being 4.5+ point home underdogs. There’s not quite enough here for me to be confident in putting money on the Cardinals as home favorites of this many points, but they should be the right side.
Arizona Cardinals 27 San Francisco 49ers 10
Pick against the spread: Arizona -13.5