San Francisco 49ers (2-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-0)
The Cardinals were favored by just 2.5 points in this matchup last week on the early line and have since shifted to 5 point favorites, a significant shift given that more than 20% of games are decided by 3-4 points. Normally I like to go against significant shifts like that because they tend to be an overreaction, but in this case I don’t think the line shifted enough. For one, the line was too low to begin with as the Cardinals have been a superior team to the 49ers throughout the season. I have had them as one of my top underrated teams since before the start of the season and, while they are getting more recognition after their upset win over the Rams, the public perception still might not have caught on to how good this team is, as they legitimately have one of the top few rosters in the league and have been as impressive as any team in the league on the field through four weeks.
On top of that, the 49ers have had significant injury losses in the past week, losing quarterback Jimmy Garropolo and stud tight end George Kittle. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance has a lot of upside, but has not looked ready in limited action thus far in his career and is a true backup quarterback at this stage of his career, one who will have to play without his team’s top overall offensive player in George Kittle. That alone should have shifted this line as much as it did, but when you add in that the Cardinals were highly underrated to begin with, we are still getting a lot of line value with Arizona as 5-point favorites.
Like the Cardinals, the 49ers are a team I expected to make a big leap in win total this season. That was in part because they were significantly better than their 6-10 record suggested last season, but it was also because I expected them to be significantly healthier than a year ago. They haven’t been quite as banged up as they were a year ago, but Kittle and Garoppolo are far from their only key absences, as they have also lost starting cornerbacks Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams, starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and lead running back Raheem Mostert just since the season began. The Cardinals have one key injury, with top cornerback Byron Murphy out, but still have a significant talent edge. In their current state, I have the 49ers as about a league average team, while the Cardinals are 7.5 points above average, suggesting they should be favored by about 10 points at home. We’re still getting enough line value with this team for them to continue to be worth betting.
Arizona Cardinals 27 San Francisco 49ers 17
Pick against the spread: Arizona -5