San Francisco 49ers (0-0) vs. Arizona Cardinals (0-0), University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Sunday, September 13th, 4:15 PM Eastern, Fox
By Darin Zank of Predictem.com
Point Spread: 49ers +6.5/Arizona -6.5
Over/Under: 46 1/2
The Arizona Cardinals begin defense of their first-ever NFC championship when they play host to one of their NFC West Division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday afternoon in suburban Phoenix.
Most online NFL betting outlets have seen their lines on this game hold steady in recent days at Arizona -6 ?. But most have also lowered their total on this game from 47 to 46 ?. The Cardinals are also being offered at right around -280 on most moneylines, with San Francisco getting +240 as the underdogs.
The 49ers are coming off a 2008 season in which they fired head coach Mike Nolan after a 2-5 start, then finished 4-1 (and 3-1-1 against the pointspreads) under interim coach Mike Singletary. And that was plenty enough to keep the former wide-eyed linebacker around as the man in charge.
Arizona, meanwhile, won the NFC West last year with nine wins, and didn’t look very convincing in losing four of their last six games. But the Cardinals then beat Atlanta in the Wild Card round, won at Carolina in the divisional round and knocked off Philly to win their first-ever NFC crown. And in what would have gone down as one of the great longshot stories in NFL history, Arizona rallied to lead Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl in the last two minutes. It took a great and even questionable touchdown catch by the Steelers’ Santonio Holmes with 30 seconds to go to keep the Cards from pulling off the upset.
However, Coach Whisenhunt’s troops must now battle the curse of the Super Bowl loser this season. Of the last eight teams to lose the Big Game, seven have failed to make the playoffs the following season.
Arizona swept the two games from San Fran last season, winning 23-13 in week one on the road and 29-24 on a week 10 Monday night at home. JT O’Sullivan quarterbacked the Niners in that season opener, while Shaun Hill nearly guided SF to the upset in the second game. And it’s Hill who will start for the 49ers Sunday.
The Niners outgained the Cardinals in that first matchup last year, but committed five turnovers. And San Francisco outrushed Arizona in that second game last season 119-46, but botched a first-and-goal from the one-yard line in the final minute that, with a touchdown, would have won the game.
The Cardinals covered the spread that first game last year vs. the Niners as one-point road favorites, but couldn’t cover as 9.5-point chalk in the second game. And while the first game never approached its over/under of 43, the second game went over its total of 48 in large part because of a 34-point first half.
San Fran RB Frank Gore ran for 96 and 100 yards in his two games vs. the Cards last year.
The 49ers are 73 straight up over the last two seasons when Hill starts at quarterback.
San Francisco ranked 28th in total offense last year at 274 YPG, 27th in rushing at just 100 YPG, 22nd in 3rd-down conversions at 38% and 19th in average time-of-possession at 29:30. On the other side of the ball, the Niners ranked 13th in both total defense at 326 YPG and vs. the run at 107 YPG.
Arizona ranked fourth last season in total offense at 366 YPG, although dead last in rushing at just 74 YPG, 11th in 3rd-down efficiency at 42% and 15th in TOP at 30:10. Defensively, the Cardinals ranked 19th overall at 332 YPG and 16th vs. the run at 110 YPG.
San Fran went 7-8-1 vs. the pointspreads last year, but 4-3 ATS as underdogs on the road. Arizona went 8-7-1 vs. the numbers last year, 5-3 ATS at home and 4-2 ATS as home chalk.
The totals went 8-7-1 in 49ers games last season, which averaged 43 points. Meanwhile, the O/Us went 11-5 in Arizona games last year, which averaged a healthy 53 points.
For what it’s worth, Arizona went 0-4 both SU and ATS during this just-completed exhibition season, losing to the Steelers, Chargers, Packers and Broncos. San Francisco, on the other hand, went 3-1 SU but 1-3 ATS this preseason, beating the Broncos, Raiders and Cowboys and losing to the Chargers.
On the NFL futures betting markets, the Cardinals are getting right around +150 to repeat as NFC West champs, +1,100 to win the NFC championship again and upwards of +4,000 to win the Super Bowl. Arizona has also been tagged with a regular-season wins over/under of 8.
The 49ers are listed at right around +300 to win the NFC West this year, +2,200 to win the NFC and +5,500 to win the Superbowl. San Fran has also been pegged with a season wins total of seven to 7.5.
Zman’s Pick: The Niners should fair quite a bit better than last year, but Arizona wins this one and covers as well.