San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

San Francisco 49ers (1-1 SU, 1-0-1 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS), Week 3 NFL, 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, September 25th, 2011, Paul Brown Stadium (Field Turf)
by Jeff Hochman, Professional NFL Handicapper, JH-Sportsline

Point Spread: SF +3/CIN -3
Over/Under Total: 40.5

With both teams coming in at 1-1, this becomes a pivotal game when the San Francisco 49ers travel to Paul Brown Stadium in this week three match-up against the Bengals.

The 49ers looked incredibly impressive throughout the first half of their match-up against the Cowboys, but they fell apart in the second half and lost a close one. They were trying to move to 2-0 under new coach Jim Harbaugh after a 33-17 win over the defending NFC West champions in week one. That did not happen as the Dallas Cowboys came back from an early 14-point deficit and won in OT by a field goal. Alex Smith was 16-of-24 for 179 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. The 49ers pass defense allowed the Cowboys to pass for 432 yards, as Tony Romo had 345 yards passing and Jon Kitna chipped in with 87.

Last week, the Denver Broncos survived their game against the Bengals 24-22, despite getting out-gained 382-318 on the football field. Denver also committed two turnovers while Cincinnati had none. The Bengals lost for the ninth straight time in Denver, where Cincinnati hasn’t won since 1975.

Kyle Orton played well finishing with a 111.1 quarterback rating. The Tim Tebow talk will have to wait another week. The running game ran all over the Bengals defense. Willis McGahee, who hadn’t carried the ball more than 20 times in a game since November 2008, rushed 28 times for 101 yards, and added a score.

After a tumultuous off-season, the Bengals were widely expected to be one of the worst teams this season. Cincy has shown that they have quite a bit of young talent, and may not need as long as was originally expected to rebound after losing long time quarterback Carson Palmer to early retirement.

The Bengals are led by a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton, who has played much better than most people have expected to this point. Dalton has thrown for 413 yards, 3 touchdowns, and has a quarterback rating of 105.7, which is higher than Smith’s 95.2 QBR. The Bengals have won the stats in both regular season games after going 2-2 in the stats during the preseason. The 49ers run defense has looked much better than the pass defense so the Bengals should “air it out” early and often.

Last week’s West Coast teams that played an early EST game went 2-1 ATS. This is the only such game on the slate in week three. San Francisco is playing with a lot more focus this year and arguably could be undefeated coming into this game. The one alarming stat I see is that the 49ers have been out-gained in 5 of their six games, including preseason. Last week, the Cowboys racked up 266 more yards than San Francisco. If the 49ers don’t start winning the stats or at least control the clock, they can kiss its season goodbye. The offensive line looks much improved from last year and that’s a great place to start.

These two teams have played each other just 8 times since 1987, and only once since 2007. The 49ers have won six out of the eight games while the home team is 6-2 SU as well. The Bengals are 1-11 ATS as a favorite over the last three seasons and 4-20 ATS all time as a favorite. The total has gone OVER in 6 of San Francisco’s last 7 games. The total has gone OVER in 4 of Cincinnati’s last 5 games at home.

Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: San Francisco 49ers +3.

The Bengals offense will face some struggles against a 49ers defense who are better than any team they played so far this year. The 49ers and Bengals both have some questions at the quarterback position, but the experience of Alex Smith should make the difference late in the game. Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree are both listed as questionable for SF. If they are able to start than it makes this play a lot more attractive.

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