Thursday Night NFL action features a NFC West matchup between the undefeated San Francisco 49ers and the upstart Arizona Cardinals. The Niners have done little wrong so far this season going 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS on the road and 2-1 SU/ATS at home. They’re the only undefeated team left in the NFC and one of only two in the entire league along with the New England Patriots.
Although the Arizona Cardinals are in last place in the division this game could be much more intriguing than it sounds. Arizona is 3-4-1 and has won 3 of their last four games but is coming in off a 31-9 drubbing at New Orleans. It’s important to keep the three wins in perspective, however, as they came against the Giants, Bengals and Falcons–these teams have a combined record of 3-21 on the season. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray might not yet be a dominating quarterback but he can sure make things exciting at times. He’s also elusive which will at least make things more difficult for the San Francisco pass rush. He’s been pressured on just 11.9% of his drop backs–best in the NFL.
As far as San Francisco goes, Jimmy Garoppolo is on his way to becoming the latest in a long line of Niners quarterbacking icons. He’s 15-2 as a starter and he’s led the Niners to their first 7-0 start since some guy named ‘Joe Montana’ did it in 1990. Adding a layer of intrigue to the game is the fact that the Cardinals have actually dominated San Francisco in recent years. They’re 0-4 under Kyle Shanahan and overall have lost 8 straight to the Cardinals.
Of course, that was then and this is now and the Niners have been downright nasty on both sides of the ball. San Francisco has the best total defense in the NFL allowing just 224.4 yards per game. They’re second behind New England in scoring defense giving up a mere 11 points per game. They’ve got the best passing defense in the NFL allowing just 128.7 yards per game through the air. If they’ve got a ‘vulnerability’ it’s their rushing defense which is #11 in the NFL but they still give up fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground.
In the big picture, consistently laying it with double digit road favorites in the NFL is one of the dumber things a handicapper can do. The only previous time that the Niners have been priced as one this year was that ugly 9-0 win over the Redskins in Washington. Going back during the past three years the Niners are just 4-7 ATS as a favorite and just 12-16 ATS against conference foes. This is an entirely new Niners team, however, and it’s tough to give too much credence to those metrics. This is the Cardinals’ only prime time game of the season which might prove to be some motivation–particularly against the hottest team in football.
It’s a tough game to bet which from the perspective of a linesmaker is the general idea. A defense like San Francisco’s suggests a play on the ‘Under’ but the problem there is that a defense like Arizona’s could be shredded by the Niners offense. From a fundamental standpoint, it’s a better play in the longterm taking the double digits with a home team than laying them on the road. And that’s what we’re going to do.