The 49ers finished 13-3 and made it to Super Bowl 54 before coming up just short of the Lombardi Trophy. They’ve had some roster turnover, but are once again favorites to win the NFC West. The Cardinals finished 5-10-1 last season, but showed some serious improvement under head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
The two sides played a pair of fun games last season in Week 9 and Week 11. The 49ers held off a fourth quarter comeback attempt to win 28-25 in the first game. Two weeks later, the Cardinals could not hold off the 49ers, blowing a 16-0 lead and giving up two touchdowns in the final minute to lose 36-26.
The teams return this season with big expectations. The 49ers will look for a return trip to the Super Bowl, while the Cardinals look to take a step forward and compete for a playoff berth. Both face their fair share of questions. Will the 49ers wide receiver corps bounce back from all the injuries, and how will the defense look without DeForest Buckner manning the line? For the Cardinals, will Kyler Murray regress in year two or be able to build on his Offensive Rookie of the year campaign, and how will the defense look with the addition of Isaiah Simmons?
The 49ers losing DeForest Buckner is a big blow, while the Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins could be a huge boon for Murray. But is it enough to close the distance?
Pick against the spread
The 49ers were a touchdown favorite, but most shops have it down to 6.5 points. 3, 7, and 10 are key numbers, so moving under a full touchdown is a big deal for purposes of picks. Some are more firm on using those numbers than others, so that might be enough to have you going 49ers.
This is a tough call for me, particularly because I’m a 49ers fan. I try and measure my fandom and not let it influence my pick. At the same time, I don’t want to overcompensate because of that fandom.
This game comes down to how you think Kyler Murray performs in year two vs. how you think the 49ers respond to losing in the Super Bowl. There is plenty of talk about performance the following season, but what about Week 1 of the following season? Dating back to 2000, Super Bowl runner-ups are 4-16 against the spread in their Week 1 game the following season.
One game per season over 20 years is not a great sample size, so you shouldn’t bet the mortgage just on this number. But it does provide another data point to consider. In this case, previous year Super Bowl teams, and really playoff teams in general are often going to be overvalued. Plenty will repeat as playoff teams, but we see how quickly things change across the NFL.
This has me leaning toward taking the 6.5 points with Arizona. If you can get 7 points, jump on it. If you can’t get 7 points, I would lean toward staying away from betting the full game point spread. You don’t have to bet every game, and this is a tough one when it comes to the spread.
If you want some action on the game, the point total is an interesting one given the two offenses involved. Even without Deebo Samuel in the lineup, I think the 49ers offense should be able to be productive. The point total is 48, and while 47 would certainly be more attractive, we’re not getting that this week. I think we see a good deal of scoring, with something like a 27-23 win for the 49ers. I think San Francisco gets the victory, but it’s going to be a close game.
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