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2019 NFL Week 9: San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

- Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Arizona Cardinals +10 vs San Francisco 49ers

Our power rankings framework and computer simulation routines do not squarely endorse the Cardinals cover, so while we will play this game, we regard this as an 'unofficial' back to your regularly scheduled program.

The Niners utterly embarrassed a solid Panthers squad fresh off a BYE in week 8. San Francisco emphatically ended Carolina's four-game win streak with a 51-13 shellacking at Levi's Stadium last Sunday.

Some bettors might interpret this outcome, which unfolded after the 49ers had already strung together six straight wins, as an indication of San Francisco's strength and a sign that this team is worthy of the support of the betting public. Antithetically, we are inclined to regard such an extreme achievement as a peak in ATS performance. We are (unofficially) taking the points and backing the Cardinals this week.

Consistent with our contrarian penchant, historically (that is, from the start of the 2003 season to the point last year when we uncovered this system), teams that amassed average straight up win margins of three TDs or better over a three-game stretch tended to struggle in their next campaign.

From a (slightly) different angle, it has proven similarly profitable to fade teams on the road with at least 75% SU win rates after exceptionally large one-game margins.

Separately, the Cardinals ran into a New Orleans team on a mission last week. In Drew Brees' return to action, Arizona was held to a meager nine points in week 8, compared to their average of 23 PPG this season. The band played on and the Saints marched in to their sixth consecutive win and cover. But similar to the reversion we expect for the 49ers average win margin, on the heels of Arizona posting the worst offensive output of the Cards' season, we anticipate an (upward) normalization here too.

Validating our optimism for improved scoring from Arizona this week, we note that teams coming off particularly lackluster offensive showings have, in fact, shown a tendency to rebound in their next out. The graphic below indicates results for a system based on backing home dogs with the support of no more than 40% of public bets, after single-digit scoring performances.

Double-digit home dogs have also proven to be solid ATS bets historically, covering better than 60% of games.

Per Sports Insights, CRIS installed the Niners as 7 point favorites Sunday but flows on San Francisco pressured the spread pretty immediately (and consistently) higher. The consensus line is 10 as of the time of this writing, with at least one outlier at 10.5. With 82% of spread wagers tracked by The Action Network and 87% of dollars down on the undefeated 49ers, we would not be surprised to see the line widen still before kickoff.

The Action Network has noted that changes in the spread of two points or more in evening games tend to be head-fakes. In such instances, the team seeing the positive line value covered at something like a 42% rate since 2005.

The fallibility of the betting line, which research suggests is generally an unbiased predictor of ATS outcomes, from this position might be explained by the availability of casual bettors after work to dabble in sports betting markets. This cohort typically makes relatively uninformed (emotional) wagers, generally on hot, popular teams. Such action tends to over-inflate lines, as bookmakers are forced to adjust price to account for high demand.

In the face of our expectation for a home cover though, we routinely remark on the consistent long-term profitability of backing favorites on Thursdays. Even BIG Thursday Night Football favorites cash in most of the time (albeit in a small sample).

Also in the Niners favor, the public is all over the road team here. We sound like broken records by now (to use an antiquated expression), but the public has proven prescient in weeks 7 through 12. During this middle third of the NFL season, bettors have been better served to tail rather than fade the public. However, the heft of the reasons to sell the Niners this week dwarf these two positives, the way we see it.

Bottom line: By a wide margin, the historical context says fade the better team from this spot. As such, we are compelled to regard the Niners performance versus the Panthers last week as an ATS plateau of sorts, while we view the Cardinals' week 8 stinker as an offensive floor for Arizona. We are taking the points and siding with the home dog to beat the number Thursday.

Happy betting!!

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