Thursday Night football this week gives us an intriguing match-up between two of the more surprising teams in the NFL. If you expected the 49ers to be undefeated at this point in the season then I sincerely hope you placed a massive wager on your belief. The Cardinals only sport a record of 3-4-1 on the year, but that’s well ahead of what most people expected from rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and first year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
For the record, none of this means that Thursday night’s tilt is going to be a close affair. San Francisco deserves to be every bit of the 10-point favorites they are at the moment. Arizona’s been a nice surprise, but the 49ers look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders after their demolition of the Panthers last weekend.
As always, our exclusive StatsChecker site should be required reading before you lock in your final wagers for the game. In this piece I’ll walk you through five intriguing facts you can find on the site, but it’s best that you drink in all of the statistics for yourself. Let’s get started with an interesting anomaly about the 49ers’ results on the season.
1. San Francisco wins, but doesn’t always go over
The 49ers’ 7-0 overall record on the year is very impressive. That doesn’t mean Jimmy Garoppolo and his offense are lighting up the scoreboard. In fact, San Francisco has gone under in five of their seven regular season games to date.
This isn’t just an indictment on the offensive’s inconsistency though. The 49ers’ defense has been nothing short of outstanding. Their defensive line might be the best unit in football. That’s going to give Arizona’s offensive line fits in this game.
2. Both teams are strong against the spread
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that San Francisco is 5-2 against the spread this season. What might catch you off guard is the fact that the Cardinals aren’t far behind them at 5-3. Obviously, something needs to give on Thursday night.
If you want to put money on the Cardinals then you need to have a ton of faith in Murray to make some magical plays all by his lonesome. He’s going to face a ton of pressure in this game. If he finds a way to keep the Arizona offense on schedule it’s going to be a major accomplishment. Frankly, there’s a better chance that he sets a personal record for times being sacked in a single game.
3. Division games at night are strange
Nine of the last 10 night games between division opponents have hit the under. That makes some logical sense. Division rivals tend to know a lot about one another. That means both defenses are going to come into the game with a really good idea of what the opposing offense is going to try to accomplish.
The sheer emotion of night games might also play a factor here. Expect the Cardinals to come out flying in front of their home crowd. That’s going to wear off pretty quickly, but it could lead to a disjointed first quarter. That could be enough to push this game to the under.
4. Tevin Coleman is a key
The 49ers running back has managed to find the end zone at least once in three of his last four games. For all the talk about how this offense wants to throw the ball, Kyle Shanahan bases his aerial attack on the ground game.
Stopping Coleman needs to be priority one for the Cardinals defense on Thursday night. They may not have the talent to stop him. If Coleman gets going early, this game could get out of hand.
5. The Cardinals give up a lot of points
Murray and the Arizona offense have been fun to watch this year, but the defense has been a tire fire. That’s why the Cardinals enter the match-up giving up a staggering 27.9 points per game.
To put it simply, if Arizona gives up that many points in this game they have no chance to win. The 49ers defense is simply too good to allow Murray and his teammates to run wild. If Arizona is going to pull off the upset, they’ll need their defense to play their best game of the season by a wide margin.
Lean towards the 49ers, but don’t get crazy
Everything about this match-up screams blowout win for the 49ers. As we said early, they have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations whereas the Cardinals would be thrilled to scratch out a playoff berth.
With that being said, there’s a serious chance of a let down by San Francisco here. The team has been reading their press clippings following their blowout win over Carolina. That makes coming back and playing against an overmatched opponent on the short week a precarious situation.
San Francisco might start off slowly, but they’ll turn it on in the second half. This isn’t one of our best bets of the weekend, but we’re leaning towards San Francisco to cover in this one.