The Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings. Which one of these teams does not belong?
Like the sore thumb of San Francisco linebacker Parys Haralson, the 49ers are the ones, at least in terms of wins and losses, who stick out.
The Colts and Saints kept their dreams for perfection alive this past week and both sit at 11-0. The rejuvenated Vikings are a couple Steeler defensive touchdowns away from perfection themselves but a 10-1 record is nothing to make Brett Favre think twice about coming out of retirement.
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Yet it is the 49ers who stick out for another reason. They have the best record against the spread out of anyone in this group or the entire league for that matter.
At 8-2-1 ATS and only 5-6 SU, the 49ers are that odd mix of team who cannot consistently win but can consistently keep things close enough to cover. The Saints (8-3 ATS), the Colts (7-3-1 ATS) and Vikings (7-3-1) are by no means bad bets but with the way they are dominating the opposition while winning outright gives them very little value the rest of the season as the public unloads on the team and the lines increase.
The 49ers need not worry about the public hopping on their bandwagon or their spreads increasing. Heck, the 49ers likely will not be favored until Week 16 when Detroit comes to town. They are one-point underdogs this week at Seattle with dates against Arizona and at Philadelphia still looming.
The 49ers along with the Bills and Titans are the only teams with losing SU records, who have winning records ATS.
Mike Singletary’s group looked like the surprise team of the league early in the season after starting 3-1, including a heartbreaking loss at Minnesota on a last gasp Brett Favre touchdown pass. The 49ers covered their first four spreads. The wheels came off after a 45-10 beating at home against Atlanta that started a four-game losing streak. But even through the losses San Francisco remained competitive, losing at Houston 24-21 as three-point underdogs and keeping things close at Indianapolis before losing, 18-14, at Indianapolis as 13-point underdogs.
San Francisco has now covered three straight games, a 10-6 win against Chicago, a six-point loss at Green Bay and a 20-3 win against Jacksonville. The trends all seem to be in the 49ers favor heading into a divisional game at Seattle. They are 4-0-1 on the road this year, they are 5-1 ATS in their last six divisional games and they are 5-1-1 after a SU win.
How exactly are the 49ers the best bet in the NFL while firmly entrenched on the outside looking in at the playoff scenario?
They have an underwhelming offense, ranked 28th in the league in total yards. Their defense is also well below average, allowing 351 yards per game, 22nd in the league. The key to the 49ers success ATS and even to a degree, in wins and losses, has been what it has been able to do in the redzone.
The defense has bent, evidenced by their 22nd ranked defense, but not broken often, evidenced by their 11th best ranking in the NFL in points allowed (19). The offense has made the most of its 351 yards a game, scoring 21 points a game, 19th best in the league.
However, hanging your hat on redzone offense and defense is not exactly the formula for success SU or ATS. Even more alarming for the 49ers is the opposition headed its way in three out of the next four weeks.
There are only four teams in the NFL who are harder to run against than the 49ers, who are allowing 95 yards per game on the ground. Through the air, the San Fran defense is nowhere near as dominant. They have been getting gouged for 256 yards per game through the air, third worst in the NFL.
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Next up for the 49ers are four pass-happy offenses, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia and Detroit. For anyone lucky enough to cash in on San Francisco’s surprising start ATS, now would be a good time to count your chips and call it quits.