Monday Night Football Picks: Cardinals at 49ers
by Matt Severance - 12/11/2009
Another split for me last week on the Monday Night Football game, as I hit on the 'under' total between Green Bay and Baltimore but missed on the Ravens getting three points - I told you I wasn't too confident in the side anyways (two stars out of five) but loved the total (four stars). So hopefully you only half listened to me - the confident half. I am now 3-3 through three weeks of these Monday Night Football picks.
This week features an NFC West matchup between Arizona (8-4, 8-4 ATS) and San Francisco (5-7, 7-3-2 ATS), with the Cardinals clinching the division with a victory - the franchise hasn't won back-to-back division titles since 1974-75. Arizona, a 3.5-point favorite on Bookmaker with the total at 44.5, has been a great road team, going 5-1 (and 5-1 ATS). But that lone outright loss came in the Cards' last away game - at Tennessee, although it took a last-second Titans touchdown to do it, and Kurt Warner sat out that game for Arizona.
Warner also suffered a hip pointer in last week's impressive win over the Vikings, but he will start Monday. Warner is the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 22-of-32 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota. In his last four games, Warner is completing 73 percent of his passes, and the Cards have won those four (4-0 ATS). He has 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions in that stretch, the first time in his career he has gone four consecutive games without a pick. If he has a rating over 120 on Monday night, he would be the first QB ever to top 120 five games in a row. And the 49ers aren't a good team defending the pass, ranking 27th in the NFL.
San Francisco beat Arizona, 20-16, in the season opener but is just 2-6 in its past eight games. Of their past six losses, five have been by seven points or less. In that Week 1 win, the Niners were outgained by the Cards, but San Francisco was able to pressure Warner (three sacks) and pick him off twice. Arizona also had 12 penalties.
The Niners were expected to be a run-first team this season and they were when Shaun Hill was the quarterback. But they have gotten away from the since Alex Smith took over under center. For example, running back Frank Gore is averaging less than 11 carries in the past three games, and he hasn't had a rushing score in any of them. He probably won't find the going good on Monday, considering the Cardinal defense just held Minnesota star RB Adrian Peterson to a season-low 19 yards on 13 carries. Peterson was stopped for a loss or no gain seven times. Arizona also sacked Brett Favre three times and is third in the league with 35 QB takedowns.
Overall, Arizona has won six of the past nine in this series, but almost all of those have been by a touchdown or less.
Monday Night Football Picks: This line opened at three at nearly every book, and I would hold off as long as possible in hoping it gets back there. However, about 70 percent of the public is on Arizona right now, so that's probably unlikely. I would still take Arizona, which certainly doesn't want to get swept by the Niners and which still has an outside shot at the No. 2 seed in the NFC (remember, the Cards now have the head-to-head tiebreaker with 10-2 Minnesota). That opening loss to the 49ers was the Cardinals' only division loss over the past two years, so that tells me something. I give Arizona a three-star rating here (out of five), but that jumps to four if you can only give three points. I would go with the 'under' 44.5 because it will be a fairly cold night in San Francisco (mid 40s) and that might slow Warner down some.
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