49ers vs. Cardinals Odds & Picks: Bet On A Motivated Arizona vs. Injured San Francisco
MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Murray
- One team is motivated to onto the NFC's final wild-card spot. The other is riddled with injuries and starting its third-string quarterback.
- NFL betting analyst Mike Vitanza breaks down why there's value on the Cardinals to cover the spread against the 49ers on Saturday.
49ers vs. Cardinals Odds
The San Francisco 49ers (5-9) find themselves in last place in the NFC West after what has been a disappointing, injury-riddled season. Losers of three-straight, they’ll now have a tough task against the Arizona Cardinals (8-6).
Meanwhile, the Cardinals find themselves in third place in the division, but holding onto the conference’s final wild card heading into the weekend. They’ll need another big victory at home against the Niners to hold onto that coveted postseason spot.
Can Kyler Murray take the Cardinals one step further toward the postseason?
San Francisco 49ers
Nick Mullens (shoulder) suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him the rest of the season, so C.J. Beathard will start in his place on Saturday with Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) expected to be eased back into action.
The 49ers will also be missing running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), who was placed on injured reserve with another ankle injury, ending his season.
There is some good news for the 49ers offense, though: George Kittle (foot) is expected to make his return.
Beathard has been serviceable in his limited time this season, completing 28-of-45 passes for 343 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions over four games. He’ll have a tough task against a Cardinals defense that has vastly improved of-late, now ranking eighth with a -8.0% mark in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which weights recent games more. Their pass DVOA has also been strong — it also ranks eighth in the NFL.
Beathard’s task will be even tougher without two of the 49ers’ top skill players in Mostert and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (out).
Jeff Wilson will likely be asked to carry the load at running back. He’s battled injuries all season, but has been serviceable when given the opportunity. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry to go along with seven touchdowns in limited time. His matchup is more enticing, as the Cardinals come in with a 44.0 in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Rush Grades, 29th in the NFL.
Larry Fitzgerald (groin), Chase Edmonds (ankle/knee) and Dan Arnold (back) are all listed as questionable for Saturday.
Kyler Murray was back in his MVP-caliber form last week against the Eagles, completing 27-36 for 406 yards and three touchdowns while adding 29 yards and another touchdown on the ground in their 33-26 victory.
He should have the opportunity to replicate that success against a 49ers defense that’s struggled of-late, allowing an average of 33 points per game over the last three to the Cowboys, Football Team and Bills.
Top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also has a strong matchup against his primary defender, Ahkello Witherspoon. Per PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart, Hopkins should have an 18% advantage when lined up in that matchup.
Murray should also have all day to find Hopkins, as the 49ers’ pass rush has struggled mightily this season. Per PFF, they currently rank 28th with a 63.2 PFF Pass Rush grade. This should give Murray the opportunity to successfully scramble and pick-up yardage on the ground when opportunities arise. When he’s successful on the ground, the Cardinals have been extremely difficult to stop.
The Cardinals match-up extremely well against the 49ers, particularly when considering all of the injuries that the Niners are facing at this point.
The 49ers will be starting a third-string quarterback in Beathard — without top weapons Samuel and Mostert. All this lines up for what should, on paper, lead to an easy Cardinals victory.
Sharp money, however, is on the other side: 21% of tickets and 74% of the money is on the 49ers to cover the spread as of Friday afternoon, a sizable 53% difference (see more public betting data). After opening at 49ers +3, the line moved as high as +6 before coming down to the current line of +4.5 (compare real-time lines).
The influx of money came in as the spread expanded past five points, indicating that this is purely a play on the number rather than any specific confidence inspired by the 49ers. But there’s simply too much of a skill gap here to feel any comfort in betting on San Francisco here.
If the Cardinals can execute on offense — and the data indicates that they can — they should have no problem handling this current version of the 49ers. Defensively, the Cardinals’ biggest challenge will be containing what is ultimately a third-string running back in Wilson who is coming back from multiple injuries.
Without hesitation, I’m taking the Cardinals at -4.5 — I’m comfortable betting them all the way up to -6.5.
Pick: Cardinals -4.5 (to -6.5)