Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Few franchises have endured a worse offseason than the San Francisco 49ers.
Injuries, rumors and off-field incidents have merged to mar a team considered the fifth most-likely Super Bowl champion by the future odds. Then in the preseason, opponents shut out San Francisco’s starting offense in four games.
Westgate Las Vegas Superbook Executive Director Jay Kornegay is skeptical of bettors repeating the popular refrain that they don’t pay attention to the preseason because it’s meaningless.
“Somebody watches the preseason because we have hardly any support on the 49ers,” Kornegay said. “They haven’t been betting on the 49ers to win the West at all.”
It’s the least amount of action the Superbook has gotten on the 49ers, which have been one of the public’s favorite teams in the last two preseasons, in years. For the first time in coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, San Francisco is attracting more tickets to go “under” its win total — 10.5 — than over.
The 49ers are the least popular bet of the four teams to win the NFC at the Superbook, where they’re offered at plus-175 (risking $1 to win $1.75). The sports book has printed a glut of tickets on San Francisco to win the Super Bowl — its second behind Green Bay for the second-most — but much of the surge came months ago and has since slowed down.
The phenomenon of betting off the preseason is hardly limited to the 49ers in the NFC West. The perception of the St. Louis Rams went from a trendy sleeper to doomed afterthought following the injury of quarterback Sam Bradford, according to Kornegay.
The Seattle Seahawks drummed up support by pulling the opposite of the 49ers and looking fantastic in the preseason while playing the starters.
“(Seattle coach) Pete Carroll always does well in the preseason, so I don’t know what they’re seeing there,” Kornegay said. “The betting trends on the NFC West just really reflect what we’ve seen over the last few weeks.”
Read below to find more betting information and full odds on the four teams in the NFC West.
2013 Against The Spread Record: 11-5 (10-6 straight up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdogs in eight games, favorites in seven games
Average spread: Cardinals plus-1 (biggest favorite: Week 6 minus-4 vs. Redskins; biggest underdog: Week 5 plus-10.5 at Seahawks)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 40-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 20-to-1
William Hill odds to win the NFC West: plus-650 (risking $1 to win $6.50)
South Point over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-145, under plus-125)
Kornegay’s report: “We certainly have a lot of tickets on the Cardinals to win the division. We opened them at 10-to-1, and they’re down to 8-to-1. They have twice as many tickets on them to win the division than any other team, including the Seahawks who also have money on them.”
Keefer’s take: There will be a lot of NFC West tickets in the trash at the end of the season, or maybe even midway through when Arizona falls out of contention. The Cardinals will not win the division for the first time since 2009. Everything broke perfectly last year for Arizona to finish with the best regular season against the spread record and it still missed the playoffs, becoming the eighth 10-6 team since the NFL realigned its divisions to suffer the fate. Although running back Andre Ellington is superb, he’s running behind a patchwork offensive line. Where did the concerns about trusting quarterback Carson Palmer go? They remain valid. The biggest reason Arizona will struggle, however, is the schedule. The Cardinals are an above-average team in oddsmakers’ power rankings but taking points in more than half of their games.
A bet: Cardinals under 7.5 wins. This seems like the right number, but the heavy plus-price is convincing enough to fire on a team I think finishes 7-9.
St. Louis Rams
2013 Against The Spread Record: 7-9 (7-9 straight up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 11 games, favorites in three games with one pick’em
Average spread: Rams plus-2.5 (biggest favorite: Week 13 minus-5.5 vs. Raiders; biggest underdog: Week 9 plus-11 at 49ers)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 75-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 38-to-1
William Hill odds to win the NFC West: 10-to-1
South Point over/under win total: 7 (over minus-120, under Even)
Kornegay’s report: “They weren’t betting against them before the Bradford injury. I would say, along with the Cardinals but not as much as the Cardinals, they were the sexy pick. If they could survive the division and get a wild card, maybe they would have a shot. Over the course of the offseason, there was a lot of support.”
Keefer’s take: There’s no need to overreact to Bradford’s torn ACL. The season-ending injury is extremely disheartening, but it’s not the type of setback that deserved to take the Rams’ win total all the way down to 6.5 at some sports books. The season was considered Bradford’s last chance to prove himself as a starter in the NFL. Shaun Hill is not that big of a drop-off at a position where the Rams were never going to rank among the NFL’s best. Defense is where they must win. Houston might have the most ballyhooed new-look defensive line coming into the season, but Saint Louis’ trio of Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Aaron Donald could be even better.
A bet: Rams plus-5 at Cardinals Week 10. Combining my positions on the first two teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if Saint Louis is in a better spot than Arizona by this time of the season.
San Francisco 49ers
2013 Against The Spread Record: 12-7 (14-5 straight up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in 11 games, underdogs in three games
Average spread: 49ers minus-4 (biggest favorite: Week 9 minus-11 vs. Rams; biggest underdog: Week 15 plus-3.5 at Seahawks)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 10-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 5-to-1
William Hill odds to win the NFC West: plus-135 (risking $1 to win $1.35)
South Point over/under win total: 10.5 (over Even, under minus-120)
Kornegay’s report: “I think the public perception of the 49ers is they’re struggling. They’re going to have to prove to the Average Joe out there that they’re better than what they’ve shown for the last three or four weeks.”
Keefer’s take: Between linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s injury, linebacker Aldon Smith’s suspension and defensive lineman Ray McDonald’s arrest, the defense is in shambles. Some think the offense isn’t much better off. Look past the preseason, however, and San Francisco should have no issues with scoring. Carlos Hyde is the best running back San Francisco has paired with Frank Gore. The addition of Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd also beefs up the receiving options. The 49ers have fallen within inches of getting to or winning the Super Bowl in each of the last three seasons, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where they aren’t close again come January.
A bet: 49ers to make the playoffs at minus-200. Don’t believe the concerns. San Francisco will find a way.
2013 Against The Spread Record: 13-6 (16-3 straight up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in 14 games, underdogs in one game
Average spread: Seahawks minus-5 (biggest favorite: Week 9 minus-14.5 vs. Raiders; biggest underdog: Week 13 plus-2.5 at 49ers)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 9-to-2
Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 9-to-4
William Hill odds to win the NFC West: plus-110 (risking $1 to win $1.10)
South Point over/under win total: 11 (over minus-125, under plus-105)
Kornegay’s report: “They have more money on them to win the Super Bowl than any other team. They aren’t the leader in ticket count, but they seem to have it all together again and they deserve to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl.”
Keefer’s take: With six of the last nine champions posting a losing record against the spread in their title-defense season, betting on the Super Bowl winners is proven as a risky proposition. But the Seahawks feel different. They were the most dominant champions since the 2004 Patriots. Seattle may not keep up its 13-5 record against the spread at home over the last two seasons, but losing more than one game after going 17-1 straight-up at CenturyLink Field also sounds far-fetched. The Seahawks may not be able to keep their historic pace on defense, but they’re bound to stay near the top in the NFL. And the offense could improve with quarterback Russell Wilson continuing to refine his game. He also has the benefit of a healthier receiving corps to start the season with Percy Harvin likely to play more than one game. Kornegay’s report as more action on fewer tickets means the bigger money is on Seattle. That should come as no surprise.
A bet: Seahawks to win the NFC West at plus-110. With prices soaring as high as minus-150 elsewhere, this is an absolute steal on a team a level above its competition.