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November 20, 2019

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Week 6 NFL picks and game of the week for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Home underdogs are no longer a sure bet — not even on Monday Night Football

Austy Davis

The Associated Press

St. Louis Rams’ Austin Davis looks to pass during the second half of an NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, in Philadelphia.

An old gambling strategy endorses betting on an NFL home underdog blindly.

Week 6: 49ers at Rams

What's your pick in the Sun's handicapping game of the week? (Public Opinion This Season: 2-4)
49ers minus-3.5 — 82.1%
Rams plus-3.5 — 17.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Talking Points bet of the week

Talking Points bet of the week

The only thing the approach has done in recent years, however, is rob bettors blind. Teams taking points at home haven’t finished the season with a profitable against the spread record in eight years.

They’re not off to the best start in 2014 either at 8-10-1 against the spread and 8-11 straight-up. Six more home underdogs take the field as part of the sixth week of the NFL including the St. Louis Rams, which catch 3.5 points at the Edward Jones Dome against NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers.

It’s the first time since 2009 that Monday Night Football has featured a home underdog in three straight contests. The Chiefs, which got three points on the betting line at Arrowhead Stadium, dismantled the Patriots 41-14 in week 4 before the visiting Seahawks covered minus-7 in a 27-17 victory over the Redskins last week in the first two games.

This week’s tilt falls as the game of the week in the Sun’s handicapping contest as all three sports writers used one of their six weekly selections — available at the bottom of the page — on the 49ers’ annual trip to eastern Missouri.

Some versions of the timeworn home-underdog method were even higher on Monday Night Football teams in the role. But it hasn’t proven advantageous since 2007 either, as home teams getting points on Monday night are just 19-23 against the spread.

The Rams have the Patron Saint of plus points on their sidelines, though. St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher is an NFL-best 91-63-1 against the spread as an underdog throughout his 19-year career.

Plenty of gamblers with expansive bankrolls are aware of Fisher’s covering prestige. Take last week as evidence when St. Louis was plus-7 at Philadelphia all week until crashing all the way down to plus-3.5 right before kickoff.

The Rams beat the opening number but failed to cover the closer in a 34-28 defeat. They outgained the Eagles by more than 100 yards and finished the game on a 21-0 run, but couldn’t overcome giving up a special teams and defensive touchdown.

Sharp bettors weren’t the only behind the Rams before the season, as they drew some mainstream support as a potential sleeper. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook had to juice their ‘over’ 7.5 wins until quarterback Sam Bradford tore his ACL to get ruled out for the season.

St. Louis was then written off, raising from 40- to 75-to-1 to win the Super Bowl. Those cynical after Bradford’s loss could now reference St. Louis’ 1-3 straight-up and against the spread start as validation, but the offense hasn’t been the problem.

The Rams are averaging 5.8 yards per play, which ranks 10th in the NFL. Second-year undrafted free agent Austin Davis has quite possibly played better than Bradford was capable with a seventh-best in the NFL 7.9 yards per attempt.

Running back Zac Stacy has exhibited no signs of a sophomore slump despite dealing with injuries and third-year receiver Brian Quick has broken out with 322 yards and three touchdowns.

The issue is the defense that hasn’t been intimidating as expected, but instead, penetrable. Losing defensive end Chris Long to an ankle injury certainly affected the Rams, but he’s not enough of a reason to explain their baffling total of one sack through three games.

Robert Quinn, who was second in the NFL with 19 sacks last season, has less than five quarterback hurries in 2014. The Rams have the 30th ranked defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings.

San Francisco rates sixth in yet another illustration of preseason perceptions gone awry. The betting market overlooked the 49ers for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural season in the summer largely because of concerns stemming from the suspension of linebacker Aldon Smith and injury of linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

The 49ers have found ways around missing two of their stars. Players like linebacker Michael Wilhoite have emerged to contribute a larger role while veterans such as linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive end Justin Smith show no signs of a decline.

The offense is lagging behind. The only potential signs of the rumored friction between Harbaugh and his team on the field have come on that side of the ball.

San Francisco is second worst in the NFL with 9.6 penalties per game, looking undisciplined with several careless drive-stalling mistakes. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has yet to take another step forward, as he’s got the lowest quarterback rating of his career after throwing seven touchdowns to five interceptions.

The run game has also lacked explosiveness with not a single carry of more than 30 yards and only three attempts for more than 20 yards.

With all that being said, the 49ers still ride a two-game win and cover streak into St. Louis and stand at 3-2 straight-up and against the spread on the year.

Fisher could be the NFL’s top underdog coach, but Harbaugh might be the league’s top coach to bet on period. He’s 37-21-3 against the spread in his career.

And the 49ers are in the new betting position of power — the road favorite.

Check below for all of the week 6 contest picks, listed in order of sports books’ rotation numbers.


Case Keefer (2012 champion, 2013 co-champion)

2014 Record: 18-12 (5-1 last week)

Bengals minus-6.5 vs. Panthers

Bills plus-3 vs. Patriots

Ravens minus-3 at Buccaneers

Cowboys plus-8.5 at Seahawks

Cardinals minus-3.5 vs. Redskins

Rams plus-3.5 vs. 49ers


Ray Brewer (2013 co-champion)

2014 Record: 17-13 (3-3 last week)

Steelers plus-1.5 at Browns

Falcons minus-3.5 vs. Bears

Patriots minus-3 at Bills

Ravens minus-3 at Buccaneers

Eagles minus-3 vs. Giants

49ers minus-3.5 vs. Rams


Taylor Bern

2014 Record: 15-14-1 (3-3 last week)

Broncos at Jets over 47.5

Bears plus-3.5 at Falcons

Packers minus-3 at Dolphins

Cowboys plus-8.5 at Seahawks

Eagles minus-3 vs. Giants

49ers at Rams under 43.5

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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