Monday Night Football offers up a home dog this week as the 49ers head cross-country to tackle RG III and the Redskins. Can San Francisco avoid a third-straight loss? Can Washington pull an upset? And what's up with that betting line?
Concern in Frisco
Coach Harbaugh and the Niners made a tough call last year; they stayed with Colin Kaepernick at QB even after Alex Smith returned from an injury. Kaepernick then played great, especially with his feet, and led the team to the Super Bowl.
Over the off-season Frisco parted ways with Smith, choosing to go full-time with Kaepernick. Now there's concern they anointed the wrong guy, or at least decided too soon.
Everyone knew Kaepernick could run; the question was whether he could make those 3rd-down throws.
However, let's take a look at who Frisco has lost to. Earlier this year the Niners lost back-to-back games to the Seahawks and Colts. And heading into Monday's game San Francisco has again lost two games in a row, to the Panthers and Saints.
At the moment those are four pretty good teams, all apparently headed for the playoffs.
At 6-4 the 49ers are tied with the Bears and Cardinals for the second NFC wild-card spot.
Woe is Washington
Last year the Redskins literally rode RG III to the playoffs. This year, they're enduring one of those “sophomore slumps” with their young QB.
This happens all the time in the NFL; a mediocre team finds a little spark one season, wins a few close games and sneaks into the playoffs. So they're perennial contenders now, right? Not so fast. Suddenly, injuries begin to take a toll, close wins turn into close losses, and a team that went 10-6 one season is on pace to go 6-10 the next season.
It happens to at least a couple of teams every season in the NFL, and this year it's happening to Washington.
It began right off the bat, in the season opener, when the 'Skins, as four-point favorites, got – dare we say – scalped by the Eagles. Washington started 0-3, got to 3-5 but has also lost its last two games, to the Vikings and Philadelphia.
At 3-7 the 'Skins are not totally dead in the NFC playoff race, but it don't look good; they're 2.5 games behind first-place Philly in the NFC East, and three games out in the fight for the second wild-card spot.
Niners-'Skins: The Line
Back on Sunday night most sportsbooks opened this game with San Francisco favored by about 4.5 points; there were a few -4s, and a few -5s. As of Tuesday evening most books had bumped the Niners to -5, and some even to -6.
The total on this game opened at 47 or 47.5 at most books, and those numbers had held steady in the early betting.
San Francisco has played five games on the road this season; they've been favored in three of those games, but one of those was that game in London against Jacksonville. The other two games the Niners played as road favorites came at St. Louis and at Tennessee.
Against the Rams San Francisco was favored by three points in NFL odds. But the Niners were coming off consecutive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis by a combined score of 56-10. So bookmakers might have been a little leery of posting too big a number on Frisco at that time.
The 49ers won that game at St. Louis 35-11.
Against the Titans the Niners were lined at -3.5. At this point San Francisco had won three games in a row, scoring at least 30 points each game. The Niners won that game 31-17.
Now San Francisco is favored by five on the road at Washington. So it doesn't seem as if these last two Niners losses have affected the opinions of the betting public too much.
We'll do a little more homework on this game later this week, and come back to this page with a free NFL pick on the side.