NFL Picks: 49ers vs. Cardinals to go Over

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 26, 2013 5:11 PM GMT

Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals have something to play for when they meet this Sunday. The football lines are in San Francisco’s corner on the road.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 25 inclusive:

40-35-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

10-17-1 Totals

It’s a fantastic thing when both the teams in a Week 17 game are giving it their all. No need to worry about shenanigans – at least, not more so than any other regular season game – when the San Francisco 49ers (11-4 SU, 10-5 ATS) visit the Arizona Cardinals (10-5 SU, 11-4 ATS) on Sunday. If the Cardinals get a win and the New Orleans Saints lose, Arizona makes the playoffs with the No. 5 seed in the NFC. If the 49ers win and the Seattle Seahawks lose, San Francisco takes the NFC West.

In its infinite wisdom, the NFL has all these teams kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET, with the Niners and Cards playing on FOX. Our Week 17 NFL lines have San Francisco laying 1.5 points at The U; it’s Arizona pulling in nearly 60 percent support according to the consensus numbers at press time. Too bad both teams can’t beat the football odds.

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Get Rid of the Divisions

Arizona gave its fans an early Christmas present by beating the Seahawks (–8 at home) 17-10 last week, the first Seattle home loss in almost exactly two years. That’s six straight paydays for the Cardinals. I had the other side in this matchup, but it wasn’t without a healthy amount of respect for Arizona, a team that I’ve supported in just about every other game this season.

San Fran has already made the playoffs, so the Cards do have a lot more incentive to win on Sunday. How crazy would it be if they went 11-5 and missed the postseason? It was just three years ago that Seattle won the NFC West at 7-9, and everyone was banging the table about changing the playoff format. Expect even more noise this year if Arizona and New Orleans both win on Sunday.

The Road is Life

How valuable is that NFC West crown, anyway? Should the Niners risk the health of their players to secure a higher seed? Absolutely. Earning the division title would give them a first-round bye and home-court advantage in the Divisional Round. By the way, if the Carolina Panthers also lose on Sunday along with the Seahawks, then San Francisco can win the entire conference and play at home all the way to the Super Bowl.

Not that the Niners can’t get the job done on the road. They’re 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS away from The Stick this year, rolling opponents with the fifth-most efficient team (No. 10 offense, No. 10 defense, No. 7 special teams) in the league. Arizona goes into Week 17 ranked No. 10 in efficiency (No. 20 offense, No. 2 defense, No. 25 special teams), with a stellar home record of 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS.

Super Mario Galaxy

It’s been quite something to watch San Fran power its way into the playoffs despite the litany of injuries and suspensions the team has racked up this year. Week 16 saw WR Mario Manningham (knee, illness) rendered inactive; the Niners managed to put away the Atlanta Falcons 34-24, but failed to beat the NFL odds as 14-point favorites. There was no update on Manningham’s status for this Sunday as we went to press.

I’m not particularly fond about fading either of these teams. But I do like the idea of taking the OVER on that relatively low total. Although both clubs have played excellent defense this year, the OVER is 4-3 for the Cardinals since their bye week (granted, 1-3 in their last four), and 2-0 in San Francisco’s last two games. May the best team win.

NFL Pick: Take OVER 42 (–102) at Matchbook