NFL Picks Bengals vs. Niners: McCarron out to Prove His Worth

Nikki Adams

Thursday, December 17, 2015 12:12 PM GMT

AJ McCarron is set on pulling a Tom Brady in his first NFL start against the Niners, all while ensuring the Bengals are the value NFL pick on the road when betting Week 15.

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NFL Pick: San Francisco 49ers Against the Spread
Best Line Offered: +4.5 (-105) at Pinnacle

 

Bengals Road Faves with McCarron
The only indication that all is not as it should be with the Bengals is the slight re-evaluation of their favourable status on the NFL odds board – from -7 in Advanced Lines from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook last week to -4.5 at early doors this week following the close of Sunday’s round of action.

That’s somewhat interesting considering they’ve only gone and lost their starting quarterback to a thumb injury on his throwing hand. It’s still yet uncertain whether the starter will even be back in time for the playoffs, but that’s another matter entirely. For now, the only concern is the coming weekend and how NFL Odds makers evaluate the Bengals in the face of the Niners.

According to this 2.5-point difference/drop we can safely assume that is the worth of the starter to the Bengals and the bottom line. That’s a fair assessment considering the team is still essentially loaded with threats such as AJ Green and Tyler Eifert and it contains a core defense that is one of the best in the league, allowing just 17.6 points per game.

Indeed, consensus betting reveals the public is all over the Bengals as the 4.5-point road favourites. SBR consensus reports shows a completely one-sided stream of betting coming down the wire with the Bengals attracting 64.87% of the tickets wagered on this game for a hefty 76.93% of the money risked.

That’s a rather blasé attitude to the loss of Dandy Andy, don’t you think? It assumes that backup AJ McCarron, who’s making his first NFL start on Sunday, can actually do the job. In relief duty last Sunday, he wasn’t half bad. But he wasn’t amazing either, throwing for two scores and two picks all while racking up 280 yards. Most crucially, the Bengals lost 33-20 at home to the Steelers.

There are those that would say, ‘but it was the Steelers. Big Ben and his mighty offense, who are a tough ask for anybody let alone an untried and untested backup.’

To be fair, there’s some truth to that. However, there’s an advantage to being thrown into a game sometimes. It requires less thinking and no time to get nervous. Case-and-point: when Landry Jones got thrown into the Steelers’ game against the Cardinals in week 6, following an injury to Michael Vick, he rallied the Steelers to a come-from-behind 25-13 win over the Cardinals.

The salient point here is that the Cardinals are no slouches. So the win was impressive. AJ McCarron did not do that now did he? It’s also worth mentioning the fact that Landry Jones was so unprepared on that day in every sense, forgetting (not bothering) even to bring a suit or any appropriate attire to wear. Never thinking the press would want a chinwag with him of all people.

That leads us neatly to our next point: what happened next? What happened the following week when Landry Jones got his first official NFL start? After enjoying a week in the spotlight, fielding press inquiries and allowing the magnitude of the occasion to sink in. Feel the pressure of expectation intimately for the first time in his fledgling career. Well, it wasn’t pretty to put it mildly. The Steelers lost to Kansas City Chiefs 23-13 on the road.

Being a quarterback in the NFL is no walk in the park. But AJ McCarron seems to think it is, even going so far as to suggest he might be the next Tom Brady to wrestle the starting job away from the incumbent quarterback. In other words, watch out Dandy Andy but you might be in the dole queue before the season is well and truly over.

That’s brash talk by anybody, let alone an unproven quarterback in the NFL. How public bettors can be so confident that he’ll live up to such big talk, without anything tangible to cling on to for support, beggars belief.

In some way this notion is helped along by the negative perception of the Niners. Arguably, San Francisco has seen better days. This year ranks amongst one of their worst with a 4-9 SU record on the season, underscored by a 9.8-point losing margin and a negative 3.3-point differential against the spread. In that there’s an argument to be had about the Niners being one of the worst teams in the NFL, never mind it being one of their worst seasons in recent memory.

Then there are those NFL bettors that would look at last week’s loss to the hapless Cleveland Browns, failing to come close even to covering the 2-point spread as road underdogs in the 24-10 loss.

To be fair, it was their second road game in as many weeks and they did beat the Bears in OT the week prior. Perhaps, NFL bettors shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Niners from their NFL Picks altogether in this game.

At home the Niners are 3-3 SU this season with just a 2.3 point losing margin and a plus 3.3-point differential against the spread. They’ve played some really tough teams at home, from the Vikings, Packers, Ravens, Seahawks, Falcons and Cardinals. It’s not been an easy schedule by any stretch of the imagination, yet they’ve managed to split those games 3-3. Most recently, they also played the Cardinals quite close, albeit it was a losing 19-13 effort.

In their last four games, the Niners are 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS, which includes covering spreads of +6-to+7.5: they beat the Falcons 17-16 all while trading as the 7.5-point home underdogs, held the Cards to a 19-13 win to cover as the 7-point home underdogs and beat the Bears 26-20 as the 6-point road underdogs.

 

NFL Betting Verdict
Frankly, we’re quite surprised how everybody is making light of the fact that Andy Dalton is injured. How did it become so easy to dismiss the loss of a starting quarterback? Just because the team opposite isn’t one of the best? That’s a shoddy reason. No team should ever be underestimated so, including the Niners.  Undoubtedly, the Bengals are clearly the better team on paper than the Niners, but did it cross anybody’s mind that the reason they are so good is because of Dandy Andy this season?

There’s ample evidence from season to season to support the importance of a starting quarterback. Heck, Tony Romo’s injury this season springs to mind. How well did that go down in Dallas? Hmm… it’s safe to say the Cowboys’ season went tits up as a result.

Colts are without Andrew Luck and while they managed to make something out of their season with veteran Matt Hasselbeck, it’s very much still hanging in the balance of the last three games. Look back to last season and Carson Palmer’s injury. How that impacted the Cardinals eventually down the stretch was significant. Look back to any season where a starting quarterback got injured and it becomes obvious not many teams can overcome that loss, no matter how deeply stacked in talent they are with enviable passing targets, solid defenses and so on. At the end of the day, a solid quarterback is needed to get the job done and find the targets to score. Simply put, a Tom Brady doesn’t come every day. So, it’s really rich of AJ McCarron to draw such parallels and, more so, thoughtless of him to do so. All he’s gone and done now is put more pressure on himself and his performance next Sunday. The media is a vicious lot and they’ll latch on to that comment should he fail the very measure he set for himself. He’s had a week to mull over all this. A week to field the press. A week to answer all sorts of question. A week with which the pressure is only going to build steadily until it becomes overwhelming.

Don’t know about you, but we just don’t like the odds at all. So we’re going to go against the grain here and bank on the Niners to pull off a bit of a surprise. Give AJ McCarron a dose of reality, if you will. A proper welcome to the NFL.