As much as folks love the game of football, a big reason for the NFL's popularity is the ability to gamble on the games. We all know the real reason they post the injury reports (fantasy usefulness aside). We all know why ESPN rolls out Hank Goldberg to throw out his predictions. Combine the potential for winning money with the sport of football and it's a win/win proposition.
We've discussed and will continue to discuss the 49ers 2009 schedule in a variety of different ways. Last year I came up with an alternative that requires a mix of predictive abilities slightly different than normal: predicting whether the 49ers will be underdogs, favorites or even against each team on their schedule. Later in the week I'll throw up some betting stats from the 49ers 2008 season, but for now, here's a look at the 2009 schedule. If I list them as a slight dog or favorite, I'm thinking the spread will be 3 points or less. A heavy dog or favorite would be a spread of 9 or more points (because it's now more than one possession). And a reminder that in spreads, the home team automatically gets 3 points.
Week 1 - @ Arizona: Underdog - Coming off a Super Bowl run, the Cardinals are the team to beat in the NFC West. At the same time, the 49ers have played them quite close lately. Of course oddsmakers were all over the place last season with Arizona a road 2.5 point favorite week 1 and a home 10 point favorite week 10. Even with the Arizona firepower, I think the spread ends up around a touchdown.
Week 2 - vs. Seattle: Favorite - Barring a disastrous week 1 (ugly loss) for the 49ers, I think the 49ers are a decent enough favorite. Seattle is coming off an ugly 2008 and even if they play well week 1, it's too early for oddsmakers to say that Seattle has returned to even decent team status. If you're convinced Seattle is on the road to recovery, you might get a favorable line to bet on them this week. Not that I'd bet against San Francisco.
Week 3 - @ Minnesota: Underdog - The first two weeks could swing this into heavy underdog status, but I just don't see that happening. And of course, if Brett Favre is playing, it'll be interesting to see how oddsmakers factor him in. Do they respect his past talent, or view him as on his last legs and thus costing the Vikings big time?
Week 4 - vs. St. Louis: Favorite - If the 49ers start off 2-1, this could move into heavy favorite status. Of course, if Football Outsiders is correct, St. Louis will likely be off to a good start, potentially pushing the line closer. At this point I'm thinking about a touchdown or so.
Week 5 - vs. Atlanta: Slight Underdog - The Falcons open at home against Miami and Carolina and then go to New England before the bye week. if Miami shows last season wasn't a fluke, there's a chance Atlanta could be 0-3 at this point. Even if folks believe in Matt Ryan and think the Falcons are better than the 49ers, I'm not sure how much respect they'd get at 0-3. I'm thinking they'll be at least 1-2 and giving no more than a field goal to the 49ers.
Consider the jump the 49ers bye week in week 6. After the jump we move on to week 7 through 17.
Week 7 - @ Houston: Underdog - Houston has a good helping of talent, but as I said, I think this is going to be a really entertaining game. I think Houston is a 4 or so point favorite, which usually means the oddsmakers don't really know who is going to win this one. If anybody is more than a 4 or 5 point favorite, go with the dog.
Week 8 - @ Indianapolis: Heavy Underdog - At this point, we should have a good idea of what the 49ers are bringing to the table, which could alter this prediction down a little in the best case scenario. Even if the 49ers are 4-2 or 5-1, I still think they're at least a touchdown underdog in Indy. Any worse record and they're double digit dog.
Week 9 - vs. Tennessee: Underdog - Part of this depends on how the Kerry Collins/Vince Young situation handles itself. I'd imagine Collins is the guy until further notice and he did a solid job leading that team last year. While this is a winnable game, I wouldn't imagine much gambling respect for the 49ers.
Week 10 - vs. Chicago: Slight Favorite - The Bears added Cutler, which should help them, but they still don't have enough receiver talent around him. They'll be a tough team but I think the 49ers will be in a position to be getting a little respect at home.
Week 11 - @ Green Bay: Underdog - The Packers will be hosting the 49ers right before Thanksgiving, which means the potential for the frozen tundra. Since 2006, the Packers have been underdogs in one November/December home game (November 19, 2006 versus New England).
Week 12 - vs. Jacksonville: Favorite - These late 2009 game spreads will obviously be heavily dependent on performance up to this point. If the 49ers are at or above .500 at this point (which I'm certainly hoping they will be) the only way they're not a favorite at this point is if the Jaguars are rolling along. If the two teams records are similar, I think the 49ers get the home respect.
Week 13 - @ Seattle: Slight Underdog - I think this could be between 3 and 5 point, so closer to Underdog than slight underdog. Of course, if the 49ers season is in the tank at this point and Seattle is playing well, it could be upwards of 7 or 8 points.
Week 14 - vs. Arizona: Slight Favorite - The 49ers won't get a lot of respect heading into this game. At the same time, getting the 3 points at home means I think they end up a point or two favorite. There's a good chance this could come down to a pick 'em.
Week 15 - @ Philadelphia: Underdog - It's possible this moves up to heavy underdog if Philly is playing well. The Eagles aren't going anywhere this season and I think will end up in the playoffs. A possible playoff preview? Should I put down the hard liquor now?
Week 16 - vs. Detroit: Heavy Favorite - If things go like I'm thinking, the 49ers will likely be around 7-7 at this point, fighting for their playoff lives with two favorable matchups remaining. Detroit will have long since been eliminated, even with Matt Stafford starting.
Week 17 - @ St. Louis: Favorite - As I can't buy into FO's prediction of potential Rams success, I'm riding the fence a bit on this. I'm thinking at least a touchdown, but potentially upwards of heavy favorite if things are rolling just right.
As I've indicated repeatedly, so much, if not all, of this depends on how the team is performing. Even week 1 is dependent on potential injuries and whatnot over the coming month and a half. Of course, that didn't stop me from throwing out my predictions anyways. If you think I'm way off on any of these (which is entirely possible), feel free to throw out your suggestions. Do we have any big time gamblers here who want to throw out their 2 cents? Feel free.