The folks at Covers.com have been putting together a weekly article in which they talk to a pair of bloggers to see why their team will cover on Monday Night Football. I put together my thoughts and Jess Root from Revenge of the Birds put together his thoughts on why we each thought our team would cover.
The 49ers currently sit as approximately a touchdown favorite. I know we all only really care about getting wins, but making a statement on the road in primetime would be some nice icing on top. The NFC West has turned into a rough and tumble, black and blue type of division thanks to some generally strong defenses. The 49ers remain the team to beat, but given some of the performances to date, I think that most of these games will end up being one possession victories.
At the same time, this is a game where the 49ers can cover the touchdown spread and make even more of a statement to the rest of the division. In my three reasons the 49ers would cover, I listed the Cardinals offensive line first, in part because I feel that is the biggest opportunity for the 49ers. The Cardinals offensive line is fairly abysmal, and the 49ers need to take advantage and put Arizona in frequent 3rd and long situations. The more that happens, the more passing and potentially the more opportunities for turnovers.
Of course, the 49ers offense is going to need to step up. The 49ers offense has actually done a good job once they have gotten inside the 20 yard line, ranking ninth in red zone touchdown percentage. The problem is that the 49ers rank 20th in red zone scoring attempts per game. The area that seems to be the biggest trouble spot on offense is when the 49ers get in between their opponent's 20 and 40. According to Football Outsiders, the 49ers rank 16th in DVOA in that part of the field, while ranking in the top ten before that and in the red zone.
I can't say with certainty why the team is struggling in that 21-39 yard range. In years past, that is where the 49ers have unleashed the seam route to Vernon Davis. And yet we have not seen that route run with success this year. Teams seem to be rolling over on Davis a lot more recently, so I'd imagine that has something to do with it.
I don't want to see things being forced, but given the physical and/or speed advantages Vernon Davis has over safeties and linebackers, why not try it out a bit more?