The San Francisco 49ers host Washington later today, which means we have been in the midst of some cross-blog chatter. I thought we would wrap things up with a recurring, but slightly altered idea. Washington is a sizable underdog, so rather than talk about why each team will lose, I thought it would be more interesting to consider why each team would cover the nine point spread.
The folks at Hogs Haven provided a detailed response. The only edit I made of his response was changing the R word to Washington.
Why Washington will cover
I understand this space is usually reserved for "Why [insert team name] will lose" articles for most of the season. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this is like the "kid's table" version. Only the most despicable degenerates out there would consider placing money on Washington to win this week, and I happen to know pretty much all of them. No sooner can you say, "Washington is 1000/1 shots to win the Super Bowl," than you hear, "So you're sayin' there's a chance!" A 500/1 shot to win the NFC? Get the deed to the house!
This week, Washington is getting a hair under ten points, depending on when you placed your bet. It looks like most people are getting nine today. Who are we playing? Alabama? Where's the respect...oh...right...Washington. Still, there are reasons to feel good about placing your money on Washington getting this many points. For those in the betting community that know, there were rumblings all summer about the 49ers being able to cover at home in the new stadium. I didn't quite get it myself, but with a 1-5 ATS record in their last six home games, it would seem the goodfellas knew something. (They always do, don't they?)
Fear not, Washington is like a magic elixir to any team trying to reverse such trends. Our on the road ATS record is atrocious (3-8 in our last 11 road games) and we have only covered the spread ONCE in our last seven games. Why even risk betting on Washington to cover this week? I'm glad you asked. The 49ers are coming off two straight cross country trips. West coast teams that are coming off multiple weeks going back and forth across the country seem to always have at least some difficulty. More than that, Washington has a tendency to play better against better teams. I hate when teams do that-it is certainly the hallmark of a house not in order.
Looking at some of the better opponents Washington has played against in 2014: we lost by ten to Seattle, three to Philly, ten to Arizona and of course we stabbed Dallas in the heart in overtime. Getting blown out by Tampa Bay is not exactly helping my argument...at all, but I think this shows that the Skins know what to do with ten points against a decent/legit team!
Above all else, this game is important to Washington. They risk losing more than just the few remaining fans that still believes in this bunch-they are on the verge of losing the locker room. Without a spirited effort on Sunday, things in DC are going to move from "Raging Dumpster Fire" to full-fledged "Lindsay Lohan" catastrophe level. I expect to see a professional group in burgundy and gold on Sunday. I expect to see a focus from this group that should translate to a higher level of competency than we saw against...ahem...Tampa Bay. If we can't start proving we can at least cover ten points, the NFL might need to consider a relegation system.
(What is the money line on the Skins to win anyway...?)
Why San Francisco will cover
The 49ers should be able to win this team, but as they say, "good teams win, great teams cover." The 49ers are a talented team with a great defense, but it remains to be seen how good this team is as a whole. The offensive inconsistency makes it hard to think they'll improve on a recent 1-5 ATS record at home. But as Ken pointed out above, Washington could prove to be the magical elixir that gets them on the path of righteousness.
I think the 49ers can cover this game just on the back of their defense, although that is not exactly what fans want to see. Football Outsiders ranks the Washington pass defense No. 29, and the run defense No. 11. The 49ers don't need to go wild with a spread attack to win this game, but the shorter passing game could be plenty effective. Mix in a healthy dose of Frank Gore, and a balanced attack would conceivably take care of business.
Of course, that is easier said than done. But the 49ers have covered in four of their last six, even if the wins are not always pretty. They barely covered last week with their 16-10 win over the Giants, and they escaped with the upset in New Orleans, courtesy of a 27-24 overtime victory. They embarrassed themselves the week before against St. Louis, and were crashed prior to that by Denver, but they had a pair of covers in Weeks 5 and 6.
That Rams loss does stick out like a sore thumb, but they've actually proven to be a solid team against quality opponents. Washington generally is just bad, and the 49ers absolutely must take advantage of that. And if they don't, I'm sure people will be running around 49ers Internet like chickens with their heads cut off. Good times await, either way!