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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM

In an NFL season that’s already been full of surprises, one of the biggest has to be the extreme difference between what the media expected of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Ron Jaworski of ESPN suggested he could end up being the greatest QB of all time!), and what’s actually been happening on the field (Kaepernick is the lowest rated signal caller in the league over the last two weeks).

The “read option” that was supposed to revolutionize the game has rarely been in sight for the Niners. Relying strictly on his arm, Kaepernick has shown a tendency to panic…overthrow receivers…underthrow receivers…and throw the ball too hard on short passes.

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?!

That’s a question handicappers must deal with Thursday because the 49ers are a short road favorite in a big divisional rivalry game against the St. Louis Cardinals that will be nationally televised by the NFL Network. If Kaepernick is going to struggle, then the wrong team might be favored. Remember that San Francisco couldn’t beat St. Louis last year in two tries! They played an overtime tie and the Rams scored an upset. If Kaepernick’s just going through a phase…then he could be due for a huge night in a revenge spot against a rival that’s also a double bounce-back spot.

Some quick possibilities:

*San Francisco is trying to protect its QB from taking hard hits…knowing that a running QB is just an injury waiting to happen. Terrelle Pryor of Oakland is the latest example of that, as he suffered a concussion in just his third start of the season in Denver. RGIII still hasn’t recovered from knee surgery. Long term prudence may be leading to short term growing pains.

*Defenses had a summer to study game film of Kaepernick, a luxury that few opponents had last season when he took the league by storm after replacing Alex Smith. Any September opponent had months to develop effective tactics.

*Kaepernick may not be a very effective passer when defenses aren’t worried about the run! When they had to guard against his running ability…openings were created in the air. Now that he’s not running (either by choice or opposition schematics), his erratic tendencies are on full display. The same thing happened to Kordell Stewart may years ago. They may be happening to RGIII now in Washington.

Thursday’s game will tell us more about this developing story. Let’s run a few quick numbers to get you ready…

 

Won-Lost Records (opponents so far)

San Francisco: 1-2 (Green Bay, Seattle, Indianapolis)

St. Louis: 1-2 (Arizona, Atlanta, and Dallas)

Seattle is going to win the NFC West barring an injury to Russell Wilson. That seems certain given their Power Ratings and enormous home field advantage. The loser of SF/St. Louis will fall to 1-3, and will be a longshot to reach the playoffs. Could the 49ers fall from the Super Bowl to off-the-radar that quickly?!

 

Yards-Per Play to Date

San Francisco: 5.3 on offense, 5.2 on defense

St. Louis: 5.0 on offense, 6.2 on defense

Huge edge here. San Francisco’s stats were hurt by having to face Seattle on the road. They’re likely to be better than that over a larger sampling of games. St. Louis was hurt by having to face veteran quarterbacks in good form on consecutive weeks (Ryan and Romo). If Kaepernick doesn’t play like a veteran in good form, this should be a game! If he does…well, St. Louis would project to having a large negative differential in this key indicator stat.

 

Turnover Differential

San Francisco: -4

St. Louis: -1

Erratic quarterbacks make mistakes. Running quarterbacks tend to cut down on turnovers because they can just carry the ball downfield instead of throwing it! This would be a huge story if SF went from being a strong turnover team to a poor one.

 

Market Performance

San Francisco: 1-2 ATS

St. Louis: 0-3 ATS

Both have disappointed, with SF’s home loss to Indianapolis last week as a double digit favorite being one of the biggest shockers this season. Oddsmakers and sharps have greatly overestimated both teams so far. St. Louis in particular was being priced like a Wildcard contender, only to fall way behind to both Atlanta and Dallas in gut-check challenges.

Current Line: San Francisco by 3, total of 42.5

Oddsmakers settled on the key number of three hoping it would split the difference. It could be off by six points in either direction depending on Kaepernick’s form as the evening unfolds.

JIM HURLEY has a very clear vision of what he expects in this TV showdown. You can purchase that play and the full Thursday slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow to continue this week’s big game previews…

Friday: LSU at Georgia (an early look for this Saturday game on CBS)

Saturday: Wisconsin at Ohio State (in prime time on ABC)

Sunday: New England at Atlanta (in prime time on NBC)

Monday: Miami at New Orleans (in prime time on ESPN)

This is going to be a FANTASTIC weekend of college and pro football. Don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

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