NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Whoops
by Dennis Ranahan

The San Francisco 49ers and their fans spent most of the off-season paying and promoting the second coming, or as he is known in San Francisco, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Perhaps it was a combination of a rich quarterback history, dating back to Y.A. Title and followed by John Brodie, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Alex Smith. But, that river of outstanding quarterbacks ran dry when former head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to keep Colin Kaepernick and send Smith off to the Kansas City Chiefs. Mr. Smith has since gone to Washington.

The 49ers, after the Kapernick experiment was brought to its knees, seemed to have struck gold last year when they acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots. Once he moved into the starting role, the 49ers were transformed from a 1-10 doormat to winners of their final five regular season games.

Now, I can easily point out the fortuitous situations the 49ers were in down the stretch last season against teams that were not always bent on winning their game against San Francisco. Suffice it to say that the five wins were blown out of proportion by Niner fans. Perhaps the wait in locating a quarterback to lead their team back to glory prompted San Francisco fans to shout from the rooftops that their team was back with Jimmy behind center.

Problem is, this enthusiasm drove expectations to a height not matched by the actual talent on the field, and that overconfidence was a recipe for disaster. San Francisco lost their opener, snapping Garoppolo's lifetime mark of 7-0 as an NFL starter, and after a win over the Detroit Lions, but second straight point spread loss, the Niners lost both the game and their quarterback in third week action.

In the final minutes of a loss at Kansas City, Garoppolo injured his ACL and is out for the season. All the hype, all the hope, all the money San Francisco gave Garoppolo to secure his future in San Francisco was now sidelined.

What does that leave Kyle Shanahan’s team left to play with this season?

Pretty much a mirror of the team that was 1-10 last year before the end of the season surge. Now, do you find it just a little amazing that the 49ers won their first point spread decision since last December in their first game without Garoppolo?

That’s right, San Francisco didn’t win a point spread decision in four preseason games or their first three games of the regular season. Then, without their apparent star, went to Los Angeles last week and played the Chargers tough, losing by only two points, 29-27, while getting double-digits on the spread.

In fact, the results are a clear example of how both motivation and value on the point spread can combine in favor of an underdog. With Garoppolo at quarterback, San Francisco opponents were taking the 49ers seriously, and the point spreads were trimmed based on the public hype. Without Garoppolo, the Chargers figured a home win was easy, which allowed them to simply play the game while keeping action in front of them and winning on the scoreboard without covering the suddenly bloated point spread.

Now, after that narrow loss and impressive outing against the Chargers, the 49ers return home as a point spread favorite with C.J. Beathard running their offense.

Whoops.

This is not going to work for the home team.

Their opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, were blown out in their first two games, at home against the Washington Redskins and on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. Then, over the past two Sunday’s, the Cardinals beat the point spread in narrow losses to the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, 16-14 and 20-17 respectively.

In other words, the Cardinals have played well enough to beat the point spread the past two weeks at home but still not good enough to win a game straight-up. Which means this, they will continue to play well until they get that first win, and after they do, that is when they will more than likely fall back to getting blown out.

The Cardinals are not a very good football team, first-year head coach Steve Wilks is still looking for his initial NFL victory and he is counting on rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who replaced an ineffective Sam Bradford two weeks ago.

It won’t take a good team to beat the 49ers this week, it will just take any team in the right motivational spot … like the Cardinals this Sunday.

Qoxhi Picks: Arizona Cardinals (+4½) over San Francisco 49ers