Break out the old Jerry Rice uniform. The San
Francisco 49ers are 7-2 favorites to win it all this year, and they’re –7
favorites this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the bottom team on the
Super Bowl futures list at 200-1. Do we make the Niners one of our NFL picks?
Life is good if you’re a
sports fan in San Francisco. The Giants are leading the NL West and poised to return to the playoffs. And the 49ers could very well join their
baseball brethren on top of the podium. They’re 2-0 SU and ATS this year, one
of five teams to start the 2012 NFL betting season with a perfect record. Win
No. 3 looks like a mere formality with the Vikings (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) next on
Jim the Enchanter
Remember Steve Mariucci? San
Franciscans do. Mariucci coached the 49ers into the playoffs four times in six
years, but was fired after the 2002 campaign because of friction with
management. He was replaced by Dennis Erickson, then Mike Nolan, then Mike
Singletary, all of whom failed miserably in San Fran.
That’s why the locals (the
sharp ones, at least) were elated when Jim Harbaugh was hired last year.
Harbaugh was masterful in turning around the Stanford Cardinal football
program, going from 1-11 in 2006 – the year before he was hired – to 12-1 and
winning the Orange Bowl in 2010.
Turning around the Niners took
even less time. They had stockpiled a fair amount of talent over eight losing
seasons, but it took Harbaugh’s coaching acumen (and some good health for a
change) to make everything work. San Francisco went 13-3 in Harbaugh’s debut
and crushed the NFL betting lines at 12-3-1 ATS.
There were still doubters, of
course. Was QB Alex Smith the real deal, or was his career-low 1.1-percent
incompletion rate a fluke? Well, after two games in 2012, Smith has yet to
throw a pick after 57 attempts. And he outperformed Aaron Rodgers in the season
opener against the Green Bay Packers, winning 30-22 at Lambeau Field as a
6-point dog. Chew on that.
Down Goes Frazier
A turnaround is happening up
north, as well, but it’s going to be a while. The Vikings franchise fell apart just
two years ago when QB Brett Favre ran out of gas. Coach Brad Childress was
mercifully let go, the Metrodome roof collapsed and Minnesota finished last
year at 3-13 (6-8-2 ATS).
Now the vultures are circling
over Leslie Frazier. He’s been roundly criticized for his coaching performance
in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts (+3 at home), which
included some brutal clock management at the end of the first half, letting the
Colts go into the dressing room up 17-6. Full disclosure: I picked the Vikings
with the line at –1.5. But I’m not bitter. Honest.
Too bad Frazier’s messing
things up, because Minnesota has a nice little team in the works here. Would
you believe the Vikings are fourth in the NFL in overall efficiency (so sayeth
Football Outsiders) after two games? Okay, their opposition so far has been the
Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars. But QB Christian Ponder (110.6 passer
rating) is pick-free, and RB Adrian Peterson is alive and well at 4.4 yards per
I think I just talked my way
out of taking the Niners on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX). The spread is sitting
on the magic number 7, as well. As bad as the Vikings were last year, they were
4-2-1 ATS when getting at least seven points. And I see there’s pressure on the
NFL betting lines, with Bodog offering the Vikings at +7.5 (–115) and 5Dimes
going with Vikings +8 (–130).
I would certainly consider
waiting out the market and taking Minnesota at the best price I could get.
Let’s assume for now that +7.5 will soon be available across the board.
pick: Vikings +7.5