The NFL season moves along to Week 4 while I’m wondering how it’s almost 25% over already. I like to call September the discovery phase. It’s the time for adjusting priors and gaining confidence over your understanding of the 2023 version of each team. That’s why I call Week 4 the “trap week.” Throughout the season, you will often hear discourse around the use of the term “trap” in regard to games in which a team may lose focus due to scheduling or quality of opponent. This is something completely different. Anyone who bets the NFL consistently knows that Week 1 is packed with shocking results. Week 2 brings us back down to earth, so the third week produces a mental tiebreaker, tipping the scales on our newly formulated opinions. Just when we feel comfortable we know these teams, Week 4 can pull the rug out from right under us. Test your positions, but do it with a measured approach. After all, it’s still the NFL, the most efficient betting market in all of sports.
One of the hardest tendencies to avoid early in the year is becoming attached to profitable teams. Bettors like winning, and when we find an edge on a team, it’s hard to resist going back to well one more time. Entering Week 4, there are four teams (Arizona, Green Bay, Miami and Philadelphia) that are 3-0 ATS. Since 2015, teams that covered the first three weeks are only 24-34-1 to the number in Week 4. It makes sense, considering sportsbooks adjust their power ratings until the public perception exceeds the true value of said team.
It’s good to be aware of historical trends, but the foundation of your position should be based on the team’s strengths and weaknesses. That led me to an intriguing game this week between the surprising Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals are coming off a monumental upset of the Dallas Cowboys, but is it time to pivot away from the league’s most profitable underdog?
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-14)
The interesting part of this matchup is that both teams would be perfect against the spread if it wasn’t for Sean McVay’s controversial decision to kick a field goal down 10 as time expired in a Week 2 loss to the 49ers. Nonetheless, it’s the Cardinals who keep cashing for bettors. Yes, the same Cardinals who attracted money all summer to have the worst record in the league. Getting two touchdowns with a team that has vastly overperformed feels too good to be true. I’m here to remind you it’s never that easy.
The Cardinals upset the Cowboys by rushing for more than 200 yards. Good luck repeating that against San Francisco. Through three games, the 49ers have graded out as PFF’s sixth-best defense against the run and second-best tackling unit. If you become a one-dimensional offense, like Pittsburgh in Week 1, it plays right into the hands of Nick Bosa and the San Francisco pass rush.
This game will come down to the 49ers asserting themselves in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Arizona’s defense is tied for 31st in rushing first downs allowed, making it a terrible matchup for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Especially considering it is entering the game with a rest advantage after playing Thursday night. Let’s not forget: There is also Brock Purdy. The second-year quarterback is undefeated in the regular season as a starter and has led his offense to at least 30 points in all four of his home regular-season starts. I bet the 49ers team total Thursday night, and I will be looking at it again. Don’t be afraid to lay the big number. In Purdy’s four home regular-season starts, the 49ers have an average margin of victory of 22 points. They also won each game by at least 17 points.
Betting recommendations: 49ers -14, team total over 29.5 and target Christian McCaffrey rushing props once available
Christine Lake is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. With an extensive background in sports journalism, he covers everything from major league championships to grassroots sports events. When she’s not on the field or at the stadium, you’ll find Christine coaching youth sports teams.