After an exciting Sunday of action, we have one more opportunity to wager on professional football if we so choose. So which plays do our analysts like the most?
Betting analyst Joe Fortenbaugh, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz provide their top plays.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
The Rams enter this game as the underdog despite having a 2-1 record. What are your thoughts on the total and spread for this game and who do you like?
Fortenbaugh: I lean to the 49ers, but I haven't gone to the counter just yet. I think it's telling that San Francisco was -1 on the look-ahead line last week and then went and laid an egg in Denver while the Rams won by eight on the road in Arizona. After all that, the line moves from SF -1 to -1.5? I'm likely to play the under here as well, as long as it stays north of 42. Both teams rank 19th or worse in yards per play and I don't see that getting much better against these respective defenses.
Schatz: This is another early game where we have to ask ourselves which is more important: the information we knew before the season began or the information we've collected over three weeks of play? Research shows us that preseason priors are still more important, even after three weeks. So even though San Francisco has been the better team this season, the Rams looked like the better team based on preseason information -- and we should still assume they are equal to (or even a little better than) the 49ers. I would definitely take the Rams and the points.
Snellings: I'll take the Rams with the points. The 49ers' offense has done nothing to make me think they should be favored against a defense like the Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo has a QBR of only 29.2 through his first two games, and he particularly struggled against a Broncos defense that has a similar structure to the Rams defense he'll face Monday. According to FPI projections, the Rams have a 60.4% chance to win outright and should actually be favored by 3.1 points.
Walder: FPI has a strong take here, favoring the Rams by 3. The FPI was down on San Francisco entering the season in large part due to Trey Lance, but significantly upgraded the 49ers once Lance was injured and the team turned to Garoppolo. The model knows who played when, but it's not like the 49ers' only struggles came with Lance. Still, last week's 11-10 embarrassment against the Broncos left an impression on the FPI, and it's back to showing general disdain toward San Francisco. Because of its conviction, I do lean toward Rams +1.5.
Moody: Garoppolo looked shaky under center for the 49ers last week as the offense sputtered. He should bounce back against the Rams. In his career, Garoppolo has averaged 258.2 passing yards per game against Los Angeles. Even so, I do not believe it will be enough against a Rams team that has won two straight games after losing to the Bills in Week 1. The Rams should cover the spread. Regarding the total, I'm leaning toward the under. In this divisional matchup, both defenses will keep the score low. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals attempted 58 passes last week, but the Rams were able to hold them out of the end zone.
The Rams have had trouble covering wide receivers this year, having allowed six different wide receivers to hit their overs in the past three weeks. What are your thoughts on Deebo Samuel (54.5 receiving yards), Brandon Aiyuk (49.5) and George Kittle (43.5) to do the same?
Fortenbaugh: Aiyuk over 49.5 yards is a play for me. He's been targeted eight times in both of the past two games, and despite how bad Garoppolo looked in Denver last week, he's still a more consistent passer at this stage than Lance. Aiyuk is also San Francisco's big-play threat, which means we shouldn't need six receptions to cash this ticket.
Schatz: I feel like Jalen Ramsey will play better in future weeks as there's no reason to believe that he has suddenly declined significantly. Still, I don't know whether the Rams will want to use him specifically to cover Samuel. There are weaknesses in the rest of the Rams' secondary, so I favor going with the over on both Samuel and Aiyuk.
Snellings: I like Samuel to go over 54.5 receiving yards on Monday. He is Jimmy G's security blanket, and he gets the ball all over the field. Last week, in a game in which the 49ers managed only 10 points and Garoppolo had just a 14.5 QBR, Samuel still notched season highs in targets (8), receptions (5) and receiving yards (73). Samuel has also historically done well against this Rams defense, torching them last season for five receptions, 97 yards and a touchdown in Week 10, four receptions for 95 yards in Week 18, and another four receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.
Walder: My projections are right in line with the market here so none of these particularly excite me. The closest is Kittle and the under. I've got him averaging 40.1 receiving yards (although that's a mean, not a median), so if I were setting the line it would be a little lower. Still, I usually look for a larger difference from the prop line before betting it. As such, I'd consider the Kittle under as just a lean.
Moody: Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle are all positioned for success against the Rams' defense. Samuel's runs out of the backfield this season haven't been as successful as last year, and it would be wise for the 49ers to use him more often as a downfield threat. Against the Rams, Samuel has averaged 73.3 receiving yards per game. In comparison, Aiyuk has averaged 48.3 receiving yards per game. Against the Rams, Kittle has averaged 78.4 receiving yards per game. It's possible for all three players to exceed their respective player props when facing the Rams' secondary. On Monday night, Garoppolo will bounce back.
The Rams are currently -145 to win the NFC West, despite being underdogs in Monday night's game. The 49ers are right behind them at +180. Are you rolling with the defending Super Bowl champs to take the division or do San Francisco (or even Arizona) have a chance?
Schatz: I would stay away from betting the NFC West at this point. Our playoff odds at Football Outsiders currently list all three of those teams worse than the odds you would get at most bookmakers. You would be essentially paying the vig instead of getting any value. In fact, based on performance so far this year and our low preseason forecast for the Arizona Cardinals, we actually have the Seattle Seahawks with slightly better odds than the Cardinals right now. That makes Seattle the only +EV bet to win the division, but it's quite the long shot -- so what's the point?
Snellings: I like the Cardinals at +750. I see this as a competitive division, where any of three teams have a legitimate chance to win. That's why when one has such longer odds than the other two, it piques my interest. The Cardinals get DeAndre Hopkins back after three more games, and when he returns, he'll pair with Marquise Brown to give Murray the most dangerous pair of wideouts he's ever had. Last season, the Cardinals led the division for much of the year and won 11 games, finishing right between the Rams and the 49ers. I don't see any reason that this season's race won't be just as close, so I'll take the underdog odds.
Moody: If I had to pick one of these teams, I'd still bet on the defending champion Rams. As a result of injuries to the offensive line, the absence of Van Jefferson, and a suboptimal run game, the Rams look mediocre. This is compounded by Matthew Stafford's inability to develop a rapport with Allen Robinson II. These factors have contributed to their slow start. In time, the Rams will get healthier and Odell Beckham Jr. may return in November or early December. Los Angeles is still the team to beat in the NFC West. That said, I agree with Schatz in that I'd prefer not to bet on this division at all.
What is your best bet for Monday night's game?
Fortenbaugh: I like Cam Akers under 54.5 rushing plus receiving yards. He's averaging just 3.5 yards per carry this season and has caught only two passes through three games. Now he's on the road, facing a defense that is surrendering an average of just 2.8 yards per carry this season (best in the NFL). That's not exactly a recipe for success.
Schatz: While Akers had 12 carries (to only four for Darrell Henderson Jr.) last week, they had the same number of snaps, so I don't trust that Akers will be the featured back instead of this being a carry-share situation. Plus, San Francisco ranks third in run defense DVOA so far this year. So I'll take Akers under 43.5 rushing yards in this one.
Snellings: Again, I really like Samuel over 54.5 yards. In addition to the reasons I mentioned above, starting last year, Samuel has had over 54.5 receiving yards in the last four regular-season games (and 11 of the last 15) he has played in which Garoppolo was the starting quarterback. And in his three matchups with the Rams last season (including the playoffs), he averaged 88 yards per game through the air against them, going well over 54.5 yards in each game.
Walder: I'm going with Cooper Kupp under 93.5 receiving yards. It's basically the least-fun bet you can make in football because on every snap you're worried about a Kupp target -- and let's be honest, it's probably coming. Still, there has to be a number where you're willing to bet against Kupp, and according to our ESPN Analytics projections, we're in that zone here. We've got Kupp at just 80.3 receiving yards, so I'll be fading Kupp whether I like it or not. I'm also taking Leonard Floyd over 0.25 sacks (+340 at DraftKings). I just got my weekly sacks model up and running and there is no greater value it saw in Week 4 than Floyd's over against the 49ers. Sure, no sacks this season. But Floyd is posting a solid 21% pass rush win rate at edge (14th-best) and has a multi-year history of producing on this offensive line -- with 20 sacks over the last two seasons. When you play on the same line as Aaron Donald, sack opportunities are going to arise.
Moody: Kupp is hard to overlook in this matchup with the 49ers. Last season, Kupp averaged 10 targets and 120 receiving yards per game against San Francisco. Already, the 49ers have given up huge games to Courtland Sutton and Tyler Lockett. I'll take over 93.5 receiving yards. I also like Tyler Higbee to go over 4.5 receptions. Higbee has caught 16 of his 24 targets for 171 yards through three games this season. Stafford hasn't built much of a rapport with Robinson, and as a result, he has frequently looked in Higbee's direction. Against the 49ers, this trend should continue.