TNF Primer: How to bet SF-STL

Predicting line movement and ATS picks from four wiseguys

Updated: September 26, 2013, 11:39 AM ET
By Jeff Gold | ESPN Insider

Colin KaepernickAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonCan Colin Kaepernick get back on track against the St. Louis Rams tonight?

There are several options to debate if you want to pick out the team with the most surprising record through three weeks of the NFL season. The Dolphins are 3-0; the Giants are 0-3. The Chiefs are 3-0; the Steelers are 0-3. Seriously?

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest shock has been the San Francisco 49ers' 1-2 start. A home loss to the Colts as 10-point favorites followed a week after the 49ers were embarrassed at Seattle. One was bad. Back-to-back? It was stunning. It's the first time Jim Harbaugh has lost two straight as an NFL coach. In fact, you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time he lost two consecutive games anywhere, when Stanford fell to Oregon State and Arizona in consecutive weeks.

Colin Kaepernick has suffered his two worst games as a pro, with ugly Total QBR scores of 11.8 and 14.0 in the past two weeks. Don't forget, before the year there were questions regarding whether the 49ers had enough weapons surrounding Kaepernick, especially following Michael Crabtree's injury. A flawless 34-28 performance in Week 1 against the Packers quieted those concerns (especially with Anquan Boldin hauling in 13 receptions for 208 yards), but now they seem plenty relevant once again.

The St. Louis Rams, who host the 49ers on Thursday night, played two incredibly tight games last year against San Francisco. Both went to overtime, the first ending in a tie, and the second with a Rams upset win. Those two games spurred some preseason belief that the Rams weren't that far behind the 49ers entering the year.

Considering that both teams are coming off back-to-back defeats after Week 1 victories, they will both be desperate to get back to .500. The 49ers have been 3-point favorites all week, with some books making you pay slightly extra vig on the favorite. Not surprisingly, the public is backing the favorite at an overwhelming 80 percent clip, according to ESPN Insider's PickCenter.

Let's turn now to some analysis from bookmaker Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel on the line and total and to our panel of handicapping experts for ATS picks on the game.


San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Spread: Opened at 49ers minus-3, still minus-3
Total: Opened at 42.5; now 42.0


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