The San Francisco 49ers went 13-3 last season, and were likely a Kyle Williams fumble—and over a half dozen third-down conversions—from appearing in the Super Bowl.
Now back to reality.
Las Vegas is set to make a small fortune this season off of suckers with the shortsightedness to roll with the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Despite being loaded defensively—with a unit that has potential to flirt with double-digit Pro Bowlers—signs of the 49ers' impending inflation are too apocalyptic to ignore.
One of the most powerful statistics used by informed handicappers when valuing NFL teams centers around turnover differential.
With an unsustainable turnover differential improvement of +29 (-1 turnover differential in 2010; +28 turnover differential in 2011, good enough to lead the league), all while only losing 36 percent of their fumbles where the historic league average is 50 percent, expect San Francisco to struggle with turnover issues that were not only foreign last season, but were also the difference in many razor-close contests.
The 49ers also played over six points better than the spread last season. This type of success against the spread is nothing short of an anomaly given the rarity of surpassing even the five-point ATS mark, even for elite teams such as the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers who played 2.94 points and 4.22 points better than the spread, respectively, despite posting a combined 28-4 record in the regular season.
San Francisco's seven-game improvement from 2010 should also scare bettors away given the history of subsequent doom of NFL teams with similar Cinderella-like results.
And this is all before considering the fact that with the onslaught of offense in Roger Goddell's run-and-shoot era of quarterback dependency, all six teams to have won a Super Bowl under Goddell's watch boast a bona fide Hall of Famer at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are still stuck with Alex Smith.
The San Francisco 49ers figure to be a Bay Area bust all season. Lucky for them, they have escaped the SpreadSHREDDER's prescient wrath for now.
KANSAS CITY (+3) OVER ATLANTA
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the best home-field advantages in all of football and have reloaded on offense with the return of multiple players—namely running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki and quarterback Matt Cassell—whose injuries resulted in a fall from grace for a team that won its division the season prior.
Despite being white-hot in the preseason under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Atlanta should see growing pains with the debut of a new hurry-up offense inside one of the NFL's loudest stadiums, and against what should be a stingy team coached by defensive guru Romeo Crennel.
The Falcons are just 8-9 ATS outdoors under Matt Ryan, including an alarming 1-3 mark last season. As a team that will figure to inflict a run-heavy offensive gameplan, featuring Charles and new toy Peyton Hillis, in order to undermine the Falocns' no-huddle hopes on a slow field, Kansas City has incredible value as a home dog.
KANSAS CITY, 24-21
ARIZONA (+3) OVER SEATTLE
Few times has preseason success resulted in as much hype, hope and hyperbole as has been the case for unproven rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seattle Seahawks went 4-0 in the preseason, which will likely be their finest accomplishment of 2012.
The Seahawks' late-season surge from last year was not without its share of inflation, as Carroll's crew achieved the fourth-highest year-to-year turnover improvement at a bloated +17, while beating the spread by a dangerous margin of over five points.
The -3-point line on the road suggests that the Seahawks are five-and-a-half points better than the Cardinals. There are just too many uncertainties at key positions—not to mention a makeshift Seahawks offensive line—to believe Seattle is that much better than a team similar to the one that finished above them in the always-mediocre NFC West.
For now, Arizona has more stability at head coach, and believe it or not, quarterback. This one just smells like a blowout.
ST. LOUIS (+7.5) OVER DETROIT
Despite a ridiculously talented roster, the Detroit Lions could see measurable erosion from last year's season-long coming-out party.
Strike one says that the Detroit Lions led the league in defensive touchdowns, which is yet another indicator of overvalue given the likelihood of that statistic disappearing from any team that doesn't employ Devin Hester.
Strike two says the Detroit Lions were curiously fortunate in recovering 65 percent of their fumbles, good for 5th-best in the league. Bad for value.
Strike three will see first-year St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher come to town. Of course, Detroit coach and resident hothead Jim Schwartz is a disciple of Fisher's coaching tree. Jeff Fisher taught Jim Schwartz everything he knows, but he didn't teach him everything Jeff Fisher knows.
ST. LOUIS, 28-27
[Lines from Sportsbook.com via VegasInsider.com]