After beginning the week as Vegas favorites for the first time this season, the San Francisco 49ers are now three-point underdogs to the visiting New York Giants.
Although the winless San Francisco 49ers and the one-win New York Giants have similar records, they began the 2017 NFL season with drastically different expectations. The 49ers — with a new coaching staff and new general manager — were in obvious rebuilding mode after a disappointing two-win season. Meanwhile, the Giants — and many analysts — expected a repeat playoff performance after winning 11 games in 2016.
And then, 2017 happened.
The 49ers are the team we expected; a group of young players struggling for wins, but playing their hearts out in the process. The Niners, who set an NFL record for consecutive close losses, have suffered from a bit of bad luck, and a boatload of injuries — but effort has never been an issue.
Last week, the 49ers were in a familiar situation against a beatable team, driving for the lead with over a quarter remaining in the game. Meanwhile, the Giants were getting blown out at home by four scores. The Giants would eventually allow 51 points to the visiting Los Angeles Rams, with many in the media accusing the team — and specific players — of quitting.
Although the outcomes of the two games were the same — another loss for the home teams — the 49ers and Giants appeared to be on different trajectories. The 49ers — with their new quarterback soon to make his debut — were a team with hope for the future. The Giants were a team with players begging for their coach to be fired.
All of this was taken into account when the oddsmakers worked to set the opening line for this Sunday’s matchup. The 49ers are the team that wants to win. The 49ers are also playing at Levi’s Stadium, where they receive a modest home-field advantage dwarfed by the advantage they experienced at Candlestick. Still, it’s hard to entice the public to bet on a winless team; even one that’s facing a one-win team in the midst of turmoil, so the oddsmakers had to post a line that would be low enough to interest both sides.
Soon after last week’s games, the line was posted: 49ers-by-one. On Monday, many sportsbooks added a half point to the line, then some moved the line to two. But both the sharps and the general public began to bet the Giants in extreme fashion, and Vegas was forced to adjust accordingly. The line moved back to one, to even, to Giants-by-one by the end of the day. The money continued to flow on the Giants’ side over the next two days, bringing the line to two, and then to three by Sunday morning.
Vegas thinks the 49ers should win this game; professional and amateur bettors definitely do not. This afternoon, we’ll find out who’s right.