Dec 142012

San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) at New England Patriots (10-3)

Normally, I like betting against big line movements because they tend to be overreactions based off 1 week. Last week, this line was -3 and now it’s -5, which is a pretty significant line movement. However, that’s reasonable in this case. Teams normally carry the momentum of a big MNF win into the next week. Teams are 28-11 ATS off a MNF win of 21+ since 2002.

Besides, all the line movement did was move the line to where it should be. These are the top 2 teams in the NFL, in my opinion, but everything suggests that the Patriots, right now, are the league’s best team. They are +198 in points differential. The 49ers are next closest at +132. The Patriots rank 1st in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA and all 3 by a fairly good margin.

The Patriots are at 1.17 in net points per drive, while the 49ers, who are 2nd, are at 0.95. If you take the difference between those, multiply by 11 (the amount of average drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field (I’ve started using 2.5 instead of 3 because home field advantage has been slightly less significant over the past 5-10 years), you get that New England should be 5 point favorites, which is right where this line is.

DVOA supports this at least and may even suggest this line should be higher. While the Patriots are clear #1 in DVOA and weighted DVOA, the 49ers are 4th in both. There’s nothing wrong with this line movement, especially considering how good teams are off a MNF blowout. It’s also good that the Patriots still aren’t a huge public lean or anything because the 49ers are certainly a respectable team in the public’s eye. I hate picking heavy public leans.

I really don’t want to bet against the Patriots right now anyway. The Patriots are not a smart team to bet against after week 9. In the last 3 seasons between weeks 10 and 17, they are 21-0, outscoring opponents by an average of 20 points per game, with the average final score being 38-18. Even taking the spread into account, they are 14-7 ATS.

Going off of that, Tom Brady is deadly at home in December. The last time he lost a December home game was 2002, his 2nd season in the league and not so coincidentally, the only season in his career as a starter in which he didn’t make the playoffs. That’s his only career December home loss. In fact, in his career, he has a record of 25-2 at home between weeks 13 and 17.

The only two losses were that aforementioned 2002 loss to the Jets and a 2005 loss to the Dolphins, which was actually in January. The fact that it was in January may or may not matter, but the fact remains, when the temperature gets cold, he’s always gotten red hot. If you add in home playoff games, that record grows to 37-6. It’s supposed to snow for this game and the 49ers haven’t played in snow in the Jim Harbaugh era.

They are playing especially well lately, on both sides of the ball, thanks to the addition of Aqib Talib and emergence of Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback. This has allowed Kyle Arrington to move to the slot and Devin McCourty to move to safety, where they’re better fits. They’re allowing just 18.3 points per game since adding Talib. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 57.8% of their passes for an average of 7.2 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions over those 4 games. They can run the football (7th in the league in rushing yards) and they’re at least decent defensively. They’re so much more complete than they have been in recent years.

The 49ers are in a good spot because they are dogs and the early lines for next week says that they will be favorites in Seattle. Teams are 105-62 ATS as dogs before being favorites since 2011. However, that early line is only -1 and they could easily not be favorites given how Seattle is playing and how the Patriots are playing right now.

If they are dogs, that actually puts them in a bad spot this week. Teams are 44-69 ATS as non-divisional road dogs before being divisional road dogs since 2002. They’re not going to overlook the Patriots or anything, but after this game they actually have a game that’s probably more important. They might be a little bit less focused in the week prior for this game than the Patriots, who have nothing to worry about until the playoffs as they finish up with Jacksonville and Miami.

The Patriots will be extra focused and they are in a great spot this week. Favorites are 33-17 ATS before being double digit road favorites since 2002 and the Patriots are projected early to be 14 point favorites in Jacksonville. Meanwhile, teams are 100-56 ATS since 1989 before being double digit favorites in their next two games and they will probably be double digit favorites at home for Miami week 17 as well. It’s a significant play on the Patriots.

Public lean: New England (60% range)

New England Patriots 27 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against spread: New England -5 (-110) 3 units

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