San Francisco 49ers (8-3) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)
Colin Kaepernick is now officially quarterback of the 49ers and it’s definitely the right move. I don’t think the 49ers ever really scared anyone with Alex Smith under center. He wasn’t why they were winning. Kaepernick gives this team such a higher upside. He allows them to use the whole playbook with his running ability and big arm and he hasn’t seemed fazed by the mental part of running such a complex offense, which is key. He also makes their running game even better because defenses have to respect the deep ball and Kaepernick’s own running ability.
They’ve looked so much better since he’s been the starter, blowing out Chicago and then beating the Saints in New Orleans, a huge win in a tough place to play against a team that actually knew he was coming for the first time in his career. Neither St. Louis nor Chicago really game planned for him, most likely. Smith got hurt against St. Louis and there was no way for them to know that Kaepernick would be coming into the game, while Chicago probably thought, along with the rest of us, that Smith would start against them until he was surprisingly ruled out Monday morning for a Monday Night Football game.
This week, Kaepernick takes the show to St. Louis. St. Louis is coming off a win as divisional road dogs and they are now home dogs, a situation teams are 28-14 ATS in since 1989. However, San Francisco is road favorites after winning as road favorites, a situation teams are 50-30 ATS in since 2002. We’re also getting significant line value with the 49ers, who have the momentum as well, since switching to the superior quarterback.
Using the net points per drive method of computing real line, this line should actually be San Francisco -12.5. San Francisco ranks 2nd in net points per drive, 1st in DVOA, and 2nd in weighted DVOA and with Kaepernick under center, they’re easily one of the top-2 teams in the NFL. St. Louis, meanwhile, is 24th in net points per drive, 21st in DVOA and 20th in weighted DVOA.
That 12.5 number was calculated by taking the difference between San Francisco’s net points per drive and St. Louis’ net points per drive, multiplying by 11 (the amount of drives per game on average) and adding 3 to St. Louis’ side for home field advantage. Like with New England and Houston, it’s not a big play because the public loves the favorite here and the public always loses money in the long run, but San Francisco should be the right side here.
Public lean: San Francisco (80% range)
Sharps lean: SF 22 STL 8
Final update: Very interestingly, the sharps all really like San Francisco, Houston, and New England as touchdown favorites inside the division. Those might be the top-3 teams in the NFL, so it makes sense and the fact that the sharps love them kind of negates the heavy public leans. I don’t want to go higher than 3 on any of them because, on principle, I rarely make big plays on lines higher than a touchdown (what happened between San Francisco and Seattle earlier this year is a perfect example of why), but I can up this one and the Houston one to 2 units. New England is already there.
San Francisco 49ers 27 St. Louis Rams 13
Pick against spread: San Francisco -7.5 (-110) 2 units