San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Tennessee Titans (3-3)
I have legitimate concerns about the 49ers’ offense. Their defense is more than fine once again, as opponents move the chains at a 70% rate. Even without Aldon Smith, they have plenty of talent defensively. However, offensively it’s clear that Colin Kaepernick is not the same as he was last season, at least thus far. As a result, the offense is moving the chains at just a 70% rate as well.
Kaepernick is completing just 55.9% of his passes for an average of 7.6 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions this season. The problem is twofold. One is his lack of receivers. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham remain out so Kaepernick has been limited to Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and a bunch of scrubs. Boldin busted out of the gate on fire this season with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in the opener, but he’s barely matched that in his other 5 games, catching 16 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick seriously misses Crabtree, his go to receiver down the stretch last year. Crabtree totaled 66 catches for 950 yards and 9 touchdowns in 11 games with Kaepernick last season, over a third of Kaepernick passing production.
The other reason is he hasn’t been able to run the ball nearly as effectively. After rushing for 568 yards and 6 touchdowns on 75 carries in 11 games last year, Kaepernick has rushed for 172 yards and no scores on 31 carries in 6 games this year. This is a growing trend across the league as mobile quarterbacks like Robert Griffin and Cam Newton have also been kept in check on the ground this year as teams have had an off-season to study them and the read option. It’s something Kaepernick will have to adapt to and, while I believe he’s capable of it, it’s something I’ll have to see first.
The Titans, meanwhile, remain a solid team even with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Obviously he’s the limiting factor, but they have a great defense that only allows opponents to move the chains at a 71% rate, while their offense moves the chains at a 70% rate. They were the 2nd team over the past 2 seasons to cover in Seattle last week. The 49ers are getting better in terms of rate of moving the chains differential every week, after their rough start, so I’m hesitant to bet against them, but these two teams are very even in that aspect, so I immediately want to take the 4 point home underdog. This should be a very close game and even if the 49ers win, it could easily be by a field goal or less.
Update: Jake Locker is going to surprisingly start despite injury. I don’t know how this changing things. I’m going to continue staying away.
San Francisco 49ers 13 Tennessee Titans 12
Pick against spread: Tennessee +4