New England Patriots (7-2) at San Francisco 49ers (1-8)
The Patriots lost last week at home to the Seattle Seahawks. It was just their 2nd loss of the season, but there’s reason for concern. The Patriots’ defense got gashed all game in their first game since the controversial Jamie Collins trade. Also controversially, the Patriots are not even bringing defensive end Jabaal Sheard on this trip with them, even though he was a starter 3 weeks ago before their bye and arguably their best defensive lineman last season. Sheard was relegated to backup snaps last week and now won’t play at all, even though he’s healthy. Between Collins, Sheard, and Chandler Jones, who was controversially traded this off-season, the Patriots are missing a big chunk of last year’s strong front 7, so how they played defensively last week is concerning. The Patriots will also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Chris Hogan with injuries in this one. Gronk’s injury is obviously the more important one and he’ll miss at least this week with a chest injury.
All that being said, the Patriots get about as soft of a landing spot after last week’s loss as possible with this trip to San Francisco. The 49ers enter the game 31st in both first down rate differential and point differential, only ahead of the Browns in both categories. They also lead the league in double digit losses with 7 and their average margin of defeat is 15.5, so the Patriots don’t even really have to play that well to cover this line. The Patriots’ defense has issues, but their offense has been incredible this season, even in last week’s loss. On the season, they rank 4th in first down rate and 2nd in first down rate percentage, despite being without Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season with suspension. Since returning, Brady has played better than any quarterback in the league and the Patriots figure to have a big offensive performance once again this week, even without Gronkowski.
The Patriots are also in a much better spot than the 49ers, as they have an easy game on deck, a trip to New York to face the Jets, while the 49ers go to Miami, which isn’t easy. The early line has the Patriots as 9 point favorites in New York, while the 49ers are 8 point underdogs in Miami. Underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, while favorites of 6 or more are 89-50 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. Combining the two, favorites of 6 or more are 7-31 ATS before being favorites of 6 or more again, when their opponent will next be underdogs of 6 or more again. The Patriots are also 45-24 ATS off of a loss in the Bill Belichick era (since 2010). The Patriots are battling some adversity right now, but this game still has blowout written all over it.
New England Patriots 31 San Francisco 49ers 13
Pick against the spread: New England -12.5