Cleveland Browns (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-0)
The 49ers have gotten off to a very strong start and come out of their bye week at 3-0. They rank 2nd in first down rate differential behind the Patriots at +11.13% and have an average margin of +14.0 points per game. Their only win by fewer than two touchdowns came by 4 against the Steelers in a game in which the 49ers lost the turnover battle by 3, but still won because they won the first down rate battle by 14.24%.
The 49ers have had a pretty easy schedule so far though, facing the Buccaneers, the Bengals, and the Steelers, who are a combined 3-9. The Browns coming to town this week are by far their toughest test so far and the 49ers will have to play without two key starters, left tackle Joe Staley and cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, who remain out following the 49ers’ bye. The Browns, meanwhile, are getting healthier, with safety Morgan Burnett and wide receiver Rashard Higgins set to return from a 2-game and a 3-game absence respectively.
The 49ers do have one key edge though, as a west coast team playing an east coast team at night. Teams have historically done well in that situation, due to differing internal time cycles. In fact, in games between west coast and east coast teams at night, the west coast team covers about 65% of the time. We’re not getting any line value with the 49ers, as this line at San Francisco -4 is exactly where I have it calculated, so I wouldn’t recommend betting the 49ers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
San Francisco 49ers 23 Cleveland Browns 17
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4