San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (8-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-5)

The Titans have a better record than the 49ers, but more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate show the 49ers to be a significantly better team, especially when you take into account that they have faced a tougher schedule than the Titans. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the 49ers rank 8th, 10th, 24th, and 7th respectively in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, while the Titans rank 21st, 12th, 22nd, and 21st respectively.

The 49ers are also in a better injury situation than the Titans. They’re still far from 100%, missing their two best cornerbacks, their three best running backs, and several other contributors, including defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey. However, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams, linebacker Fred Warner, and safety Jimmie Ward are all among their most important players and they have all some missed time and since returned, which has allowed this team to play some of their best football in recent weeks. 

The Titans, on the other hand, have not been playing their best football in recent weeks, primarily on offense, in large part due to injuries. After averaging 5.49 yards per play through the first eight games of the season (most equivalent to 17th in the NFL), the Titans have seen that average drop to 4.51 yards per play (most equivalent to 31st in the NFL) over the past six games, a stretch in which feature back Derrick Henry has missed every game, talented wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones have missed three games each, and starting left guard Rodger Saffold has missed 1 game. 

Brown and Jones will play this week, with the former returning from his 3-game absence for the first time, but Saffold and Henry remain out, while talented left tackle Taylor Lewan will join them, meaning they will still be down their most important offensive player and a pair of talented offensive linemen for this matchup. Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the 49ers in the past week, with this line shifting from even on the early line last week to now favoring the 49ers by 3.5 points, a significant swing given that about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer. 

The weird part is there isn’t an obvious factor that caused that shift. The 49ers won big over the Falcons last week, but the Falcons are one of the worst teams in the league, while the Titans’ loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh likely would have gone the other way had the Titans not lost the turnover battle by 4 in a 6-point loss. Turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so it’s very likely the Titans will have a better turnover margin in this matchup. On top of that, none of the injuries that have occured in the past week for these two teams are significant enough for this line to shift like this.

Most likely, this line shift is the result of the public and odds makers catching up to how good the 49ers are, after a stretch in which they were regularly underrated and, as a result, covered in five of their past six games. My calculated line is exactly where this line is at San Francisco -3.5, so we’re not getting any value with either side as a result of that massive line movement. I am still taking the 49ers for pick ‘em purposes, but this could easily be a field goal win by the 49ers, so I can’t be confident in them.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3.5

Confidence: None

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