New Orleans Saints (4-7) at San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
The 49ers are just 6-4, but there’s an argument to be made that they’re the best team in the NFC and they look like one of the top few Super Bowl contenders overall. They rank 5th in both point differential (+63) and schedule adjusted efficiency (about five points above average) and are arguably even better than that, as they are healthier and more talented than they were earlier in the season. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, and left tackle Trent Williams are all among their best offensive players and all missed time earlier this season, but all three have returned, a huge boost for an offense that also got a big boost from adding Christian McCaffrey in a trade a few weeks ago. The 49ers’ defense is also healthier now than a few weeks ago, with linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair and safety Jimmie Ward returning to action recently.
The 49ers showed this on Monday Night Football last week, demolishing the Cardinals by a final score of 38-10 in one of the most lopsided games of the season (+9.82% first down rate, +2.37 yards per play), and that tends to carry over into the next week, with teams covering the spread at a 60.0% rate the week after winning by 21 points or more on Monday Night Football. However, we’re not really getting line value with the 49ers as 9.5-point home favorites over the Saints, as the public and the oddsmakers seem to understand that the 49ers are significantly better than their record.
If anything, the Saints are the team that is being a little underrated here, as they are healthier than they’ve been in recent weeks, with key players like Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Marshon Lattimore seeming likely to return on defense, and, even with all of their injuries, they have played better than their record, ranking 16th in schedule adjusted efficiency, with their biggest problem being their league worst -12 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. My calculated line actually gives us a little line value with the visitor, with the 49ers favored by 7.5 points. That’s not nearly enough line value to take the Saints with any confidence though and, with the 49ers being in a significantly better spot, I would still take them for pick ‘em purposes, albeit for one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.
San Francisco 49ers 27 New Orleans Saints 17
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -9.5