San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (2-10) at Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week, the 49ers were 3 point underdogs in Chicago. I bet heavily on Chicago because I thought they were an underrated team, especially with middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back healthy, and that they were at least a few points better than the 49ers. However, the 49ers didn’t just cover. They also ended up pulling the upset victory on the road by final score of 15-14 and the game wasn’t even as close as the final score.

The 49ers had 5 scoring drives, but had to settle for field goals on all 5 occasions, while the Bears got just one scoring drive, but scored a touchdown on it and then got a punt return for their second touchdown. If they hadn’t returned that punt for a touchdown and if the 49ers had converted a couple of their long drives into touchdowns, it could have easily been a 10-15 point San Francisco win. The 49ers picked up 23 first downs to the Bears’ 8, as they dominated time of possession and won the first down rate battle by +6.51%.

I still think the Bears are an underrated team when healthy, but I think I clearly underestimated the 49ers. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo exceeded my expectations on the road against a tough defense in his first start with the 49ers, just a month after being acquired from the Patriots at the trade deadline. He doesn’t have the best supporting cast to work with, but he makes this offense much better and should only improve as he becomes more comfortable with the system and the players around him. It’s not just the addition of Garoppolo that’s made a big difference for this team though, as this team has been playing significantly better defense in recent weeks thanks to the return of stud rookie linebacker Reuben Foster from injury a few weeks back.

Despite that, the 49ers are still 3-point underdogs in Houston, the same line as they were in Chicago last week. This line has actually moved from 5.5 on the early line last week, but I still think we’re getting good line value with the 49ers, as I have this line calculated at even. The Texans are one of the worst teams in the league without quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who are all out for the season.

New quarterback Tom Savage is arguably the worst in the league and, making matters worse, he’s immobile and plays behind arguably the worst offensive line in football. They get #2 wide receiver Will Fuller back from injury this week, but he hasn’t been the same player without Watson. If the 49ers can defeat the Bears on the road, they should be able to do the same in Houston, or at least keep it within a field goal to at least get a push of this spread. The 49ers are a smart bet this week.

San Francisco 49ers 17 Houston Texans 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +3

Confidence: High

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (3-8)

Going into their week 9 bye, the Bears were coming off of a solid 3-3 stretch. They had pulled upsets over the Steelers, Panthers, and Ravens and played one score games against the Vikings and Saints, with their only big loss coming in Green Bay on a short week, back when Aaron Rodgers was still healthy. As a result, the Bears came out of the bye as 6 point home favorites against the Brett Hundley led Packers. However, the Bears lost that game straight up and then lost the following two weeks as well, with last week’s loss in Philadelphia coming by 28 points (31-3).

A big reason why the Bears haven’t played as well in recent weeks has been their defense, which was a huge part of their solid play earlier in the season. Without middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, their defense took a big step back, but he returns to the lineup this week after a 3-game absence. Even without him, they came within a missed field goal of going to overtime against the Lions and they could have gone to overtime against the Packers had they not fumbled on the goal line. Last week’s loss in Philadelphia was obviously not close, but the Eagles are the best team in the league right now, so there isn’t a ton of shame in that, especially without arguably your most important defensive player.

Not only do the Bears get Trevathan back this week, but they get probably their easiest matchup of the season with the 49ers coming to town. The 49ers will start recently acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time this season and he should be an upgrade over CJ Beathard, but the 49ers have arguably the worst roster in the NFL around the quarterback and Garappolo is still an unknown commodity and likely doesn’t have the full playbook down after just a month with the team.

Despite that, the Bears are just 3 point favorites at home, suggesting these two teams are about even, which I definitely disagree with. When the Bears were 6 point favorites for the Packers a few weeks ago, I bet against them because that line was too high, but the 49ers are even worse than the Packers and the Bears now have Trevathan back, so I don’t understand this line at all. Aside from the Green Bay game, the Bears’ other home games have been wins over the Steelers and Panthers and close losses to the Falcons, Vikings, and Lions, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t beat the 49ers by at least a field goal. The 49ers are a huge step down in class from the aforementioned teams. I wish talented safety Adrian Amos was healthy for the Bears, but getting Trevathan back is more important. This is a high confidence pick at 3.

Chicago Bears 20 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: High

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

The Seahawks are 6-4 and in the thick of a tight NFC playoff race, but they are not the same team they’ve been in recent years. They rank 17th in first down rate differential and have just 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents. They also have just two wins by more than a touchdown and they came against the Colts and the Giants. They also have a ton of injuries. Defensive end Cliff Avril, cornerback Richard Sherman, and safety Kam Chancellor are out for the season and promising rookie cornerback Shaq Griffin joins them on the sideline. On top of that, offensive tackle Duane Brown and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, both listed as questionable, did not practice at all this week. They can’t run the ball or pass protect and their defense is not nearly what we’re used to from them.

The 49ers are not a great opponent. In fact, they are one of the worst teams in the league. However, they played the Seahawks close in Seattle early this year, losing by 3. The Seahawks also won by just 6 in Arizona a few weeks back. And those two games are before the injuries for the most part. This line isn’t huge at 7, but the 49ers could play the Seahawks tight, especially since the Seahawks have a huge home game on deck. They are projected to be 6 point home underdogs for the Eagles next week and teams are just 36-67 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more. On top of that, road favorites are 35-57 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs. The Seahawks could look past the 49ers a little bit and let them hang around a little bit with sloppiness and penalties. I’m not confident enough in the 49ers to pick them at +7, but I might change my mind if we can get +7.5.

Seattle Seahawks 22 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +7

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (0-9)

The Giants lost 51-17 at home to the Rams last week, but they were missing a lot of guys with injury and they quit once they got down early. The Giants still have injury problems and will be without several key players for the rest of the season (center Weston Richburg, wide receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall), but they should get defensive end Olivier Vernon, right tackle Justin Pugh, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins back this week, which should be a big help.

The 49ers also have a lot of injury problems and have the worst roster in the NFL right now as a result, so the Giants probably be favored by at least 3 here in San Francisco. At -2.5, they seem like a smart pick as they have a good chance to bounce back against a significantly inferior opponent. I can’t be confident in them though, given all of the locker room problems they are having right now. This is a veteran team whose season is basically over and the coaching staff may have lost control.

New York Giants 20 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -2.5

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at San Francisco 49ers (0-8)

The 49ers entered the season with among the worst rosters in the NFL and things have just gotten worse from there thanks to injuries. The 49ers are currently without left tackle Joe Staley, #1 wide receiver Pierre Garcon, defensive ends Solomon Thomas, Aaron Lynch, Arik Armstead, and Tank Carradine, and safety Jimmie Ward, all of whom were valuable players for this team. I have the 49ers currently dead last in my roster rankings.

That being said, we are still getting line value with them as 2.5 point home underdogs against the Cardinals because the Cardinals also enter with significant injury problems and one of the worst rosters in the NFL. The Cardinals have lost left guard Mike Iupati, running back David Johnson, outside linebacker Markus Golden, and most importantly quarterback Carson Palmer to injured reserve. Palmer was not playing at an elite level or anything, but he wasn’t playing badly either and backup Drew Stanton is among the worst backups in the league. They shouldn’t be favored by this many points no matter the opponent, given the current state of their roster.

The 49ers have been blown out in each of the past two weeks against the Cowboys and Eagles, losing both games by 21+ points, but they have a great chance to bounce back against a much easier opponent this week. Teams tend to cover off of back-to-back losses by 21+ points, going 45-30 ATS in that spot since 2002. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense, as teams coming off back-to-back blowouts tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed. The 49ers should be some combination of those this week.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are in a terrible spot because they have to turn around and host the Seahawks in one of their toughest games of the season. Favorites are just 60-92 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and that’s before you even take into account how big of a game it’s going to be for the Cardinals. The early line has them as 7 point home underdogs and teams are 30-70 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 6 points or more, as big upcoming home games tend to present a distraction for teams.

On top of that, road favorites like the Cardinals are here are 17-36 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs. With a much tougher game 4 days after this one, the Cardinals could easily look past the 49ers and lose this game as a result. The difference in talent level between these two teams is less than you’d think right now. I’m holding out hope that this line creeps up to 3 before game time, in which case this would become a high confidence pick, but I’d bet the 49ers at 2.5 regardless and I’d also take the money line at +125.

San Francisco 49ers 16 Arizona Cardinals 13 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +2.5

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (0-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-1)

The Eagles defeated the Redskins 34-24 last week on Monday Night Football, but it may end up being a case of winning the battle and losing the war, as they lost middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters for the season with injuries. Both players were big parts of this team and will be missed as this team tries to still make a run at the Super Bowl without them. The good news is they’re still one of the better teams in the league without Hicks and Peters and they get an easy opponent this week with the 0-7 49ers coming to town.

The 49ers have lost just 2 games by more than a field goal, but they’re still one of the worst teams in the league, especially since they’re expected to be missing right tackle Trent Brown, who has been their best offensive lineman thus far this season. Their other two losses came by a combined 50 points, so they still have a point differential of -63, 4th worst in the NFL, and they rank 31st in first down rate differential. This line is high, but the Eagles shouldn’t have much problem winning by two touchdowns or more. There isn’t enough for me to bet them confidently at this number, as they have a tougher game next week than the 49ers do (the Eagles host the Broncos, while the 49ers host the Cardinals), but Philadelphia should win this game with ease. The Eagles are an obvious survivor choice if they have not been picked.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -12.5

Confidence: Low

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Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (0-6)

The 49ers are 0-6, but their last 5 losses have all come by 3 points or fewer, so they could easily have a couple victories. The Cowboys, meanwhile, were not playing well before the bye, losing at home to the Rams and Packers. However, I do like the Cowboys here as 6 point road favorites for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that they are healthy. Linebacker Sean Lee, arguably their best defensive player, missed the losses to the Rams and Packers, but will return for this one, a huge re-addition. On top of that, left tackle Tyron Smith, who was playing through an injured back, should be better after the bye week.

Speaking of the bye week, the Cowboys are in a great spot coming out of the bye, not just because they’re healthy, but because road favorites of 3+ are an incredible 41-13 ATS since 2002 after a bye. The 49ers, meanwhile, are in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play in Philadelphia next week, a game in which they will likely be double digit underdogs (+10.5 on the early line). Teams are 46-73 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs and underdogs of 6 or more are 52-85 ATS before underdogs of 6 or more again the following week, over that same time period. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close against a superior opponent when they have another tough opponent on deck.

Six is a fair amount of points to with Dallas, but I have this line calculated right at -6, given that the Cowboys are healthy, that the 49ers are not (now missing defensive end Arik Armstead), and that the Cowboys have a national fanbase and are a strong road team (29-21 ATS on the road since 2011). There isn’t enough here for me to bet on the Cowboys because the 49ers could end up keeping this one close again, especially if rookie quarterback CJ Beathard surprises in his first career NFL start or gets a backdoor cover, but the Cowboys should be the right side.

Dallas Cowboys 28 San Francisco 49ers 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -6

Confidence: Low