San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

The Rams are another team that will be resting key players this week, including quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. They haven’t confirmed any defensive players they will be resting, but it stands to reason that they will be sitting at least some key players on that side of the ball, including possibly Defensive Player of the Year candidate (favorite?) Aaron Donald. They won’t be able to rest everyone, as they’ll need 46 players active on game day, but the Rams are locked into either the 3rd or the 4th seed, so this isn’t a particularly meaningful game for them.

As a result, this line has shifted to San Francisco -4 in Los Angeles. That seems about right and I have no interest in betting this game either way because it’s tough to evaluate backups playing in a meaningless game. For pick ‘em purposes, I would take the 49ers, who have obviously been playing much better football in recent weeks, thanks to the emergence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rookies Reuben Foster and Ahkello Witherspoon on defense, but this is a no confidence pick.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Los Angeles Rams 19

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4

Confidence: None

Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) at San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

Former New England backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has now won his first 5 starts as a quarterback, including his first 3 starts since being traded to the 49ers. Garoppolo has played like a legitimate franchise quarterback since arriving in San Francisco and, along with an improving defense, led by rookies Ahkello Witherspoon and Reuben Foster, has turned around a team that started 0-8 and won just one of their first 11 games before inserting Garoppolo into the starting lineup. The 49ers get by far their toughest test of the Garoppolo era this week though, with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town.

Garoppolo’s wins have come against the Bears, Texans, and Titans, but the Jaguars are a major step up in class. I had them as a surprise team before the season and they’ve even exceeded my expectations. Their defense is hands down the best defense in the NFL and they are remarkably healthy on that side of the ball for this late in the season. The big surprise is their offense though, as they have not been bad on that side of the ball and it hasn’t just been their running game, as Blake Bortles has had the best season of his career in his 4th year in the league, despite a banged up receiving corps and a mediocre offensive line, and is making a strong case to remain the Jaguars’ starting quarterback beyond 2017.

On the season, the Jaguars rank 1st in first down rate differential at +6.44% and 2nd in point differential at +165. Part of that is because of a weak schedule, but the 49ers’ schedule hasn’t been much tougher and the 49ers, even as improved as they are, are still not a tough opponent, as they still have major holes throughout the depth chart. The good news is we are getting some decent line value with the 49ers, who are 4.5-point home underdogs. I have this line calculated at Jacksonville -3. Even if the 49ers can’t win straight up, about 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so they have a decent cushion to work with. There isn’t enough here for me to be confident betting on the 49ers, but they are the smarter choice for pick ‘em purposes, as this could easily be a close game.

Jacksonville Jaguars 16 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +4.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

This is one of the tougher games of the week for me. I’ve had the Titans as a top-10 team all season and their record at 8-5 looks pretty good, but it’s hard to deny how underwhelming they’ve been lately. If it weren’t for front door covers on long garbage time touchdown runs by Derrick Henry against both the Colts and the Texans, the Titans would have covered the spread just once in the last 10 weeks and that was a 4-point win as 3-point road favorites in Indianapolis.

With a tougher schedule and worse luck in close games, they could easily be a 5-to-7 win team right now and they aren’t as talented as they were earlier in the year, with quarterback Marcus Mariota banged up and Derrick Morgan and DaQuan Jones out with injury in the front seven on defense. This is still a talented roster despite injuries, but they don’t seem well coached, so they could continue to underperform like they have for the past couple months.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have won back-to-back games since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as starting quarterback and have been playing much better defense in recent weeks thanks to the play of rookies Ahkello Witherspoon and Reuben Foster. However, those two wins came against the Bears and Texans and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on this roster, especially with right tackle Trent Brown out for the year. This line is at San Francisco -2, so we’re not really getting line value with them like we had been in recent weeks.

The Titans are also in a good spot in their second of two road games. Teams are 258-276 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.90 points per game, as opposed to 379-525 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.95 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. They’re in an especially good spot because they lost last week, as road underdogs are 121-80 ATS in their second of two road games off of a road loss. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -2.5, but I can’t be confident in the Titans at +2 because we might not know quite how bad Marcus Mariota is injured or quite how good Jimmy Garoppolo is. The money line does make some sense though.

Sunday Update: This line has moved to +3 in some places Sunday morning. That’s worth a small bet if you can get it. The Titans are more talented than they’ve played lately and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on their roster.

Tennessee Titans 19 San Francisco 49ers 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3

Confidence: Medium

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