Los Angeles Rams (6-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-5)
Last week, the 49ers played on Monday Night Football in Green Bay. I picked the Packers for a high confidence pick as 9.5 point home favorites, as they were going into a bye and seemed like the significantly better team. However, the 49ers surprised a lot of people and made it a game, losing by just 3 points, 33-30, in a game in which 49ers backup quarterback CJ Beathard matched Aaron Rodgers point for point until the very end, when Rodgers pulled off a game winning drive.
Many, including myself, completely wrote the 49ers off when they lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season, but, while they’re not going to contend for anything at 1-5 with a backup quarterback, their offense has actually played pretty well since turning to Beathard, as they’ve had a first down rate of at least 38% in all 3 of Beathard’s starts and still rank 9th in the NFL on the season in first down rate at 40.26% even without Garoppolo. Their defense hasn’t been great, ranking 24th in first down rate allowed at 37.94%, but they still rank 10th in first down rate differential at +2.32%.
Their record won’t show they’ve played well, but none of their losses have come by more than 11 points, so they aren’t getting blown out, and they’ve played both the Chargers and Packers within a field goal on the road with Beathard under center. That’s all despite the fact that they are dead last with a -11 turnover margin on the season. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week and basis, as teams, on average, tend to have a turnover margin of about +0.0 per game, regardless of what their turnover margin was in the previous game.
Even if the 49ers don’t play turnover neutral football the rest of the way, they’re highly unlikely to continue losing the turnover margin by close to 2 turnovers per game. At their current rate, they are on pace for a turnover margin of -29 on the season, which would be the worst turnover margin in recent memory, even worse than the -28 mark the winless Browns finished with last season (the 2000 Chargers also had a -28 turnover margin in a 1-15 season). Beathard has had issues with turnovers, but he’s also shown a lot of arm talent, completing 64.0% of his passes for an average of 7.83 YPA.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Beathard has played well. After all, he was a 3rd round pick last year, hand selected by new head coach Kyle Shanahan, who saw him as the potential future of this franchise before the opportunity to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo presented itself. Beathard is a great fit in Shanahan’s scheme and his supporting cast is also playing at a high level, thanks in large part to Shanahan’s coaching.
Unfortunately, it seems I’m not the only one who has been impressed by Beathard so far, as this line shifted from Rams -12.5 on the early line last week to -9.5 this week, undoubtedly as a result of the 49ers’ near win in Green Bay on national television. At +12.5, the 49ers would have been a no brainer, but we’ve lost a lot of line value at +9.5, as I have this line calculated at 7.5. The 49ers have a good chance to keep this one relatively close at home, especially since the Rams’ defense has not been as good since losing cornerback Aqib Talib to injury a few weeks ago, but I’d need at least 10 points to bet money on the 49ers. If this line moves back up closer to gametime, I will reconsider.
Los Angeles Rams 31 San Francisco 49ers 24
Pick against the spread: San Francisco +9.5