New England Patriots (7-2 SU, 7-2 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-8 SU, 2-7 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date/Time: Sunday November 20th at 4:25 PM EST
Where: Leviís Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:NE -13 / SF +13
The New England Patriots travel across the country to take on the 49ers for a Sunday afternoon NFL slugfest in San Francisco. The two teams are near exact opposites in the standings, with the Patriots holding the second best record in the NFL at 7-2 and the 49ers the second worst mark in the league at 1-8. They are also contrary when it comes to their record against the spread, with the New England second only to Dallas going 7-2 versus the number and San Fran tied with Chicago and Cleveland for the worst in the league at 2-7 against the spread.
While the Patriots still remain at the top of the AFC and have already pretty much solidified another AFC East divisional crown, last weekís 31-24 loss at home to Seattle still raised some eyebrows to those who had already anointed them Super Bowl champs despite it being early November. The defense had little success maintaining any sort of pressure of Russell Wilson playing in their first game since the unexpected trade of linebacker Jamie Collins, and despite the additional time of game planning coming off of their bye week and getting a Seahawks team that was traveling 3,000 miles off a short week after having played a tough Monday nighter the week before, the Patriots looked flat for a majority of the game and ended up with their second home loss in their past three at Foxboro.
A blemish to their record was far from the only negative for the Patriots, as star tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured during the game after taking a crushing hit from Earl Thomas in the second half and appears doubtful to play on Sunday. The depth of the injury still remains a mystery, with some reporting it to be a punctured lung and others going with the lesser version of a chest injury. No matter how it is clarified, losing Gronkowski for any period of time is a definite detriment to the team, but as the offense was able to prove early this season when they were missing both Gronk and Brady, they certainly have the ability to succeed in his absence.
Second string tight end Martellus Bennett exceled early on when Gronkowski was on the shelf, and despite being limited in practice on Wednesday is still expected to suit up on Sunday. The return of running back from Dion Lewis, who has yet to play all season due to an injury sustained last season, still remains less than a guarantee this weekend against San Francisco. He was active last week but a ďhealthyĒ scratch due to a buildup process that head coach Bill Belichick talked about in regards to coming back after such a long absence from actual game play. The return of Lewis would add another highly productive weapon to the Patriotsí backfield, with James White already ranking in the top eight amongst NFL running backs in receptions with 33, and LeGarrette Blount leading the NFL in scoring for non-kickers with twelve touchdowns on the season thus far. Blount has been a beast getting into the endzone over the last five games with eight touchdowns over that timespan, but hasnít been as prolific in terms of yards gained, rushing for under 70 yards in five of the Patriots last six games including a 2.9 yards per carry over the last two. Considering though just how porous the 49ers defense has been this season, it will be a surprise if Blountís yardage decrease continues on Sunday.
San Francisco currently ranks dead last in the NFL in total defense, rushing yards allowed and points allowed per game, and while they do rank 19th against the pass, it would likely be a lot worse if teams hadnít been blowing them out for most of the season and are in turn usually running the ball to chew the clock down by the second half. Before last weekís 23-20 loss to Arizona, the 49ers had lost seven straight games by an average of over 17 points per game and had let up at least 30 points six different times. The 23 points allowed to Arizona last week was the least they have allowed in a game since their only win of the season in week one, and unfortunately for San Francisco fans it gets even worse, as the rest of the team from isnít much better.
Head coach Chip Kelly continues to struggle acclimating to a team not a built around a system mainly designed for success on the college level, and also remains ignorant to the important NFL concept that is time of possession, as his offense ranks last in the league in that category, while his old team the Philadelphia Eagles ranks 1st as they went out of their way to get rid of any semblance of Kelly to their offensive gameplan after he left. The 49ers offense has a whole comes in at 29th in yards per game, 30th in passing yards and 22nd in scoring, and while Kelly deserves some of the blame for their lack of success, another glaring reason is the play of their quarterback Colin Kapernick.
The 49ers signal caller has struggled all season, and this has nothing to do with his recent protest against credibility and common sense when he decided not to vote. 2016 is far from an isolated timeframe, as going back to 2014 Kapernick has gone just 3-12 in his last fifteen games as starter, completed less than 59% of his passes and despite the scouting report of his ability to make plays outside of the pocket, has just three rushing touchdowns since 2013. He currently ranks 26th in quarterback rating amongst NFL starters and has completed only 53% of his passes this season, and bay area fans must be left wondering what could have been if the team hadnít invested so much time and money into a quarterback whose performance declined with easy passing year as the 49ers continuously ignored the position through the draft over the past and remained committed to Kapernick, and watched as quarterbacks well within their draft range (i.e. David Carr, Teddy Bridgewater or even Jimmy Garoppolo) found success for other teams around the league.
The Patriots loss to the Seahawks and subsequent news of Gronkowskiís injury has kept the point spread for this weekís game at just under two touchdowns, which is always a worrisome amount of points to give in a NFL game. This is not a week I would worry about that though, as New England coming off of a loss has been wise investment throughout the Belichick/Brady era, and combine that with a matchup against a bottom of the NFL barrel 49ers team with holes throughout, Iím giving the 13 points and taking the Patriots to win big and cover on the road in San Francisco.
Mike Mís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -13
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