Green Bay Packers (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: October 4/4:25pm ET
Where: Levis Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -8.5/SF +8.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
Sometimes it takes a lot of games for teams to show NFL fans just what kind of year it is going to be. Sometimes, it takes just a few. Green Bay makes the trip out to San Francisco this weekend and each team has revealed quite a bit about how things are going to go from here on out. The Packers are in the conversation for best team in the NFC while San Fran has the look of one of the worst. Maybe the 49ers need a little more time to get things going under a new coaching staff and this wont be a lost year but hosting the Pack this Sunday is looking to be a very tough test.
The online betting sites propped up Green Bay as early 9.5 point favorites to open but you will likely see a lot of 8.5 point lines by now with the over/under at 48 and a half. San Francisco has been brutal against quality opponents, posting zero ATS wins in their last six against teams above .500 and they are just 1-7-1 against the spread in their last nine overall. Green Bay has handled the NFC well with five ATS wins in their last six in conference but have been on the short end of the ATS stick in each of their last four Sunday games following a Monday Night Football appearance.
The Packers breezed past Kansas City last Monday by a 38-28 score in a game that wasnt as close as the score indicates. The Pack dominated the first half and led 31-7 before the Chiefs started moving the ball and putting up points against a softening defense. Aaron Rodgers threw for five touchdowns and is almost inarguably the best QB in football right now. Green Bay also dispatched Chicago and Seattle on the way to 3-0 and already has home field advantage on their mind provided they can take care of business along the way. One possible foe that could trip up the Packers is injury. Already without Jordy Nelson for the year, Green Bay is missing TE Andrew Quarless and will likely be without WR Davante Adams for Sunday. That puts a lot of pressure on young and inexperienced skill players but Rodgers has been able to get by so far using Randall Cobb and re-tread James Jones. Eddie Lacy is banged up (ankle) but hasnt missed time and the defense could be missing Morgan Burnett and Datone Jones. Good teams overcome injuries but sometimes, too much is just too much.
The Niners are pretty clean on the injury front but have massively underperformed after winning the opener against Minnesota. San Fran has been outscored 90-25 in two road losses at Pittsburgh and Arizona since, getting down big in each game and never mounting much of a challenge. Most troubling has been several defensive lapses from what was supposed to be a solid unit despite off-season departures. After bottling up Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, the 49ers have been taken to town through the air and on the ground. They enter the week 25th or worse in passing yards allowed, total yards allowed and scoring defense, allowing 31 points per game. The passing defense breakdowns are especially troubling given the QB they are hosting this week but having Navorro Bowman back to lead this defense does give them a playmaking presence that can alter a game. The Niners do have four interceptions and eight sacks so far and they will need a few shock plays on defense if they hope to stifle the Packers offense.
Much has been made of the regression of Colin Kaepernick. The Niners have routinely had to simplify the playbook for the struggling passer and it hasnt seemed to help much as Kaepernick has thrown four picks already, including two pick-sixes in the early going last week. It seems Kaepernick is more runner than thrower at this point but that might be a positive against Green Bay as the Packers have struggled with mobile quarterbacks under Dom Capers. Most teams try to play keepaway from the Packers at some point and Kaps legs should figure prominently into that plan. Carlos Hyde should also factor in there as he should be able to find some running room against Green Bays 27th ranked run defense. If the 49ers can stay close, they wont have to abandon the run and can tire out a defense that has playmakers but tends to fade during long drives.
Can San Francisco slow Rodgers? That is likely the key question for any team facing the Pack and the answer mostly comes in getting pressure on Rodgers. The Packer QB is hard to square up and hit due to his superb footwork but he doesnt like to give up plays and will put the ball up to give his receivers a chance. A bit of pressure can lead to incomplete passes and some good coverage on the back end can turn the ball over. The Niners will need that kind of overall defensive effort to rattle Rodgers but that is what it takes. Even a few punts in the early going can get the Niners into a flowing using their second ranked run game and just about every game that Green Bay has struggled in featured an uneven Rodgers spending a lot of time on the sideline.
Bottom line is I dont see many picking San Fran to pull this upset but there are plenty, including media in Green Bay, that are nervous about this spread. Sunday after a Monday Night game, long trip, wounded opponent, road game and injuries are the reasons given why some think the Packers will not be the well-oiled machine that they were last week. Road games at Miami, Buffalo and Tampa Bay last year are cases-in-point that Green Bay isnt a juggernaut as a visitor like they are in Lambeau. The Niners need to play way, way better than they have in the last two weeks but the roadmap is there and they have the pieces to cover this week. Run Carlos Hyde, use Anquan Boldin over the middle and let Kaepernick use his feet to hurt a heavy-pursuit defense. It all does sound so easy on paper, doesnt it? I think Green Bay will be trying to get out healthy and while Rodgers, Lacy, Cobb and Jones are enough to win here, look for the Niners to pull a modest ATS upset as they sneak within the 8.5 points. Green Bay 29, San Francisco 23
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: SAN FRANCISCO
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