Denver is not off to the best start this season.
Against Seattle in their opener, coach Nathaniel Hackett’s poor clock management made Urban Meyer’s NFL coaching seem competent. Denver followed this loss with a win over lowly Houston, but only by a touchdown.
In addition, QB Russell Wilson has not been stellar. Denver’s pass offense has a success rate of 39.7% compared to an NFL average of 42.6% this season. Wilson’s PFF grade from a clean pocket of 72.4 is 16th among NFL starters.
San Francisco might have lost QB Trey Lance, but their Super Bowl odds increased slightly with the return to veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.
However, I think Denver has to rate at least as well as San Francisco at this point. This is mostly based on the pass offense.
Russell Wilson dominated the off-season headlines with his trade to Denver for a reason. To complement his talents, he has the services of two talented young receivers:
- WR Courtland Sutton, who had an excellent 2.08 yards per route run in 2019 (1.52 NFL average) despite getting the ball from Joe Flacco and Drew Lock.
- WR Jerry Jeudy, who had a promising 1.67 yards per route run as a rookie in 2020. He’s dealing with a rib injury this week.
In contrast, San Francisco drafted Trey Lance with the 3rd overall pick and started him this season because of the ceiling for Garoppolo. While the veteran might give the Niners a better chance to win now, I think the bump should be small.
San Francisco should have the edge on defense. They added steady CB Charvarius Ward from Kansas City this off-season. This is certainly an upgrade from the charred remains of Josh Norman they put on the field last season due to injury.
Denver also has a solid defense, but second year CB Patrick Surtain II has not practiced this week due to injury. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb has six pressures through two games, and he might return to his former production after an injury plagued 2021.
However, it’s difficult to predict defense. I’m more comfortable leaning on my expectations of pass offense at this point in the season.
My numbers like Denver by 2.1 points. This prediction essentially says these two teams are equal, and Denver’s advantage comes from playing at home against a non-division opponent.
However, the markets have San Francisco -1.5 as of Thursday. Perhaps Wilson isn’t the same player, or that Garoppolo should be at least a 3 point adjustment over Lance. I don’t buy either argument, and I find value in Denver +1.5 at home.
Football betting with a PhD edge
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