You can find a prop on the lowest-scoring team in the NFL for the coming season at various sportsbooks. The favorites are the Cleveland Browns (+600), Los Angeles Rams (+650), Tennessee Titans (+800) and San Francisco 49ers (+1000). I'll be putting my money on the Niners.
The Browns at least have Robert Griffin III, who was good once, and a returning Josh Gordon at receiver (after a four-game suspension to start the year). The Rams have the No. 1 overall pick in QB Jared Goff and a superstar-to-be running back in Todd Gurley. The Titans have second-year QB Marcus Mariota, who was excellent as a rookie, and two pretty good running backs in DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry.
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The 49ers? Ugh. It now seems pretty obvious that Blaine Gabbert is going to win the starting QB job over Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert finished last season as the starter under former coach Jim Tomsula and played fairly well a few times. Kaepernick missed the last chunk of the season due to various injuries, had offseason surgery and thus missed all the OTAs under new coach Chip Kelly to fall behind. Kaepernick couldn't even suit up for the team's first preseason game because he's nursing a sore shoulder. Barring Gabbert getting hurt, he'll be in there Week 1. But that offense is going to be putrid. You have Carlos Hyde at running back and a top three receivers of Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington. Plus, remember, the Niners have six games combined against the very good defenses in Seattle, Arizona and Los Angeles.
San Francisco was mysteriously quiet in free agency despite having a ton of cap room. I think the team knows what's coming in 2016 and figured to bite the bullet and spend another day. The two notable free-agent additions were guard Zane Beatles, who should start, and QB Thad Lewis, who was battling for third string but is now out for the season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in Sunday's preseason opener against the Houston Texans. Now sixth-round rookie Jeff Driskel should win the No. 3 job. He was terrible in college at Florida.
Also in the draft, the Niners took Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner with their first of two first-round picks and Stanford guard Joshua Garnett with the other. Buckner has a chance to be really good (I could see him in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race). But I'm willing to bet this team finishes with a bad enough record for no worse than a Top 3 pick next year and lands a QB.
The Niners were 4-4 at home last season, 5-3 against the spread and 1-7 "over/under." They host three 2015 playoff teams this season. I suppose four wins is possible but more likely three. San Francisco has a wins total of 5, with the over a -125 favorite. I couldn't love the under more as I project 4-12 at best. Overall, San Francisco's strength of schedule is ranked as tied for the hardest in the NFL (Atlanta) with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .555. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 12 vs. Rams (+2, 45): This is the final game of Week 1 as it's the "Monday Night Football" nightcap. The 49ers ended the Rams' tenure as a St. Louis team in Week 17 last year with a 19-16 home overtime victory that also ended the Tomsula one-year experiment. Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal 11:33 into overtime for his fourth of the game. Gabbert threw for 354 yards and a touchdown. Key trend: 49ers 5-4 ATS in series as home dog.
Oct. 2 vs. Cowboys (+3): I'm not sure if the 49ers will beat the Rams in Week 1, but I know they will be coming off losses in Week 2 in Carolina and Week 3 in Seattle into this one. Dallas comes off a Sunday night home game vs. Chicago. San Francisco won the last meeting 28-17 in Week 1 of 2014 back when Kaepernick was still good. Key trend: 49ers have covered just one of past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
Oct. 6 vs. Cardinals (+7): Thursday night game. Arizona is off a home game vs. the Rams. The 49ers nearly upset the visiting Cardinals in Week 12 but lost 19-13. Arizona was clearly looking past San Francisco as it took a late TD to win. Gabbert threw for 318 yards, a TD and a pick. If not for two turnovers, the 49ers probably would have won. Key trend: 49ers are 2-2 ATS as a home dog in series.
Oct. 23 vs. Buccaneers (+3): San Francisco off a trip to Buffalo in Week 7 and ahead of its bye week. Tampa comes off its bye. This will be the Niners' first look at Jameis Winston. They won the last meeting with the Bucs 33-14 in Tampa in 2013. Key trend: 49ers have covered five of past six before a bye (any location).
Nov. 6 vs. Saints (+1): Niners off their bye. New Orleans is off a home game vs. Seattle in Week 8. San Francisco has won three of the past four meetings, last 27-24 in the Big Easy in November 2014. Key trend: 49ers are 0-4 ATS in their past four after a bye (any location).
Nov. 20 vs. Patriots (+9): San Francisco is in Arizona the previous Sunday. After this, four of the final six are on the road. The drive for the No. 1 overall pick really begins here! New England in a possible trap game off a home matchup vs. Seattle and ahead of a trip to the Jets. This one will matter to Tom Brady, however, against the team he grew up rooting for living in the Bay Area. He has never played a regular-season game at the 49ers. As an aside, the Niners drafted Giovanni Carmazzi ahead of him in 2000. Never thought I would type the name Giovanni Carmazzi again in my life. Key trend: 49ers 4-4 ATS as a home dog of at least 9 points.
Dec. 11 vs. Jets (+3): Niners off a trip to Chicago in Week 13. New York is on a short week, hosting the Colts on Monday in Week 13. In fact, this will be the only game in a stretch of four straight that the Jets aren't scheduled to play in prime time. I'm pretty sure this one won't be flexed to Sunday night. There was talk Kaepernick wanted a trade to the Jets this offseason. Key trend: 49ers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC East.
Jan. 1 vs. Seahawks (TBA): As usual, no Week 17 lines out early. San Francisco is in L.A. the week before. The Niners could actually win this game if Seattle has already clinched its playoff seeding, which is quite possible. The Hawks are off a Week 16 home game vs. Arizona. Seattle won in Santa Clara 20-3 on a Thursday in Week 7 last year. The 49ers had 142 total yards and eight first downs. Kaepernick dropped to 1-6 in seven starts against the Seahawks. Key trend: 49ers 2-3 ATS as home dog in series as I'm sure they will be.
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