Sunday Night Football Preview: Who Will Prevail in This Matchup of NFC Elite?
The public is heavily backing the Packers on the spread at +3.0, with 66% of the bets on Green Bay's side. However, with only 51% of the money siding with the Packers on the spread, there would appear to be some big money coming in on the 49ers. The moneyline is even more drastically weighted toward the Packers, with 89% of the bets and 86% of the money taking Green Bay +148 to win outright. With an over/under of 47.5, 53% of the bets are taking the under while 61% of the money is on the over, implying that the biggest bets are taking the over.
It's an interesting mix of betting trends, and with some game-time decisions on injured 49ers offensive players yet to be determined, there could be some further movement as we approach kickoff.
Let's if we can find some betting angles as we look to our projections.
Passing Game Preview
Green Bay enters Week 12 with an extremely balanced offense, ranking seventh in the league with 0.22 Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdowns on the season with only 2 interceptions, and while he may not be playing at his MVP level of years past, pairing him with a dangerous rushing attack makes this one of the league's most efficient offenses.
It's worth noting that Rodgers has been much better at home this year, where he has produced 0.29 Passing NEP per drop back over six games. On the road, Rodgers has been mortal, going for 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back through four games. Still, those four road contests are accompanied by a 5-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, as Rodgers has protected the football even when struggling. Rodgers may not put up huge yardage totals this week in San Francisco, but he's not likely to commit costly turnovers, either.
With Davante Adams back from injury and fully healthy, Rodgers finally has his favorite target back and in a rhythm. Last week against the Carolina Panthers' fifth-ranked passing defense, Adams caught seven of 10 targets for 118 yards and 1.03 Reception NEP per target. Adams is due for some positive touchdown regression with no touchdowns on 57 targets this year, and there's no shortage of touchdowns available as the number-one option on the league's best offense.
Recently, Allen Lazard seems to have passed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison as Rodgers' second favorite wide receiver, as Lazard has out-targeted them both each of the last three weeks. His Reception NEP per target of 0.85 is actually slightly better than Adams' mark of 0.81, so the numbers back up his increased usage. The Packers will also frequently throw to the running backs and tight ends, with running back Jamaal Williams the best of the bunch in the passing game with an 86% catch rate and a 69% Target Success Rate.
Defensively, this San Francisco pass defense is as good as it gets, ranking second-best in the league while allowing -0.24 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back, merely -0.01 behind the top-ranked New England Patriots' defense. The league's third-best passing defense is the Pittsburgh Steelers at -0.01 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back, a staggering -0.23 points behind the 49ers. Defensive lineman Dee Ford will miss Week 12, which may allow the Packers to focus more on stopping Joey Bosa coming off the edge. But otherwise, this is a healthy unit that will make life difficult for Rodgers.
For the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo leads the 12th-ranked passing offense, producing 0.13 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back this season. The fate of this unit may come down to the health of Garoppolo's pass-catchers, as the receiving corps is riddled with injuries heading into Sunday night. Tight end George Kittle has been the star of the passing game this season with 0.85 Reception NEP per target and a 65% Target Success Rate, and Kittle is expected to give it a go tonight.
Both Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel are listed as questionable but expected to play. Sanders, however, has been on and off the field in recent weeks, so it remains to be seen how healthy he will be in this one. Kendrick Bourne has produced well when called upon, but having Sanders at close to 100% health would be a big boost to the passing game.
Green Bay's defensive strength is in the passing game, ranking ninth in the league with 0.04 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. The Packers are somewhat riding their torrid first three games of the season, where they held Mitchell Trubisky, Kirk Cousins, and Joe Flacco to Passing NEP per drop back rates between -0.24 and -0.43. Regardless, this is clearly the strength of the D, and with an exploitable Packers' run defense, the 49ers may look to establish the ground game first.
Rushing Game Preview
The Packers sit ninth in the league with 0.06 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry in 2019, and they will no doubt focus on the run game on Sunday night. Aaron Jones ranks fourth in the league among running backs with 50 carries or more with 0.12 Rushing NEP per carry and is first among that same group with a 51% Rushing Success Rate. Add in his 35 receptions in the passing game, and Jones has been a dynamic threat in one of the league's top offenses.
Jamaal Williams is most impressive in the passing game, as mentioned above, but is no slouch on the ground, either. While Williams' 0.02 Rushing NEP per carry is well behind Jones' mark of 0.12, though Williams' 44.6% Rushing Success Rate does rank ninth among all running backs with 50 or more carries, giving Green Bay a two-headed backfield that is versatile both on the ground and through the air. With a relatively healthy offensive line, the Packers will almost certainly feature their talented running backs against San Francisco.
The 49ers' run defense is the "weakness" of their defense, ranking 13th overall allowing -0.03 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry. Most of the damage against San Francisco came in Weeks 8 and 9, when Christian McCaffrey and Kenyan Drake both went over 100 yards rushing on 15 or fewer carries. Even though this unit is solid, this will likely be the area that the Packers look to attack. This may not end up being a monster yardage day for the Packers' running backs, but both Jones and Williams will likely see plenty of volume in Week 12.
San Francisco has a surprisingly below-average rushing attack this year, ranking 21st in the league with -0.02 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry. Matt Breida is likely to be sidelined with injury again this week, meaning that Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are set to split carries, with Jeff Wilson occasionally mixing in around the goalline.
Mostert has produced 0.04 Rushing NEP per carry and a 39% Rushing Success Rate on 67 attempts this year, significantly outperforming Coleman's marks of -0.06 Rushing NEP per carry and a 32% Rushing Success Rate. Despite their performances, Coleman remains the lead back, as he has received more carries than Mostert in nearly every game the two have been on the field together. The 49ers will be without tackle Joe Staley this week, which certainly downgrades the offensive line, but the Packers' run defense is a matchup that San Francisco will probably look to exploit.
The clear weakness of the Green Bay team is their 31st-ranked run defense, which allows 0.10 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry. They have recently been exploited by a variety of running backs, from bruisers like Melvin Gordon and Josh Jacobs, to versatile options like McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. With a stingy pass defense, the Packers are essentially funneling teams toward attacking this weak run defense, a tactic that the 49ers will likely be happy to employ.
With a banged-up group of pass-catchers, expect to see plenty of Coleman and Mostert in this one, as San Francisco looks to get their rushing game back on track. This may be the matchup that decides the game, as a big day on the ground could propel the 49ers to a win at home.
Of the 10 most comparable games to this matchup, the underdog has won outright five times, while going 5-4-1 against the spread. The under has hit 7 times, so our model pegs this as a relatively close, low-scoring game.
Game Projections and Props
Our algorithm gives the 49ers a 70% chance to win this game outright, so at -170, we see betting San Francisco straight up as a decent bet, with a 10.5% return on investment. We also favor a bet on the 49ers covering three points, projecting a 7.4% return on investment. Neither side of the over/under looks like a good play, though we do favor the under ever so slightly.
On FanDuel Sportsbook, I'd be tempted to put a bet down on positive regression for Davante Adams, and +165 to score a touchdown looks like good enough odds for me to pull the trigger. Jamaal Williams at +280 to score also looks like a good bet, as he can find the end zone on the ground as well as through the air, and those odds feel awfully high for a player with six touchdowns through nine games. It's hard to feel too great about any of the 49ers' individual options, as they rotate often at running back and have so many injuries in the passing game. I would focus on the moneyline or spread if you want some action on San Francisco.