Denver @ San Francisco
Vegas: SF +4
DomModel: SF +15.047
Recommendation: DEN -4
-WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) was injured in practice on 12/5. He is on IR.
-TE Jeff Heuerman (broken ribs/bruised lung) was injured week 12 and is on IR.
-LG Ron Leary (torn Achilles) is out for the season after a week 6 injury.
-LG Max Garcia (knee) was placed on IR on 11/21.
-C Matt Paradis (leg) was injured week 9. He is on IR.
-DT Derek Wolfe (ribs) was injured week 13 and did not return. He did not practice on Wednesday.
-LB Brandon Marshall (knee) was INACTIVE weeks 9 – 13. He was limited in practice on Wednesday.
-LB Shaquil Barrett (hip) was INACTIVE week 13. He did not practice on Wednesday.
-CB Tramaine Brock (rib) was injured week 12. He was INACTIVE week 13. He did not practice on Wednesday.
-CB Chris Harris (leg) was injured week 13. The hope for the Broncos is he’ll be back for the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers:
-QB Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL. He’s out for the season.
-WR Pierre Garcon (knee) was INACTIVE weeks 10 – 13. He was limited in practice on Wednesday.
-WR Marquise Goodwin (personal) was INACTIVE weeks 12 and 13. He practiced in full on Wednesday, and should return week 14.
-RB Matt Breida (ankle) is OUT for week 14.
-LB Rueben Foster (jail) has been released by the 49ers.
-FS/CB Jimmie Ward (broken forearm) was injured week 12. He is on IR.
-FS Adrian Colbert (high ankle sprain) was injured week 7 and is on IR (effective 10/22).
When Denver has the ball:
The big news around the Broncos is star WR Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles in practice on Wednesday and is done for the year. This is obviously a massive loss for the Broncos, and the model isn’t factoring in the injury. The model was actually run Tuesday night — ahead of the Sanders injury — and it picked the Broncos as the best bet of the week at -5.5. Since the injury, the line has dropped to 4. Effectively, Vegas is saying Sanders is worth 1.5 points – which I think makes sense. If the model likes a Broncos team with Sanders at 5.5, then I must conclude that the Broncos without Sanders at 4 is the correct bet.
The Broncos offense is dramatically better running the ball (2nd in DVOA) than passing the ball (20th). The issues with the pass offense stem from below average play from QB Case Keenum, who is completing 62.3% of his passes for 2,953 yards, 14 TDs, and 10 picks this season. Keenum’s favorite target has easily been Sanders — especially after the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas after week 8. The Sanders injury will make rookie WR Courtland Sutton the focal point of the offense. Sutton was already playing virtually every snap, but he’s been inconsistent at times. Keenum’s next most targeted receivers are running backs Devontae Booker and Phillip Lindsay. The only other two receivers on the team who have caught balls this year are DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick — and they have a combined 9 receptions. Someone will need to step up.
The success of the running game has been a fun story for the Broncos. Rookie UDFA Phillip Lindsay will hit 1,000 yards either this game or next (assuming health). He’s averaging an absurd 6.1 yards per carry on 154 attempts and has 8 touchdowns. He’s been nothing short of fantastic, and it’s even more impressive when you consider Lindsay runs behind an offensive line that has been inconsistent and riddled with injuries.
Fellow rookie Royce Freeman will likely see about 40% of the touches in this game, but he hasn’t been nearly as good of a runner.
San Francisco’s defense:
Town: Fuck Show City. Population: the 49ers. And their defense is prominently featured.
They don’t do anything well at all. They’re 26th in DVOA, with splits of 26 vs the pass and 16 vs the run. If you’re watching the game and want something to watch on the defensive side – DE DeForest Buckner is now over 40 pressure and 10 sacks on the year. Similarly, DE Arik Armstead has had some success against rushing the passer and against the run. CB Richard Sherman still has some play in him, but he’s giving up a 102 QB rating when targeted.
Everyone else sucks.
TL;DR Conclusion: Even without Sanders, any offense with the 2018 NFL rules should have success against the 49ers “defense.”
When San Francisco has the ball:
The 49ers will keep rolling with Nick Mullens at QB, because they have literally no other options. Mullens is entering his 5th game, and actually played well against his first true test last week against the Seahawks. His previous three games were all cupcakes (OAK -> NYG -> TB). Mullens is playing in some crucial games where he hopes to turn his career into a journeyman backup who makes millions to hold a clipboard. His numbers so far aren’t that great, he’s completing 64.5% of his passes (which isn’t too bad), but has more picks (5) than games played (4). PFF is giving him an offensive grade of 59.9. That is bad.
Mullens could potentially get a boost at receiver with Marquise Goodwin due back, and Pierre Garcon has a chance to return as well. In the last few games they’ve been primary relying on guys like Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne. The 49ers do feature a phenomenal pass catching tight end – George Kittles.
On the ground, it’s been mostly Matt Brieda, but he should miss this one. This means the 49ers will turn to Jeff Wilson Jr., a rookie UDFA, and Alfred Morris, the 7 year vet.
Denver has one of the better defenses in football. On the pass rush, Von Miller has teamed up with 2018 4th overall selection Bradley Chubb to form an incredible duo. Both players have 45 pressures and double digit sacks on the seasons (Mille 14, Chubb 11).
They also typically have plenty of depth to help out against the run, but are a bit banged up. Derek Wolfe is a starter at tackle, but he was injured last week and isn’t practicing this week. As was LB Shaquil Barrett, and LB Brandon Marshall hasn’t played since week 8. I’m not too afraid, however, since the Broncos have plenty of guys behind them — Todd Davis, Domata Peko Sr., Adam Gotsis, and Shelby Harris have all played well when given the opportunity.
In the backfield, the Broncos will be without their star corner Chris Harris, who was injured last week. Harris primarily plays the slot, and the Broncos were already without Tramaine Brock. Assuming Brock can’t go – it becomes a pretty weak unit consisting of Bradley Roby (regular starter that’s had a poor season), third year depth piece Justin Simmons, and rookie Isaac Yiadom.
TL:DR Conclusion: Despite a slew of injuries to the Broncos, I don’t expect them having any issues with the 49ers.
That’s it for now, bitches.