Sunday Night Football Betting Preview: Will the 49ers Roll Over the Struggling Eagles?
This week's Sunday Night Football contest is a matchup of the walking wounded, as the Philadelphia Eagles travel west to face the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers seem to be getting healthier, while the injuries continue to mount for Philadelphia.
San Francisco finds themselves favored by 7.0 points on FanDuel Sportsbook, a remarkably high line for a team with a backup quarterback under center. Bettors don't appear to be fazed, as there is an even 50/50 split on the amount of spread bets on each side, while the 49ers are drawing in 55% of the money bet on the spread. Those looking to bet the Eagles are attacking the moneyline, with 69% of the bets and 60% of the money taking Philadelphia +260. That -320 for a 49ers win is just too slim to attract many bettors, it appears. With an over/under of 45 total points, we are seeing 81% of the bets take the over, but the bigger money seems to be settling on the under, as only 51% of the money is on the over.
The 49ers sure appear to be the superior team, while the Eagles certainly need this game more. How do our projections see this game, and how should you bet it? Let's find out.
Passing Game Preview
The Eagles' passing game will be very reliant on just a few options this week, as DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Dallas Goedert, and Alshon Jeffery are all out, while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is doubtful. Offensive tackle Jason Peters is out, as well, so this is a mess offensively for Philadelphia.
Even with some of those offensive weapons on the field, this has been the league's second-worst passing offense by our numbers, registering an ugly -0.22 Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. Carson Wentz has looked rattled at times in 2020, throwing some bad interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals last week in a disappointing tie. Wentz has thrown two interceptions in each game this year, and his 59.8% completion percentage and three touchdowns aren't enough to offset the mistakes. Wentz did start to use his legs more late last week, rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries, but that isn't going to carry this offense.
Much of the receiving load will likely fall on the shoulders of Zach Ertz, whose performance has been a concern through three weeks. Of all tight ends with 10 or more targets on the season, Ertz ranks 27 out of 29 with 0.41 Reception NEP per target. He is converting just 15 of 24 targets into receptions isn't going to get it done, so Wentz and Ertz need to get on the same page immediately.
The Eagles' best healthy pass catcher has been Greg Ward, who has generated 0.58 Reception NEP per target on 19 targets. Look for him to be heavily involved after an eight-catch game versus Cincinnati, as behind him are unproven players like John Hightower and whoever Philly chooses to elevate from their practice squad.
Somehow the 49ers' defense hasn't missed a beat despite the losses of Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman among others. They rank second in the league so far, allowing -0.09 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back, and while they have beat up on some subpar competition, the Eagles' passing game certainly qualifies as subpar through three weeks.
San Francisco is beat up all across their defense, with Dee Ford being added to the IR this week and the secondary dealing with a rash of injuries, so eventually this will catch up with them. But they should be able to clamp down a Philly passing game that is just as banged up as they are.
San Francisco ranks as the seventh in the passing game in 2020 with 0.31 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back, a testament to Kyle Shanahan's coaching play-calling. Nick Mullens has matched Jimmy Garoppolo through more than a game of action, and Garoppolo is expected to miss another week at least with a high-ankle sprain. Mullens has completed 70% of his passes and is capable of running this offense while filling in.
The 49ers will be without Jordan Reed in the passing game, but they get back star tight end George Kittle and promising sophomore Deebo Samuel, a big boon for this offense. We will have to see what we get out of Samuel in his first game back of the season, but Kittle should step back into his old role and dominate.
In their absences, Kendrick Bourne has been San Fran's most efficient receiver, giving them 0.98 Reception NEP per target. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk has also flashed playmaking ability, including last week, when he had 70 yards receiving to go along with 31 yards rushing and a touchdown. Expect both to take on more of a complimentary role going forward, but San Francisco suddenly has some depth in their receiving corps if everyone can remain healthy.
The Eagles' pass defense has been a disappointment along with the rest of the team, ranking 27th while allowing 0.27 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back in 2020. Cornerback Avonte Maddox will miss this week as the starter opposite Darius Slay, meaning that either Nickell Robey or Cre'von LeBlanc will get the start. This defense has been able to get after the quarterback so far, but they have yet to intercept a pass. With the offense struggling, this team really needs to generate some turnovers to help spark the offense.
Rushing Game Preview
The Eagles' rushing offense has been their lone bright spot, ranking seventh in the league with 0.15 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry in 2020. Those numbers are a bit skewed by Wentz's rushing, however, as his 0.76 Rushing NEP per carry on 12 attempts leads the team on the ground.
Miles Sanders will be relied on heavily with all of the injuries, and he has produced 0.12 Rushing NEP per attempt on 38 carries thus far. Sanders also has 15 targets this year, and all of these numbers have been racked up in just two weeks as Sanders was held out Week 1 as he recovered from an injury. Any volume prop bets on Sanders look to be intriguing this week.
The 49ers' rush defense is the ninth-best in the league, allowing -0.01 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry so far, so pick your poison with this defense. The Eagles will certainly test the 49ers' run D early, and they may well have more success than the New York Giants and New York Jets did the last two weeks. But even against the Arizona Cardinals, the best offense the 49ers have faced, San Fran held the running backs fewer than 100 yards on the ground, but it was Kyler Murray's 91 yards on 13 attempts that did the real damage.
The 49ers continue to be without Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman this week, meaning that Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, and JaMycal Hasty will be in the mix for touches. San Francisco's rushing attack has taken a step back as a result, ranking 18th in the league while recording just 0.05 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry.
McKinnon has been their most efficient rusher with 0.40 Rushing NEP per carry on 20 attempts, but with his injury history, the 49ers likely want to limit his usage when possible. Wilson has been used to spell McKinnon, but his -0.29 Rushing NEP per carry has been underwhelming, and it will be interesting to see if undrafted rookie Hasty gets any more run this week. These running backs have been more involved in the passing game this year, however, so they have contributed more than the lackluster rushing numbers would indicate. McKinnon, in particular, has been productive on his six receptions.
Philadelphia's defense has been about league average defending the run through three weeks, ranking 14th while allowing 0.02 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry. After holding the Washington Football Team to 86 yards on 36 carries in Week 1, the Los Angeles Rams gouged them to the tune of 191 yards on 39 carries in Week 2. They did rebound against a weak Bengals' rushing attack last week, holding them to 48 yards on 18 attempts. This doesn't appear to be an easy matchup for the 49ers, and they will likely want to exploit the Eagles' secondary instead.
Of the 10 most comparable games to this matchup, the favorite has won outright seven times, going 5-4-1 against the spread.
The strongest trend is on the point total, however, with an overwhelming 9 of 10 games hitting the under. With the public taking the over but the big money taking the under, this may be the best bet of the game. You'll see later that our projections actually like the over, but this is a strong trend that I would keep in the back of my mind.
Game Projections and Props
Our algorithm gives the 49ers a massive 77.7% chance of winning this matchup, which gives them a very slight 2% return on investment (ROI) at -320 on the moneyline. The spread of 7.0 points probably isn't worth your time, either, as both sides have a negative ROI by our model. The over/under of 45 has a 3.2% ROI on the over, though as I noted in the historical comparison section, there are some trends working against the over. It looks like we are going to need to look at player props -- and maybe some same game parlays -- to get some real bang for our buck.
On FanDuel Sportsbook, Miles Sanders is +140 to score a touchdown, which I like, but let's get a little more of a return on this action. A single-game parlay for Sanders to score a touchdown and hit the over on receiving yards (29.5) gives us +307, which feels much more attractive. Sanders has seen seven or more targets in the passing game each of the past two weeks, and while the results have been lackluster, I expect that to improve if he keeps getting this usage.
I'm hesitant to put too much down on any individual 49ers player, as Kittle and Samuel returning from injury makes this a bit touch and go, especially as we wait to see how many snaps those two will get. If you want to bet the 49es to win but don't like the spread, I would advise a single-game parlay with the 49ers moneyline and the under. That would pay out a much more enticing +156, and it fits a game script where the Eagles' offense continues to struggle while the 49ers grind it out with their running backs for the win.