Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season concludes where last season ended: at Levi’s Stadium outside San Francisco, where Denver beat Carolina in Super Bowl 50. Monday night’s matchup isn’t quite as sexy as the Los Angeles Rams visit the 49ers, who are expected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams. The Rams, who aren’t expected to be great, either, are rare road favorites on NFL lines.
Here’s a Closer Look at the LA Rams at San Francisco Week 1 Betting Pick, Predictions & TV Info
Case Keenum ready for 1st opening-day start #LAvsSF
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 9, 2016
Why Bet on Los Angeles?
The roster has not been significantly upgraded from last season, when the Rams finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.
The Rams made the smart move to not start rookie No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Goff simply isn’t ready yet and the Rams did not try to pretend he was. It would’ve been easy to let him go out there and start taking his beatings and learning his lessons as the NFL makes its big return to Los Angeles. Goff won’t even dress for this game and will be inactive.
Second-year pro Sean Mannion will be the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Case Keenum against the 49ers. Punter Johnny Hekker will be the emergency backup. Teams almost never make three quarterbacks active due to special teams availability, which is the main reason why Goff is sitting. A ho-hum preseason for Goff — 22-of- 49 passing (44.9 completion percentage), two touchdowns and two interceptions — likely didn’t help his chances of ascending the depth chart so early.
“I just want (Goff) to feel and sense and absorb the pressures of week 1,” Coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s going to be a great player. As we’ve said from day one, we’re not rushing him. We don’t have to rush it. I’m really happy with where he is right now.”
Carson Palmer was the last No. 1 overall pick not to suit up for his first possible NFL games. Palmer didn’t play at all in 2003, his rookie season with Cincinnati, but took over the following season and now is preparing to start his 14th NFL season.
The Rams’ offense will be carried by 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley. Gurley last season became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 125 rushing yards in four consecutive games. In Rams history, only three rookie runners have gained at least 1,000 yards: Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis and Gurley. But the most telling number from 2015 was 47. That’s the number of tackles he broke, according to Pro Football Focus. Rams WR Tavon Austin last year became first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 with at least five TDs receiving, four TDs rushing and one punt return for TD in single season.
Led by tackle Aaron Donald, the Rams defense should be very good. Donald tied for NFL lead last year among defensive tackles with 12 sacks.
Why Bet on San Francisco?
The 49ers aren’t going 0-16 and will win at least two games and those probably will be at home. This is one of a handful they actually have a chance in. New coach Chip Kelly has named Blaine Gabbert as his starting QB over Colin Kaepernick — and I’m not going into what Kaepernick might do before the national anthem in this game.
After surprising many with a decent performance in 2015 as Kaepernick’s replacement over the second half of the season, Gabbert appears to be at home in Kelly’s fast-paced spread offense. In brief exhibition outings, Gabbert was 12-of- 22 passing for 146 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 90.3 quarterback rating. He also ran five times for 33 yards.
Kaepernick, rehabbing from offseason surgeries, didn’t fully participate or throw in training sessions during the spring, allowing Gabbert to take most of the first-team reps to learn and execute Kelly’s offense. Kaepernick suffered another setback during training camp, when he wasn’t able to fully throw or participate in practice because of a sore right shoulder that forced him to miss the first two preseason games.
49ers running back Carlos Hyde was a participant in the early portion of practice Wednesday, indicating he’s progressing through the NFL-mandated concussion protocol. Hyde came away with a concussion in the first half of the third preseason game against the Packers and did not practice last week. Kelly said he anticipates Hyde will be available for the season opener.
Led by NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers defense should be pretty good. The 49ers ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed last season and won’t have run-stuffing nose tackle Ian Williams this season. Still, they figure to be improved. Bowman is another year removed from his knee injury, and first-round picks Arik Armstead (2015) and DeForest Buckner (2016) are expected to play prominent roles.
Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro will go back to their routine at Oregon, which was to rotate heavily on the defensive line to the point at which even backups can get 25-30 snaps. The 49ers have 47 wins on Monday Night Football, the most in the NFL.
My Betting Pick
The Rams have on just one of their past eight trips to San Francisco but I’ll take them here. Way under the total in NFL betting.