The Denver Broncos will try to continue their late-season playoff push in Week 14 when they visit the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 EST on Sunday, December 9, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Broncos as 6-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 43.5 points. Click here for a full list of betting odds and game previews for every Week 14 NFL game.
Since their bye week, the Broncos have won three straight games to put themselves in the middle of the AFC playoff race. Two of those wins have come against the Chargers and Steelers, so it’s clear that Denver is for real. Of course, the Broncos are one of four teams that trail the Ravens by a game for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. That means the Broncos will probably have to win out and get a little help. They’ll also have to do that without leading receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was lost to a season-ending injury in practice this week.
On the bright side, Denver’s schedule is perhaps the most favorable of the teams competing for that final wild-card spot. Their next three games are against the 49ers, Browns, and Raiders before they finish the season home against the Chargers.
Meanwhile, the only thing the 49ers are playing for is whether or not they’ll have the top pick in next year’s draft. After dismantling the Raiders a few weeks ago, San Francisco has lost three in a row, including an embarrassing 43-16 loss to the Seahawks last week. The 49ers are currently 2-10, tying them with Oakland for the worst record in the league.
At the moment, San Francisco’s odds of securing at least a top-3 pick appear rather good. Despite playing their next three games at home, the 49ers are set to play the Broncos, Seahawks, Bears, and Rams to close out the season. It’s tough to envision the 49ers winning any of those games, putting them on track to finish 2-14 and pick either first or second in next year’s draft.
I’m ready to buy Denver’s late-season surge. They may have been a little fortunate against both the Chargers and Steelers, but they took care of business against a bad Bengals team last week. This week, the Broncos are set to play a team that may be even worse than that. Beating the 49ers by at least a touchdown doesn’t seem that difficult, so I’ll lean toward the Broncos to win and cover.
Admittedly, things are a little more complicated for the Broncos without Sanders. Remember that they traded away Demaryius Thomas and lost tight end Jeff Heuerman to IR. That means rookie Courtland Sutton is their leading active receive with third-string running back Devontae Booker second among active players in receiving yards. Even against a lackluster San Francisco defense, that could be a problem for Case Keenum.
The silver lining for Denver is that they’re more than happy to lean on their running game. Rookie Phillip Lindsay seems to get better every week. During the team’s three-game winning streak, Lindsay has rushed for 346 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, the 49ers are average at best defending the run. Last week, they were shredded on the ground by Seattle, another team with a top-flight rushing attack. The Broncos are by no means offensive juggernauts. But they’ve scored at least 20 points in six of their last seven games, so they’ve been steady and consistent for most of the season.
Scoring anything over 20 points should make the Broncos confident given their defensive prowess. Denver’s pass rush is once again among the most feared in the league. Both Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb have at least 10 sacks on the season. The Broncos have also forced nine turnovers during their three-game winning streak. That’s important when you consider that the San Francisco offense has the second-most turnovers in the NFL.
To his credit, quarterback Nick Mullens has put up some impressive passing numbers since taking over as the starter. However, he’s also been playing from behind a lot, which makes it easier to throw for 200-plus yards every week. More importantly, Mullens has thrown five interceptions over his last three games. He’s also lacking experience, especially when it comes to facing a pass rush like the one the Broncos will throw at him on Sunday. Odds are, Denver’s pressure will lead to errant throws and more turnovers. The 49ers will also be hurt by Matt Breida’s absence due to injury, as it takes away their biggest rushing threat.
To be fair, I don’t think the 49ers will get blown out the way they did last week. But I don’t see how the 49ers will do much offensively without Breida to anchor their running game. Keep in mind the 49ers are giving up over three sacks per game and facing one of the best pass rushes in the league. Meanwhile, the Broncos should be able to grind out some points with their running game. It may not be pretty, but I don’t think the Broncos will have a problem winning by at least a touchdown and covering the spread.