49ers vs. Washington Odds & Picks: Points Will Come At A Premium In NFL Week 14
Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Terry McLaurin (left) and Alex Smith.
49ers vs. Washington Odds
Washington and San Francisco both head into this game on slightly shorter weeks after playing in a Monday doubleheader, but they’re coming in with very different emotions.
Washington is coming off its fifth win of the season. The Football Team went to Pittsburgh on Monday night in front of a (pseudo) national audience and stunned the then-undefeated Steelers. That was Washington’s third straight win and kept them tied atop of the suddenly competitive NFC East.
San Francisco is not feeling anywhere near as good.
The 49ers lost their Monday night game to the Bills, and their defense got shredded by Josh Allen. The 49ers were doubled up until the final seconds, missing out on a chance to get to 6-6 and pull even with the Vikings and Cardinals for the NFC’s No. 7 seed.
Suddenly, we’re feeling a lot differently about these two teams than we did one week ago.
Washington Football Team
So what’s Washington doing well? In a word: Defense.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s guys have been outstanding this season. Washington entered the year with a serious lack of talent at most positions, but their defensive front seven was always going to be a strength.
The Football Team’s pass rush has been fierce, and the pass defense overall has been one of the best in the league.
Washington’s defense ranks No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA and No. 3 in pass defense. The run defense ranks in the top 10 too, and the unit has certainly carried the team. Washington has allowed only 42 points during this three-game win streak, and remember, that includes a game against an 11-0 opponent.
The offense has not kept pace. Other than that wild 41-point Thanksgiving showing in Dallas, the Football Team has not crossed 27 points this season, and they averaged only 20.3 points in their other 11 games.
Alex Smith has been courageous in his return to football, but he has not been great. Despite only four starts, Smith has recorded five interceptions and has been sacked 18 times. He’s a statue in the pocket and, while accurate, isn’t adding much to an offense that didn’t have much to start with.
As if that wasn’t enough, Washington’s offensive injuries are mounting. The line is in rough shape, wide receiver Terry McLaurin isn’t fully healthy and now running back Antonio Gibson is out, too.
Points will be hard to come by — as usual.
San Francisco 49ers
It felt like the 49ers saved their season one week ago when they went to Los Angeles and beat the Rams for the second time this season, pulling their record to 5-6 at the time and surviving a brutal stretch of midseason schedule.
But that’s when 2020 reared its ugly head, as it has so often this year and football season. San Francisco was forced to leave its home stadium due to the pandemic, relocating midweek to Arizona, where the 49ers will play their second consecutive “home” game this week.
This season has already gone sideways for San Francisco with injuries up and down the roster, so this is just another bump in the road, and so was the tough Monday loss to Buffalo.
San Francisco is down but not out. The 49ers are still just a game out of the playoff hunt and have a winnable stretch now against Washington, Dallas and Arizona. They can still save this season, but it almost certainly has to start with a win here. And it’ll have to start amidst that slew of injuries.
Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle are still missing on offense, while their once fearsome defensive line has been crushed by injuries all year.
Until last week, the 49ers defense had been on the upswing, even with the injuries, and defense and coaching have kept this team competitive.
San Francisco has held opponents below 17 points four times this season, and Washington is no Buffalo. The Football Team probably won’t be throwing all over the Niners’ defense.
Points will come at a premium in this game, which is why the total is so low. Even there, the under is pretty tempting. Washington might be lucky to hit 20 points against this tough defense, and the 49ers are averaging fewer than 20 points over their last four outings.
The other angle here is playing on recency bias.
Before the games Monday, San Francisco would have been considered a moderately comfortable favorite in this game. Buffalo’s pass attack was a tough matchup but doesn’t change what this team does well, and Washington could be in for an adrenaline letdown after getting their signature win.
You could argue that Washington just won its Super Bowl.
The best-case scenario from here is probably getting to 7-9 and a close home playoff loss in Round 1. Washington’s win in Pittsburgh was the team’s apex this season.
This line has been bet down because of it, but don’t forget that Washington trailed by 14 in that game with pundits openly wondering when Smith would be benched. It’s not like Washington is great now, so don’t buy too much hype.
Teasing the under up to near 50 feels like a pretty safe play here, if you’ve got another teaser leg. Each of these teams has seen a total under 50 in nine of their 12 games so far this season, so a high-scoring game is unlikely.
Even at 43.5, the under is a solid play. It covers you for a defensive battle and also gives you extra outs if either one of these offenses just lays a complete egg.
I also like the 49ers to cover as the better team, even with all the injuries, but I’m only willing to play them below -3 (compare real-time lines).
Picks: 49ers -2.5; Under 43.5