Matchup: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
Date/Time: August 17, 4:00 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: San Francisco -3
The Denver Broncos took very little solace in their preseason opening win over the Seattle Seahawks, just six months after they were hammered in Super Bowl XLVIII. The San Francisco 49ers performed about how you would expect a team making a Preseason Week 1 cross-country trip to Baltimore in a 23-3 loss. Saturday’s home opener for the 49ers will mark the debut of Levi’s Stadium, the new $1.3B home of the team in Santa Clara, CA. That’s sure to add a little bit of excitement and adrenaline to the San Francisco side.
The Broncos found out firsthand what the early games could look like in the NFL this season. A total of 25 penalties were called in their opener against the Seahawks, including some that extended a 14-play, 61 yard touchdown drive for the Broncos that included six penalties. The league has put an emphasis on calling defensive holding and illegal contact penalties and a team like the Broncos could certainly benefit from that throughout the season.
Peyton Manning was 10-of-13 for 78 yards in the two series that he played. Brock Osweiler finished the game 6-of-12 for 85 yards in relief. The Seahawks had 22 first downs against the Broncos defense, but six came via penalties. The Broncos are nursing some injuries entering Saturday’s game. Montee Ball is out while recovering from an appendectomy and defensive ends Chase Vaughn and Greg Latta have been held out of practice. The biggest injury news is that linebacker Danny Trevathan fractured his knee and will miss at least four weeks and probably somewhere between six and eight as he recovers.
Look for Manning to play four or five series on Saturday as the veteran signal caller really doesn’t need a whole lot of preparation to ready for Week 1. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have looked good in practice and the defensive starters will probably play a quarter and a half to two quarters. Zac Dysert and/or Bryn Renner could see some playing time, though Osweiler’s performance in the preseason opener suggests that he could use some more reps.
As for the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick threw one pass in his lone series in the opener against the Ravens. Carlos Hyde looked impressive as a downhill runner. Even though the 49ers managed just three points, as Blaine Gabbert looked awful in relief of Kaepernick, the bigger problem was the defense. Jim Harbaugh was upset with the defense’s intensity level, saying that his team “got pushed around” by the Ravens. Michael Crabtree, Brandon Lloyd, and Patrick Willis did not play and the 49ers are still trying to find somebody to replace linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who was injured in last season’s playoffs.
Given how the backup quarterbacks looked, the 49ers might be a tough bet during the preseason, at least in Weeks 2 and 4. Between Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the numbers were ugly: 12-of-26, 99 yards, and two interceptions. Johnson certainly looked better than Gabbert by completing six of his eight passes and picking up 15 yards on a couple of nice scrambles, so he should be the front-runner to back up Kaepernick.
Look for Kaepernick and the starters to play well into the second quarter as the 49ers open their new stadium and try to put on a good show for the home crowd. He should stand upright and throw it around to Crabtree and Lloyd and Bruce Ellington might even get some reps with the first teamers. The defense got called out last week and should be motivated to play a bit better on Saturday.
John Fox is 26-23 in the preseason and improved to 9-4 in Week 1 last week. However, his teams are just 4-8 in Week 2. Jim Harbaugh fell to 8-5 overall, but he does emphasize the preseason with back-to-back 3-1 records. His teams are 2-1 in Week 2.
Free NFL Pick: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were in a terrible spot last week by having to take a five-hour flight to Baltimore for Week 1 of the preseason. Expect a much more engaged group on Saturday with the opening of beautiful Levi’s Stadium and a lot less travel. The 49ers were called out for their defensive toughness and that’s been an organizational philosophy for a long time, but especially under Harbaugh. Josh Johnson was solid last week, while Brock Osweiler struggled and it will be those two that decide each team’s fate on offense.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.