San Francisco has several advantages, from the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s to the 49ers red-zone offense.
The 49ers are 6.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook. This is the biggest spread of the season for San Francisco since they were 8.5-point favorites against the Lions in Week 1. Everyone expects the Niners to roll into Jacksonville and beat the Jaguars comfortably.
That’s assuming there isn’t a letdown after a big win on Monday night over the Rams. On Thursday, tight end George Kittle said there hadn’t been an emotional letdown so far this week during practice.
The 49ers are more talented than the Jaguars across the board. But, as they’ve proven this season, it takes a lot more than rolling the ball out onto the field with the more talented team winning. Here are the three biggest advantages the 49ers have over the Jaguars.
Tough sledding for Trevor’s unit
When you watch the Jaguars, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s Trevor Lawrence and a lot of slop. Of course, Lawrence makes his rookie mistakes, but those come well after the game is out of hand.
The key to beating the 49ers is through the air on defense. If you have playmakers, you’ll have success. Since Week 5, Jacksonville has had the fifth-fewest explosive passing plays. Jacksonville has been putrid offensively. They’re 31st in points per drive, 20th in turnovers per drive, 30th in time of possession per drive, and 28th in drive success rate.
It gets worse. The Jaguars are converting only 30% of their third downs this season. That is last in the NFL. Jacksonville struggles to reach the red zone (30th in red zone attempts), which is the icing on the cake for the 49ers.
Lawrence looks the part. It’s obvious that he’s going to be a good player in the NFL. However, he’s not getting the help needed to win, and once this team gets down they rollover.
The 49ers’ defense has been lights out against the run since Week 5, which should make their future opponents one-dimensional. Their success rate during that span against the run is No. 1 in the NFL at a stingy 32%.
Ridiculous in the red zone
The 49ers’ offense has been stellar this season at converting their red zone drives into touchdowns. That’s a part of the reason why it’s OK to be bullish on them moving forward. San Francisco is first in the NFL this season in red zone touchdown scoring percentage at 79%. The second and third teams in the league, Seattle and Arizona, are at 71 and 70%.
Jacksonville allows 3.8 red zone trips on defense per game. They’re 15th in red zone, scoring percentage at 59%. This game could be where Jimmy Garoppolo takes advantage of a young secondary. Jacksonville is 31st in passing DVOA. They’re young and athletic but not fundamentally sound. With as much pre-snap motion the Niners use, the space created for George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk will turn into points.
Edge rusher Josh Allen has come on strong during the past couple of weeks. Still, Jacksonville is 31st in adjusted sack rate on defense. Garoppolo knowing he’ll have time in the pocket, should lead to points early and often for the 49ers. This is a fantastic matchup for San Francisco.
Jimmy’s and the Joe’s
When you think about the coaches that are on Jacksonville’s staff, you feel like you’re spoiled with the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan and Urban Meyer are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Former Seahawks offensive coordinator and now Jaguars play-caller Darrell Bevell has one of the most unimaginative offenses in the NFL.
If you are going to run a bland offense, then you better have “dudes” on the perimeter that can win 1-on-1. James Robinson is third in the NFL in yards per carry after contact, right behind Elijah Mitchell. He practiced on Thursday after not practicing Wednesday but is still feeling tightness with a heel injury.
Marvin Jones (11.4 yards per reception) and Laviska Shenault (10.4 yards per reception) are competent but shouldn’t be your No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers. Dan Arnold is Jacksonville’s tight end and has 40 targets. He would not play over Charlie Woerner.
Lawrence’s weapons aren’t up to snuff, and that’s why his numbers (8/9 TD/INT ratio with 16 sacks and 6.0 yards per attempt) are below average.
Garoppolo has been hot and cold this season but has been coming into his own recently. It helps when you have a legitimate rushing attack. Unlike Lawrence, you could argue the 49ers have three No. 1 options on offense.
Deebo Samuel has been the most dynamic receiver in the NFL this season and is averaging 18.1 yards per reception. George Kittle missed three games and has been banged up a bit this season. When he’s played, Kittle has left no doubt that he’s still among the best tight ends in the league. And we know how Brandon Aiyuk’s season started. He’s slowly but surely turned the corner and made his presence felt during the past few weeks.
From the coaching to the numbers to the players, it would be difficult for even the most optimistic Jaguars fan to talk themselves into a win Sunday.
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