San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos (-5.5, 39 o/u)
The San Francisco 49ers (0-1, 0-0 away) can’t like what they saw out of starting QB Blaine Gabbert in Week 1. The man who finished last year as the team’s starter was just 4-10 for 63 yards in a 24-13 setback to Houston. Even though Colin Kaepernick didn’t suit up, Gabbert found himself losing ground in the Niners’ QB battle. He’ll have the chance to gain that ground back this weekend, but he’ll have to do so against a Denver Bronco (1-0, 0-0 home) team team that pitched a shutout in its preseason opener.
Gabbert and company will invade Sports Authority Field at Mile High tomorrow (Saturday, 9:00 PM Eastern) in Week 2 preseason action.
New head coach Chip Kelly will at least take some encouragement from what his running game was able to do. San Fran outgained Houston 409-265 yards, and racked up 236 of those yards on the ground. Quarterback Jeff Driskel, who’s fighting for the third string spot, looked good with his legs, rushing for 61 yards on just five attempts. But as good as he was as a runner, he was even worse as a passer, going 4-12 for just 20 yards.
Even in a Chip Kelly offense, the QB needs to be able to connect at a better clip than that.
Driskel is battling with ex-Buffalo Bill Thad Lewis for a spot on the roster. Lewis was a better, but still not stellar, 12-21 for 97 yards.
I’m sure Kelly was hoping to get Kaepernick into some game action this week for comparison’s sake, but he’s still dealing with tightness in his right arm and won’t see any action.
That’s probably for the best if the Niners want him healthy at the start of the year. Denver tallied seven sacks in their Week 1 game, a 22-0 romp over the Bears. They limited to Chicago to just 130 total yards, while their own offense nearly tripled that with 344.
The Denver QB situation remains murky after Week 1. Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian are apparently 1 and 1A on the depth chart, and both gave Gary Kubiak some reason for confidence. Sanchez was 10-13 for 99 yards and a major, but he also threw a very Sanchez-esque pick. Siemian, meanwhile, was 7-12 for 88 yards; he didn’t throw a touchdown or an interception, living up to his billing as the safer of the two.
Rookie Paxton Lynch, who’s entrenched in third on the depth chart, also saw his NFL action, going 6-7 for 74 yards, no TDs, and no INTs.
The biggest star for the Denver offense was 2014 second-round pick Cody Latimer, who had seven catches (on eight targets) for 82 yards. He’ll be hoping to build off that performance and vulture some looks from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders come the regular season.
The Broncos are 5.5-point favorites for tomorrow’s game, which is big for a preseason tilt when unknowns and third-stringers usually end up playing the majority of the game. But the Broncos certainly has the better first-team (on both offense and defense) and their reserves instilled faith last week. Now playing at home, I see them winning this one going away against a rebuilding Niner squad.
Pick: Denver (-5.5).
Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].
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