49ers at Lions Preview


  • Current Line: 49ers (-7.5 -105)
  • Breakeven ATS % 49ers (52.4%) and Lions (52.4%)
  • Last meeting: The home 49ers beat the Lions 30-27 in 2018


The 49ers were coming off a Super Bowl loss, which EVERYONE knows typically means a downturn the next year. Think about it, the amount of work/resources/etc, you put into GETTING to the Super Bowl, lends to you “laxing” the coming year as you simply want to get back to the “ship” and hit the “reset” button. However, (as has become a legit issue) San Francisco was plagued with injuries before they could even prove to us that Super Bowl losers don’t “show-up” the following year. On the other-side, Detroit has one of the (empirically) worst coaches of all-time take their team down the tubes in 2020.

Nonetheless, that was last year and we are focused on who will win this game. As many will note, week 1 NFL games prove to be a bit of a catch-22. Given the lack of data, sportsbooks/the market typically ends up pricing this week farther from the eventual outcome, relative to every other week. However, given the market opportunities, the same situation leaves the individual bettor with the same problem: limited info. Hence, the best case of action for any Week 1 bet, is to 

  • Shore up your priors (where did each team rank last season by TRUE performance indicators, such as SIS EPA/Play Rank
  • Adjust prior based on clear changes to the team (OC/DC changes, key personnel like QBs coming/going etc)
  • Incorporate regression analytics where necessary (which teams were most/least lucky/performed well with “non-sticky” Year over Year variables)

With that info, we then look at the individual matchups, make our decision, and check the math to ensure we are making a positive EV bet. 

What can we expect from the 49ers in 2021

The 49ers suffered from the worst Fumble Recovery Luck, the worst Yards/Point Luck and 4th worst 3rd down (vs. early ve down) luck in the league. In other words, they got very unlucky. And this is ignoring the injury luck, where San Francisco also led the league in Adjusted Games Lost, as this aspect may not be as “positively regression coming based” as we think (for San Fran). Yet, unless you were in a cave during the Draft Process, you know the biggest offseason storyline is the drafting of Trey Lance. Frankly, beyond potential packages for Trey, we don’t expect to see him much for this game, so we will save that discussion for another day. The niners, believe it or not, had the 5th best team by DVOA, mainly propped up by their stellar defense (20th in Offense and 6th in Defense by DVOA). Shannahan has proved that his YAC-based (yet get your QB killed) offense is one that creates separation for WRs and can compete with any team, WHEN HEALTHY.

What can we expect from the Lions in 2021

Detroit has undergone a massive change at HC, and culture to go along with it. Dan Campbell came in spewing all sorts of “tough guy lingo” that seems (at worst) to be a breath of fresh air compared to what the last regime made the team accustomed to (basically hating their coach and being terrified that if they did not abide they would be traded for pennies on the dollar). They too have some positive regression coming their way, as the #2 ranked least lucky fumble recoveries from 2020. Beyond the transition from a bad coach, to at minimum one that players don’t hate, the Lions also swapped QBs, gaining a Goff for a Stafford.

Therein lies the likely problem with this team: Goff. Goff has proven to be a very capable QB when in structure, and given instructions like a computer in perfect circumstances (yet is a disaster otherwise). Sean McVay, his old coach, did everything in his power to help Goff succeed tactically. New OC Anthony Lynn may be the polar opposite of McVay for Goff (especially when you consider aggressiveness of QB)


  • San Francisco went 0-2 ATS LY as a 7.5 FAV
  • Detroit won 3/12 games as an UD 

Bottom Line

The whole “Super Bowl Hangover” thing, “is a thing”. That is, teams coming off a Super Bowl loss are great fades in the coming year, especially week one. However, what’s rarely talked about is those same teams, 2 years removed in week 1:

  • 2020 Rams win by 3
  • 2019 Patriots win by 13
  • 2018 Falcons win by 13
  • 2017 Panthers lose by 1
  • 2016 Seahawks win by 30
  • 2015 Broncos win by 6
  • 2014 49ers win by 17

I am not a big “trend guy”, but when it’s backed by some legit subjective reasoning, I listen. Super Bowl Losers tend to win, and win big 2 years after their loss. That coupled with a much healthier San Francisco team, a Lions team with a QB that’s proven to have difficulty out of structure, I see the 49ers as a solid play this week.

The Pick: 49ers -6.5

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