49ers vs. Broncos: Why Is Denver Such a Valuable Pick for NFL Week 3?

Russell Wilson Denver Broncos Houston Texans
Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass the ball against the Houston Texans. Justin Edmonds/Getty Images/AFP.

The Denver Broncos have flipped from faves to dogs this Sunday night versus the San Francisco 49ers – making Denver the right NFL pick.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos

Sunday, September 25, 2022 – 08:20 PM EDT at Empower Field at Mile High

Odds Breakdown

Life is good when you’re cashing in. The NFL picks we’ve been making in this space have worked out tremendously the first two weeks of the 2022 regular season – and it looks like there’s plenty of profit margin available for the Week 3 edition of Sunday Night Football.

That’s if you’re willing to bet on the Denver Broncos. Not only have they yet to cover, the Broncos nearly started the year at 0-2 straight-up before coming back to beat the Houston Texans 16-9 last Sunday as 10.5-point home faves.

Denver also happens to be playing the San Francisco 49ers (1-1 SU and ATS), who sprang to life last week against the team that beat the Broncos in Week 1, the Seattle Seahawks. After QB Trey Lance was lost for the season to a broken ankle, Jimmy Garoppolo came in and calmly led San Fran to a 27-7 victory as 8.5-point home faves.

Despite all that – or maybe because of it – the Broncos are the ones with the betting value this week. They’ve already moved from –1.5 home faves to +1.5 home dogs on the NFL odds at PointsBet; some top sportsbooks opened Denver as high as –3. Maybe we’ll get an even better price on the Broncos just before kick-off.

What Happened to Russell Wilson?

Let’s not play the blame game with Denver’s shiny new quarterback. True, last year’s passing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) numbers at Football Outsiders had Wilson ranked No. 15 overall, one spot behind the man he’s replacing, Teddy Bridgewater.

Also true: Wilson was using some of the same hand signals in Week 1 that he used while he was a member of the Seahawks. That helped Seattle contain Wilson and pull off a 17-16 upset as 5.5-point home dogs.

Wilson actually played well in that game, though. It was his rookie head coach, Nathaniel Hackett, who seemed in over his head.

Things weren’t much better in Week 2. Oh, the Broncos also lost WR Jerry Jeudy to a rib injury and CB Patrick Surtain to a shoulder injury.

Why Are the Broncos Valuable?

Wait, why are we recommending Denver again? For one thing, even without Surtain, the Broncos’ defense is so, so good.

They haven’t allowed a touchdown since the first half of Week 1. And Denver’s offense features a pair of quality backs in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III, each of whom racked up over 100 yards on 22 carries against Houston.

With big-legged PK Brandon McManus anchoring the special teams, all Wilson really needs to do to succeed is play at the same league-average level he did last year. And through two games, that’s what Wilson has done: His 86.5 passer rating ranks No. 16 overall among qualifying starters.

Are the 49ers Better With Jimmy Garoppolo?

Maybe. We might never find out what Lance can do now that he’s hurt again, but we know Garoppolo can play at league-average or better. Even last year, with the fans turning against him, Garoppolo finished at No. 10 on the passing DYAR charts.

That’s pretty much what Jimmy G gave the Niners in Week 2. At 13-for-21 for 154 yards, one TD pass, and zero picks, Garoppolo’s “game manager” skills were in full effect, resulting in a 100.1 passer rating. At press time, that ranks No. 12 overall if you take the qualifications off and include every single quarterback who’s taken a snap this year.

Injury Curse in San Francisco

This is where we have to start pumping the brakes on San Fran. Their offense is still limited with TE George Kittle (groin) on the sidelines; he returned to practice last Friday, but his season debut will probably have to wait until Week 4.

The Niners might be tempted to rush Kittle back. TE Tyler Kroft sprained an MCL last week and isn’t expected back for a while, leaving them without both Kittle’s pass-catching prowess and Kroft’s blocking acumen.

But wait, there’s more: RB Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle) got hurt in that Seahawks game, joining RB Elijah Mitchell (knee) on the sidelines for the next few weeks. This will make Garoppolo’s job much more difficult this Sunday night, especially with Denver’s defense up in his grill.

49ers vs. Broncos: Final Thoughts

We still have to trust that Hackett will learn from his mistakes from the first two games. If this were any other situation, a healthy one-unit bet on Denver would be an easy call – maybe even two units.

But until Hackett shows some growth in his new job, let’s keep that bet size small. Following the NFL odds, it’s just the right thing to do.

NFL Pick: Broncos +1.5 (-107) at PointsBet

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