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San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions Odds & Game Pick (2021)

by September 10, 2021
The 49ers have won two in a row to get back above .500. However, in their last four games, they are just 1-3 against the spread, and they failed to cover at home as 7.5-point favorites on Sunday night. The Cardinals took care of business against the Rams even though Kyler Murray was out with a hamstring injury. Yet, bettors do not seem impressed since the win came with Matthew Stafford out. Before that game, the Cardinals had lost four of their previous five. This line seems like it was made assuming that Murray will be out again this week. However, even if he is, Colt McCoy was solid in the Cardinals’ win, completing 26 of 37 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. Therefore, no matter who is under the center, look for this line to drop below the key number. Current Line: 49ers -7.5 Predicted Final Line: 49ers -6.5

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  • 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 “relaxing” the coming year as you 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 had 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 plan of action for any Week 1 bet is to:

  • Shore up your priors (where each team ranked 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 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 competent 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).

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

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 I listen when some legit subjective reasoning backs it. Super Bowl Losers tend to win, and win big, two years after their loss. That coupled with a much healthier San Francisco team and 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.

Pick: 49ers -6.5

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