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NFL Week 2: Niners Featured in 'Marquee' Game Two Weeks Running

San Francisco 49ers +7.0 (-135) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

September 20, 2015, 1pm EDT

Last week we called the contest featuring the then 23rd ranked Minnesota Vikings @ the #24 San Francisco 49ers the marquee event of the week 1 NFL calendar. We so dubbed this game not based on any expectations that an exhilarating brand of football would be on display, but after all factors in our handicapping approach unanimously endorsed the Niners to not only cover as 3 point dogs, but to win outright -- in short, the distinguished name was awarded as a result of the unmatched value this contest boasted.

As it turned out, we were onto something. San Francisco handled the Vikings with ease, ceding Minnesota a single score (a field goal) all game. Conversely, Running Back Carlos Hyde served as the 49ers offensive thrust, rushing for 168 yards, including 2 trips to the house. When all was said and done, the final tally was 20-3, San Francisco. The 49ers play in week 1 elevated their status in our favorite power rankings series, from #24 to #21.

Though they lost outright to the Patriots, 21-28, the Steelers (barely) beat the liberal +7.5 spread we were able to lock in for week 1. Even without signifiant cogs on offense, namely Le'Veon Bell and Maurice Pouncey, Pittsburgh was more-or-less proficient moving the ball. Roethlisberger threw for 357 yards, including a last minute TD to Antonio Brown to secure the cover. This effort was good enough to secure Big Ben the #7 QBR rating for the week. Also, DeAngelo Williams racked up an impressive 127 yards on the ground.

Pittsburgh's gutsy play last Thursday improved their standing in our favorite power ratings series from 2 points better than average to 2.3. However, the Bengals week 1 rout over the Raiders earned Cincy the promotion from #14 to #7. This upgrade caused the Steelers slip from #9 to #10.

Heading into week 2, with all the data updated and refreshed, we find the Niners again in the spot of most undervalued team on the docket. Our primary power rankings approach calls for a Steelers win by 5.7 points, or 1.3 points shy of a cover. Also, the two independent simulation routines we leverage suggest 2.6 and 4.1 points of value to Niners-backers.

In addition to unanimity among our primary factors, secondary indicators are also advocating in lockstep for San Francisco to cover. Specifically, a composite of a small group of power rankings models with solid track records and/or robust construction methodologies suggests an adjusted line of 49ers +3.9, implying significant value to be had betting on San Francisco. Another independent computer prediction model that we monitor likewise gives the Niners a slight edge against-the-spread (Stekler, et al (2009) find that combining forecasts improves accuracy, supporting a multi-factor approach to sports handicapping).

Bottom line: As far as we can tell, every indicator under the sun, from power ranking and simulation routines, to crystal balls and Ouija boards, is pointing to another San Francisco cover. We were not thrilled with Colin Kaepernick's performance Sunday (SF's 5th year QB from Nevada threw for fewer yards than he averaged in 2013 and 2014, posted a sub-par yardage-per-attempt figure and did not register a touchdown last week -- facing, mind you, a team with a below average passing defense last year). But that is not a good reason to disregard the heft of the evidence suppporting a play on the Niners, after all, Kaepernick did finish with the 9th best QBR of week 1; only two slots below Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Take the points, look for the Niners to keep rolling (ATS, at least).

Happy betting!!

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