The NFL season continues this weekend with Week 2, as the 49ers travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in our highlight game from the second round of matches. Who will come out on top? Inform your NFL Week 2 predictions.
NFL Week 2 predictions
The 49ers had a 4-12 season to forget in 2018, but it was one replete with factors that normally bounce back in a side’s favour in subsequent seasons.
They scored 342 points and conceded 435, which virtually guarantees a losing year, but does equate to a nearly six win Pythagorean, rather than their dismal four.
This is echoed in their record in close games, losing two more than they won. At a rock bottom turnover differential of minus 25, they snared just two interceptions and recovered five fumbles, and inevitably turned a competent defense into a much less impressive unit when viewed simply on the scores allowed.
San Francisco 49ers analysis
If we look at their underlying efficiency numbers, they were averagely efficient at defending the pass and more impressively on the cusp of the top ten against the run. But most pertently they started three different quarterbacks.
Jimmy Garoppolo impressed in the final five matches of 2017, but lasted just three games before tearing his ACL in 2018.
Their enforced rotation at quarterback didn’t entirely stymie the offense. They still managed to pass for half a yard more than opposing defenses allowed, and were only just below par when running the ball.
But again, interceptions and fumble turnovers hampered drives. Only Tampa Bay turned the ball over more, and the 49ers scored just 21.4 points per game against defenses that yielded 24.2 ppg across the season.
The matchup of the 49ers going into Cincinnati is a fascinating case study of how much weight to give to a 4-12 team
However, Garoppolo was struggling to emulate his 2017 form during his brief cameo during 2018.
His completion rate was well down compared to the previous year, but more worrying for a passer now returning from injury, he was taking far more sacks in 2018 - one every seven attempts compared to one every 22 previously in 2017.
He made an uneven 2019 start in a winning week one game in Tampa, throwing a pick six, but ended with a completion rate more in tune with 2017, while most importantly emerging unscathed.
An in-depth look at the Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are the forgotten team of the AFC North.
Pittsburgh & Baltimore has shared the divisional spoils since 2016 and there has been a lot of pre-season hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns.
2015 was Cincinnati’s last divisional title, coinciding with quarterback Andy Dalton’s only season as an elite, top five passer, and that season now appears to be an outlier in Dalton’s eight season NFL career.
An above-average running game couldn’t quite lift the Bengals’ scoring rate to above the league average, weighed down by a passing game that gained nearly a yard per attempt below the usual concession rate of their opponents.
In any case, Dalton is now 32, and his consistently below-par passing would appear to be all that can be expected from him in the future.
Cincinnati’s defense was an even greater liability. They were equally inept and below par against the run and the pass, allowing opposing offenses, who averaged as a group 25 points per game, to score 28.4 ppg.
Their 6-10 record was mirrored almost exactly by six Pythagorean wins. They had just one more turnover than giveaway, but they did incur two more narrow losses than wins.
Consequently, a third consecutive losing season and ending up in fourth position in the division for the first time in eight years, hastened the departure of long-time head coach Marvin Lewis with a year still left on his contract.
Therefore, they do enter 2019 with fresh gameplans, particularly at the quarterback position, under new coach Zac Taylor.
San Fansicsco 49ers at Cincinatti Bengals predictions: Where is the value?
The matchup of the 49ers going into Cincinnati is a fascinating case study of how much weight to give to a 4-12 team.
A team who suffered at the hands of randomness that may well be less extreme in 2019, and a flat, 6-10 side who are going to need improved performance levels from skill positions, but are reliant upon a quarterback with little or no upside.
A true 6-10 team hosting a true 4-10 team would give the hosts a 0.71 winning probability, and an average supremacy of around six points in their favour.
If instead we use San Francisco’s six win Pythagorean, rather than their actual four win record, the winning probability of the host side falls to 0.59 or around a field goal supremacy. Therefore, the Bengals remain favoured in both scenarios.
If we further allow for the promise, albeit from a relatively small sample size, shown by Garoppolo, we may feel his presence could push the advantage even further towards the visitors.
This early in the season, these choices are partly judgment calls, but it requires a lot of travel to continue to move the line and make the 49ers favoured on the road.
Scoring rates make the match a near tie, with 46 total points, with San Francisco’s ability to pass the ball as the dominant factor in bringing the two teams close together in Cincinnati. Therefore, any points offered to the Bengals should be taken.