It was a good Friday for the San Francisco 49ers, who welcomed star running back Christian McCaffrey to a team that is finally back home and suddenly getting healthier.
With 10 teams in the NFL sit at 3-3, the 49ers are probably feeling better than the other nine. The McCaffrey trade is one reason for optimism. San Francisco dealt four draft picks to Carolina for a versatile playmaker who gives coach Kyle Shanahan a plethora of play-calling options. The oft-injured McCaffrey is healthy now and hopes to play Sunday against Kansas City.
McCaffrey aside, the 49ers’ injury report is revealing more positive news. Defensive end Nick Bosa and left tackle Trent Williams practiced this week and are expected to return to their starting roles. Two more starters — right tackle Mike McGlinchey and defensive back Jimmie Ward — are also coming back to face the Chiefs.
The 49ers, who played four of their first six games on the road, are back home where they are 2-0 with an average victory margin of 17.5 points.
The bad news is Patrick Mahomes is visiting and he’s off a loss. Kansas City is looking to get back on track after falling to Buffalo in a 24-20 thriller in Week 6. Mahomes is tied for the league lead with 17 touchdown passes.
There is a fear factor when betting against Mahomes, which is why the Chiefs opened as 3-point road favorites over one of the NFC’s elite teams. Mahomes owns a significant edge over opposing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but the home dog has the better defense in this matchup. The 49ers rank No. 2 in scoring defense (14.8 PPG) behind the Bills, and the Chiefs rank 24th by allowing 24.8 PPG.
McCaffrey is not a major part of the handicap because he might not make a big impact in this game if he plays, but the situation still sets up well for San Francisco.
Pick: 49ers + 2
Four more plays for Week 7:
Lions (+ 6.5) over COWBOYS: Dak Prescott’s return does not mean Dallas will develop a big-play offense overnight. During Prescott’s five-week absence, the Cowboys were successful by being conservative on offense and relying on their defense. Detroit has a more explosive offense that ranks No. 3 in scoring (28.0 ppg). If Jared Goff gets time to throw, don’t be surprised if he puts up bigger numbers than Prescott. The Lions are off a bye and the Cowboys are off a divisional loss at Philadelphia, so the dog has a situational advantage.
Texans (+ 7) over RAIDERS: An early bye week probably arrived at the right time for the Raiders, who lost four of their first five games and needed to hit the reset button. But a bye is not always a miracle cure, and this is another case of the dog having the better defense. Houston ranks 13th in scoring defense (19.8 ppg), and Las Vegas ranks 28th (26.0). While this seems like a get-right spot for the Raiders, second-year quarterback Davis Mills and rookie running back Dameon Pierce will help make the blue-collar Texans tough to shake.
Seahawks (+ 5) over CHARGERS: Seattle won the Russell Wilson deal with Denver in a big way. Geno Smith looks more like a franchise quarterback than Wilson. Smith has completed a league-high 73.4% of his passes with nine touchdowns to help the Seahawks break even (3-3) after six games. I always prefer to fade the Chargers as home favorites, an angle that paid off in their last two spots against the Broncos and Jaguars.
Steelers (+ 7.5) over DOLPHINS: A depleted Pittsburgh defense held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers without a touchdown until the final five minutes last week, a credit to coach Mike Tomlin’s ability to motivate his team. So expect the dog to show some fight against Miami, which has scored an average of 16 points in its past three games. The return of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa might not be a quick fix.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread