San Francisco (7-3 straight up, 5-5 against the spread) has responded to its three-game losing streak by posting back-to-back wins, including Sunday’s 27-14 non-covering win over Tampa Bay as a 13.5-point home favorite.
The win was bittersweet, though, as the 49ers lost third-year safety Talanoa Hufanga to a torn ACL that will require season-ending surgery.
Hufanga was San Francisco’s fifth-round pick with the No. 180 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old safety out of USC was a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, and he was named a consensus All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in his third and final season for the Trojans in 2020.
As a rookie in 2021, Hufanga appeared in 15 games and made three starts. He contributed 32 tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass broken up.
Then in 2022, Hufanga started all 17 regular-season games and recorded 97 tackles, nine PBU, five TFL’s, four interceptions for 61 return yards and one touchdown, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He was named a First-Team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl.
Coming into the 2023 campaign, Hufanga was voted by his fellow players into the NFL Top-100 series. He was ranked as the NFL’s 78th best player by his peers.
With more than eight minutes remaining in the third quarter of yesterday’s home win over the Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield threw a pass into the right flat to RB Rachaad White, who faked as if he was going inside and ran past Hufanga for an 11-yard gain.
As Hufanga sped upfield to make a play on White, he initially bit on White’s fake to the inside. When he planted his right leg into the ground, the knee buckled and went out on him.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan made the announcement earlier today that Hufanga’s season was over.
In 10 games this year, Hufanga has produced 52 tackles, three PBU, three interceptions with 48 return yards and 1.5 TFL’s.
Hufanga was replaced by rookie Ji’Ayir Brown, a third-round selection out of Penn St. Brown gave up a long completion to Tampa Bay on its second TD drive of the game, but he bounced back nicely.
Brown later broke up a pass on a fourth-down play and made his first career interception.
The 49ers have a one-game lead over Seattle (6-4 SU, 4-5-1 ATS) in the NFC West standings. They face Seattle for the first time on the road Thanksgiving night, and the Seahawks come to San Fransico on Dec. 10.
As of Monday afternoon, most books had the 49ers installed as seven-point road ‘chalk’ with a total of 43. Shanahan’s team had been -4 on the look-ahead line, but several Seattle injuries forced books to increase the number when it re-opened on Sunday.
Seattle QB Geno Smith and Kenneth Walker both left Sunday’s 17-16 road loss to the L.A. Rams with elbow and oblique injuries, respectively. Walker didn’t return, but Smith did and led Seattle into field-goal range on his team’s final drive.
But Jason Myers’ 55-yard attempt was wide right in the final seconds.
Seattle backup QB Drew Lock completed 2-of-6 passes for just three yards, and he was intercepted while Smith was being treated for his injury.
In two games this year, Lock has connected on only 4-of-12 throws (33.3%) for 66 yards with a 0/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He was acquired by the Seahawks as part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver.
Lock didn’t appear in a game during his first season with the Seahawks in 2022. From 2019-2021, he started 21 games for the Broncos. Lock has a 25/21 career TD-INT ratio.
FanDuel has the 49ers as -800 favorites to win the NFC West, while Seattle has +700 odds. San Francisco has the second-shortest odds to win Super Bowl LVIII (+470), while Kansas City is the +420 ‘chalk’ to repeat as Super Bowl champions.