Sunday Night Football Preview

Colts at 49ers


Each week of the 2021 NFL season, TheLines will provide a betting breakdown and analysis for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game. Here we look at the SNF betting odds and dish out a breakdown of the matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Colts enter at 2-4 following a frustrating run of close losses and a resounding win over the Texans. Injuries have played a huge role in their early struggles this season but their defense has been excellent when Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) and Darius Leonard (ankle) are playing at full speed. The Niners are 2-3 and have also dealt with key injuries this season. Raheem Mostert (knee) is out for the year, George Kittle (calf) is on I.R. and Jimmy Garoppolo is questionable to return from a one-game absence due to a calf injury.

SNF betting odds and analysis

Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick, made his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cardinals and did not look particularly comfortable as a pocket passer. The 6-foot-4, 226-pounder still made plenty of plays while rushing for 89 yards on 16 carries in a 17-10 loss. Garoppolo has been back at practice this week and Kyle Shanahan is “pretty optimistic” that his experienced starter will be back under center on Sunday.

Carson Wentz opened the season battling a foot injury and he’s been under pressure consistently as the Colts deal with injuries across the offensive line. With RT Braden Smith out, the Colts got a lift last week with the season debut of T.Y. Hilton. Jonathan Taylor came alive late against a poor Texans defense and helped them bounce back from a collapse against Baltimore the previous Monday night.

Here are the betting trends of note for both the Colts and 49ers from recent seasons:

  • Indianapolis is 5-1 against the spread (ATS) when facing NFC opponents since the start of last season
  • The Colts are 8-4 ATS on the road since 2020
  • Colts road games are 9-3 to the Over since 2020
  • The 49ers are 3-9 ATS when favored since 2020 and 0-5 ATS when listed as home favorites
  • The 49ers went 3-1 to the Over when facing AFC teams last season

Live betting angles: Indianapolis vs. San Francisco

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SNF prop search tool

Looking to bet on props for Sunday Night Football? Use our prop search tool to find the best odds across legal sportsbooks in the US.


Colts vs. 49ers game matchup

Indy’s defense has been up-and-down this season with Rhodes and other key defensive backs in and out of the lineup. The Colts are giving up the third-highest completion rate (71.9%) and rank 29th in DVOA pass defense. They’ve allowed opposing QBs to post a 121.2 passer rating and are allowing 8.2 yards per attempt on the road.
Offensively, Indy is averaging 4.7 YPC, but only ranks 13th in rush-play rate (42.8%) due to negative game flow.

Frank Reich would assuredly prefer to establish the run early and use play-action to get Wentz comfortable targeting his receivers down the field. The Colts rank 22nd in 3rd down conversion rate (38.8%) and 31st in TD conversion rate (42.86%) in the red zone this season. The return of T.Y. Hilton will only help marginally, since he was never a truly elite red zone presence and is now in the twilight of his career.

Wentz is averaging 274.7 passing YPG with 4 TDs and zero picks on the road this season, but he’s struggled in 2 career meetings with San Francisco (202 passing YPG, 3:2 TD:INT ratio). Nick Bosa and company have generated decent pressure this year, though not on the same level as their Super Bowl run 2 years ago. The Niners defensive line is giving up the seventh-fewest RB Yards (3.70) so they should be able to contain Taylor and the Colts’ ground game.

San Francisco ranks 12th in total DVOA defense and is giving up the seventh-fewest passing YPG (216.6) this season. The Niners defense is allowing the sixth-fewest total YPG (329.8) but yielding the fourth-highest TD conversion rate (76.47%) in the red zone this season. Combine that with a Niners offense that ranks 2nd in TD conversion rate (90.9%) and you seem to have a recipe for points.

Elijah Mitchell was set to operate as San Francisco’s bellcow back following Mostert’s injury, but he suffered a dinged shoulder that limited him for a couple of weeks. Now reportedly healthy, Mitchell will lead the SF backfield against Indy’s top-ranked DVOA rush defense. Mitchell is averaging 3.9 YPC despite facing the highest average number of defenders in the box (7.2) of any RB this year.

If the Colts stack the box, Deebo Samuel will serve as the primary receiving option for Garoppolo. Samuel is drawing the second-highest target share (35.9%) among WRs and leads the NFL in YAC (307) through 5 games. Xavier Rhodes doesn’t necessarily match up well with the smaller and speedier Samuel, who moves all over the formation. The Colts best bet to disrupt the Niners offense is to pressure Garoppolo while he’s limited by the calf issue. They rank 28th in adjusted sack rate (5.5%) but getting stud rookie Kwity Paye back from injury will certainly help.

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How to watch Sunday Night Football

NBC will air all Sunday Night Football games.

The Week 18 TV spot on Jan. 9, 2022 will remain open until much later in the season, as potential playoff battles will factor into the league’s flexible scheduling decisions.

Games are also streamed all season on NBC’s website and the NBCSports mobile apps. Most packages on streaming services such as fuboTV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV include NBC.

SNF drew an average of 20.5 million viewers in 2019. It was Sunday Night Football’s best ratings in four years.

SNF’s Week 1 TV ratings in 2020 were not great, however, as there was a 15% drop in viewership from the previous year. The game in 2020 featured Cowboys vs. Rams, while the 2019 opener was the Patriots vs. Steelers.

SNF betting tips

How to bet Sunday Night Football like a sharp

The hype and hoopla circulating Sunday Night Football can distract casual bettors. Analysts, reporters and local news crews have a full week to pump out every different angle to the game and dig for stories. Players can add to the mirage on social media whether by talking up their own team or taking too many shots at the opposition.

Learn to separate the hype from fact and don’t fall victim to live-betting out of boredom if the game ends up being a dud. Look at the lines early in the week to assess the odds before the public money starts pouring in and either bet on the numbers set by the books or sit and wait to see if the line shifts in your favor. Reassess later in the week and bet against the public if the line shifts too heavily based on nothing more than favoritism.

The standalone nature of the game also draws in more bets. The entire nation is focused on one single game, which, more often than not, is no bigger than the dozen or so games that preceded it that week. Never bet just to add to the excitement (or create excitement around a lackluster matchup) if wanting long-term success. Wait to see if the favorite falls behind early and then is given a high number as a sudden in-game underdog. Carefully browse through lines on prop bets, looking at different sportsbooks and pick the best value. Shop around and pick on a book that seems out of touch with the others. Don’t scoff at an easier play on the point spread in search of a big payday with a heavy underdog winning outright.

Sunday Night Football edges

Primetime games often see home teams too heavily favored. Do the research, keep up to date with injury news and look at the matchup in a vacuum to see if the odds check out. Don’t look too much at individual players returning to their hometown, being reported as having “extra motivation” or who may be close to statistical milestones. Few wide receivers, for example, can seriously impact a game on their own, especially when facing a top corner who’s fully aware of their motivation in the one-on-one matchup.

Look for teams and especially head coaches who thrive under the spotlight and more importantly the additional preparation time. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots receive more primetime slots than the average team. This experience provides an edge in certain matchups against teams who may be overwhelmed from added media attention and interview requests.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does Sunday Night Football start?

Sunday Night Football kicks off every week from Sept. 12 through Jan. 9 at 8:20 p.m. Eastern. The ‘Football Night in America’ pregame show begins at 7 p.m. Eastern. NBC first started airing SNF for the 2006 season, taking over from ESPN.

How to stream Sunday Night Football?

Never miss a SNF game when you’re on the go with the NBCSports mobile apps. Cord-cutters can also use streaming services such as Hulu which includes NBC in most of its packages.

Who are the SNF announcers?

Booth announcers Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (color commentary) provide the broadcast each week. Field reporter Michele Tayofa and rules expert Terry McAulay join in. Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and Mike Florio make up the pregame show.

Who was the original Sunday Night Football broadcast crew?

Cris Collinsworth replaced legendary former head coach John Madden as the color commentator beside Michaels in 2009.

Who sings the Sunday Night Football theme song?

Country music star Carrie Underwood has been singing the SNF theme since 2013. She replaced fellow country star Faith Hill, who took over from pop star Pink after just one season in 2007. The current song is titled “Game On”. Previous versions were “Oh, Sunday Night” and “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night” in 2016.