Tonight’s game is going to be awesome.
The San Francisco 49ers (5-2) turn their focus to the desert, where they head to take on the Arizona Cardinals (4-3) in an NFC West matchup.
Expect this game to be a low-scoring affair, as the 49ers and Cardinals boast the league’s two best defenses. Defensive notables: LB Patrick Willis, DE Justin Smith, LB Aldon Smith, CB Carlos Rogers, DE Calais Campbell, DE Darnell Dockett, S Adrian Wilson, CB Patrick Peterson. That’s a huge list of defensive beasts – four on each team. For comparison, offensive notables: WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis. Everyone else is either sub-par (QBs John Skelton and Alex Smith), too old (WR Randy Moss), or ineffective (WR Michael Crabtree).
That being said, the Cardinal and 49er offenses are still effective at certain things. The Cardinals are great when getting the ball to Fitzgerald. Despite being the focus of most opponents’ defensive schemes, Fitzgerald uses his athleticism and wit to find openings for his typically sub-par quarterbacks to throw at. If he can find a way to put up 90+ yards, the Cardinals will be in a position to win this game.
Alternatively, the 49ers are better at keeping the ball on the ground. Yes, Vernon Davis is a solid tight-end – maybe best in the NFC. Yes, Alex Smith has been a successful game-manager so far this season. But still, there would be none of this if not for the amazing San Fran O-line and Frank Gore. The 49er rushing attack is the base of the offense; it’s success gives huge opportunities to the passing game. The 49ers need to convincingly rush the ball in the first half to establish their commitment to the run, and then maybe throw in some play-action and shotgun formations in the second half.
Will it be enough to win? Possibly. Will it be enough to cover their spread (San Fran -7)? Probably not. The 49ers have the advantage in this game because of their more successful offensive unit. However, if the Cards can neutralize the 49er offense to a degree, this game will be close ’til the end. I can’t honestly say there’s a good chance either team will score more than 21 tonight – and don’t expect their scores to even be that high.
Bold prediction: Cardinals win in OT, 3 field-goals to 2 field-goals (9-6) in an awesome, old-school, ground-and-pound matchup.
DynamicPicks Computer Prediction:
San Francisco 49ers (-7) @ Arizona Cardinals (+7)
Projected win: San Francisco, 63.7% – CORRECT
Projected ATS win: Arizona +7, 57.5% – INCORRECT
It might be tough to bet against San Fran, as many will think: “All SF has to do is beat the disastrous Cardinals by a TD?” I’ll just respond with: easier said than done. ARI +7 is a solid value play.