On paper, the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals would appear to be a blow out in favor of the Niners. However, based upon further evaluation, this game won’t be as easy as the Niners would like it to be. The Niners should come out on top in this game, but there’s a few reasons why this will be a tricky game for the Niners.
The first thing that stands out in regards to this game is how good Arizona’s defense is. Arizona’s defense comes into week 6 with the 15th ranked overall defense allowing over 343 yards per game. However, they are giving up just 19 points per game, which is 10th in the league. They are also only giving up 79 rushing yards per game. That last statistic will pose a problem as the Niners are a team that relies first and foremost on a power running game to set up the pass. If the Niners can’t get the running game going against the Cardinals, things will get interesting.
Second, the Cardinals pass defense is better than 19th. They have a top three cornerback in Patrick Peterson, and an emerging rookie in Tyrann Mathieu, the former LSU standout. A deceiving thing about this pass ranking for the Cardinals is that their offense can’t move the ball so they are on the field too long and tire out. Another thing that they do well is put pressure on the opposing quarterback with not only their front seven but also with creative blitzes; which could give Colin Kaepernick problems as he doesn’t read blitzes well and panics when he gets pressure on him.
The Niners will have to make plays in the passing game in order to win this game because running the ball will be very difficult. If the Niners can make enough plays in the passing game, then they will win this game. However, if Kaepernick is unable to make plays in the passing game and he throws a couple of interceptions to Peterson or Mathieu or someone else in the Cardinal secondary, then the game might become a real struggle.
Also, another thing to watch in this game will be if Arizona can stop the Niners running game with their top seven. If they can do that then that will allow them to be even better against the pass because they won’t have to bring an extra man in the box. However, if the Niners are having their way running the ball against the Cardinal defense and the Cardinals send an extra man into the box, the Niners can then hit them with the play action pass.
On the flip-side, the Niners defense should have a much easier time with the Arizona offense .The Cardinals offense is really not good at all, they turn the ball over at a high rate ( 11 turnovers in 5 games), they also don’t have a running game and their offensive line is bad. All of those things play right into the Niners favor as the Niners are great at stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. If the Niners get pressure on Carson Palmer much like they did with Matt Schaub last week, they will force him into multiple turnovers as Palmer is a guy who throws the ball into coverage frequently and doesn’t make good decisions at times.
This game has the feel of a game that will end with both teams in the high teens or one team in the teens and the other under 10. Both offensives aren’t really firing on all cylinders. The Niners running game is showing signs, but the passing game isn’t quite there yet. The Cardinals will certainly make Kaepernick beat them and not Frank Gore, which Kaepernick is capable of doing. In order to do this he will have to look in Vernon Davis’s direction because he will almost always be open as Peterson will be engaged with Anquan Boldin for most of the game.
Like most games, if the Niners do what they are supposed to do on both sides of the ball they will win the game and move to 4-2 and be sitting pretty. If they struggle with different things like the offense and turnovers, the game could be an upset as the Cardinals have a team capable of doing that.