San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 30, 2017 at 11:04 AM
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium: FOX, announcers Sam Rosen, David Diehl, Jennifer Hale (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 52nd regular-season matchup. 49ers lead series, 29-22. The 49ers will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak against the Cardinals. Arizona won both matchups last season, 33-21 and 23-20. The 49ers' last win at Arizona was 23-20 on Dec. 29, 2013.

KEYS TO THE GAME: On offense, the Cardinals are desperate to get their running game going and they have found it incredibly difficult without their injured star back, David Johnson. Coach Bruce Arians said he may have abandoned the rushing attack too early during Monday night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He also said third-down back Andre Ellington likely will get more snaps this week, even on runs between the tackles. If the Cardinals can rush the ball with any effectiveness, it should open up the passing attack for Carson Palmer and his main trio of receivers, Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson and John Brown, who hopes to be in the lineup this week after missing the past two games with a quadriceps issue.

Defensively, the Cardinals will focus most of their efforts on shutting down 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, who ranks third in the league in rushing and is light on his feet with great jump-cut ability despite being a bigger back. If Hyde struggles early, the 49ers might turn to Brian Hoyer to beat Arizona through the air. Hoyer has not been consistently accurate in his brief career as a starter, so Arizona will need to apply constant pressure and make sure the secondary doesn't lose any one-on-one matchups. That happened twice against Dallas when Dak Prescott rolled out to throw deep downfield and it cost the Cardinals dearly.


--Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. 49ers CB Dontae Johnson. The veteran Fitzgerald has shown no signs of slowing down despite his age (34), as he hauled in 13 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown Monday night against Dallas. The 13 receptions were his most in a regular-season game since 2009, and Johnson will have to be aware of him on every snap. At 6-foot-2, Johnson is a bigger cornerback who can bang with Fitzgerald and possibly slow him at the point of contact if the 49ers play press-man coverage.

--49ers WR Pierre Garcon vs. Cardinals CB Justin Bethel. The more the 49ers can keep Garcon away from Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, the better chance they'll have of succeeding this week. At age 31, Garcon is looking to post back-to-back, 100-yard performances after hauling in an eye-popping seven catches for 142 yards (20.3 yards per catch) in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.



--Out: LB Reuben Foster (ankle), S Eric Reid (knee)

--Questionable: LB Brock Coyle (concussion), RB Carlos Hyde (hip), RB Kyle Juszczyk (concussion), S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), DE Pita Taumoepenu (ankle)


--Out: G Alex Boone (chest), G Mike Iupati (tricep), DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf)

--Questionable: WR John Brown (quadricep), T D.J. Humphries (knee), WR J.J. Nelson (hamstring)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals LB Markus Golden. Yes, fellow LB Chandler Jones has been making all the noise as Arizona's main pass rusher with four sacks in three games, but he is dealing with a chest injury this week and it could create additional opportunities for Golden, who led the team in sacks a year ago with 12 1/2. Golden has come close at least a half-dozen times already this season, but he has only been able to clutch the quarterback's jersey or ankles and has not been able to bring one of them down yet. He told reporters that he plans on "hunting" the rest of the season.

FAST FACTS: Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is going for his third game in a row with 300-plus passing yards. Palmer notched 325 passing yards and two touchdowns last week. ... 49ers QB Brian Hoyer has fared well, when healthy, against NFC opponents in the past couple years. Hoyer passed for 332 yards last week, which marked his 10th career 300-yard performance. He has a 90.9 passer rating in his past eight games against NFC squads, throwing for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions during that time. ... Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu has four interceptions in his past eight home games against opponents from the NFC West. Mathieu will look to build upon his season statistics this week (three interceptions, 21 tackles). ... 49ers RB Carlos Hyde is coming off his fourth career multiple touchdown game. He has at least 75 yards from scrimmage in three straight contests.

PREDICTION: Arizona has shown some warts, but a home matchup against the lowly 49ers should provide some short-term medicine for the Cardinals and their fans. Look for another great performance by ageless wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who always seems to find a way to slip open.

OUR PICK: Cardinals, 31-24.

--Tom Musick

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