San Francisco at Arizona is not exactly the sexiest matchup of the year, but it does give the nation a chance to see #1 overall pick Kyler Murray go up against potentially the NFL’s top defense. Bettors have already lined up in droves to move this spread multiple points, and you can probably guess which side both the public and sharps are favoring.
Cardinals Offense vs. 49ers Defense
This will be the second week in a row the Niners will line up against a fresh-faced QB, after pummeling Kyle Allen and the Panthers on Sunday, 51-13. San Francisco is now #2 in defensive efficiency to only New England, and the Patriots have faced a much softer schedule. Compared to the rest of the league, the 49ers have been nearly five times more efficient than the 3rd ranked Broncos.
The toughest defense Kyler Murray has faced was last week against the 6th ranked Saints, and the Arizona offense could only muster 9 points. Murray managed not to turn the ball over but was also held in check on the ground. When Kyler has been allowed to get into open space and use his legs, the Cardinals offense has thrived. But good defenses that can contain Murray should have success keeping this team in check.
Running back David Johnson remains questionable, and backup Chase Edmonds is also out, forcing Arizona to trade for Kenyan Drake. On the positive side, wide receiver Christian Kirk returned to health last week and excelled catching 8 of 11 targets for 79 yards. Overall, this is a Cardinals offense that will likely be out of sync, especially against this 49ers defense.
49ers Offense vs. Cardinals Defense
The Niners don’t scare opponents on offense as they do defensively, but this group is well-coached by Kyle Shannahan and capably led by Jimmy Garappolo. Despite an unimpressive 9-7 TD-INT ratio, overall, Jimmy G is 9th in the NFL in QBR at 60.7. At 7.9 yards per attempt, Garoppolo impressively ranks 8th in the NFL and his completion percentage of 69.8% ranks 5th.
On the ground, the Niners welcomed back a healthy Tevin Coleman earlier in the month and in his last four games Coleman has averaged 16.5 carries per game at 4.75 yards per carry. Matt Breida is questionable for this game, but Coleman is more than capable of handling the full load along with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson.
The Niners have been playing without both of their starting left tackles for the past two weeks, and have gotten away with it. They're also missing fullback Kyle Juszczyk. While they've been able to work around these injuries, missing three key offensive blockers is bound to bite the Niners at some point.
On defense, the Cardinals season-long stats are slightly skewed by missing shutdown corner Patrick Peterson for a few games early, but that’s not enough to excuse a defensive efficiency rank of #29 in the NFL. Arizona has 17 sacks and ranks #22 in adjusted sack rate, but the Niners offensive line ranks 5th overall in adjusted sack rate allowed.
- OUT: DL Zach Allen
- OUT: RB Chase Edmonds
- Questionable: RB David Johnson
- Questionable: RT Justin Murray
- OUT: Kyle Juszczyk - FB
- OUT: Mike McGlinchey - OL
- OUT: Ahkello Witherspoon - CB
- DOUBTFUL: Joe Staley - LT
- QUESTIONABLE: Matt Breida -RB
Considering the mismatches on both sides of the ball, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of dollars and bets are on the Niners, which has moved this number from -7 to -10. Currently, 81% of the bets and 87% of the money is on San Francisco.
Even at -10 though, this number feels a little light. Two factors keeping the spread in check are that the game is being played in Arizona, and on Thursday, the perception is that home teams have fared better on the short week. While those factors must be considered, this number still could look extremely short once the game is underway on Thursday night.
The total is sitting just under the key number of 43 at 42.5 points. It would have been nice to get after the opening number of 44 points, but this total still feels look it could be too high.