Tonight the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals do battle in a Monday Night Football matchup that could have sizable implications on the NFC West division race. Neither team has proven they can win consistently, but the winner of this game will be one game out of first. Of course, that means we're in line for a tie in this game wouldn't you think?
In a QB matchup befitting this epic battle, Troy Smith will square off against Derek Anderson in a matchup that likely won't go down in the annals of football history, to be dramatized by NFL Films. I could be wrong about that, but I'd prefer to not get my hopes up. Our man Troy Smith started out his 49ers career with some pizzazz but a few adjustments made him look rather human in his third start. On the other side, the Cardinals send out journeyman QB Derek Anderson who can best be described in 2010 as mediocre on most days. We're not exactly talking about Brady versus Manning here.
Ninjames put together a preview post over at SB Nation Bay Area in which he discussed Troy Smith as the player to watch in tonight's game. Given some of Singletary's talk over the past week, this very well could be Troy Smith's last start as QB for the 2010 49ers. If he can make some adjustments in his game (God forbid the coaching staff do the same thing), it's entirely possible he could have a much-needed bounce back game in a "must-win" for the 49ers if you still believe in the playoff race.
Ninjames pointed to one particular reason why Troy Smith should have some level of confidence heading into this game. That would be the fact that the Cardinals are not a big takeaway team and just aren't all that good in pass defense:
Troy will have every opportunity to make things happen on Monday against the Cardinals on primetime. He may be new to this rivalry between the two NFC West teams, but he won't have to look far for inspiration, won't need to search for reasons to do well and dominate the Cardinals. Arizona ranks middle-of-the-pack in takeaways, and Troy will need to be wary of that, but one has to feel that he's primed for a big game against the Cardinals. Can they contain his arm and a super-amped Vernon Davis?
The Cardinals rank 28th against the pass in yardage allowed and are 25th in pass defense DVOA. They are fourth worst in turnover differential with a -8 differential. Throw in the fact that Calais Campbell is currently a game-time decision and that can't be a plus for their pass defense. If Campbell can't go Alan Branch will get the start instead.
If this game were in San Francisco I'd believe we could fully expect a nice little offensive showing form the 49ers. Even though this game is against a mediocre Cardinals team, road games are always tough and the 49ers offense doesn't exactly inspire a whole world of confidence. Will we see an inspired effort from the 49ers offense in general and Troy Smith in particular? Will the one time TSIOF bounce back into the good graces of the fans?