Wednesday afternoon, the folks at Revenge of the Birds put together a look at under-the-radar-players to watch for this Sunday. As we've done through the first five weeks of the season, I contributed my thoughts on 49ers players to watch.
Today, we're back with a look at why each team will win. The folks at RotB put together their offensive and defensive thoughts on why the Cardinals would win, and I've got some thoughts on why the 49ers will win. First up RotB.
Why the Cardinals will win
On paper and according to pretty much every pundit out there, the Cardinals have no chance. However, based on how things have been going for both teams, the Cards have a legit chance. The Arizona defense, which was much stronger against the pass than against the run a season ago, has flipped things around. They have been fantastic against the run.
Defensively, the Cardinals match up very well against San Fran. Their one passing threat statistically is Anquan Boldin can be neutralized by Patrick Peterson. The defense should keep the running game bottled up. That will limit the scoring opportunities.
Offensively is the issue for Arizona. However, while the offense has struggled, they have been able to put together at least one solid touchdown drive every game. If they don't turn the ball over, they should be in position to pull out a grind-it-out nail-biter of a win.
Why the 49ers will win
The 49ers head into this game as an eleven point favorite, which is a spread some are concerned about given that it is a divisional matchup against a solid Cardinals defense. It could very well be close, but if the 49ers stick to their recent formula for success, they should be able to win this game, and even cover that spread.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers pass rush needs to take advantage of the matchup edge they hold against the Cardinals offensive line. The 49ers have done a solid job stopping the run thus far, so the key in this game will be forcing Carson Palmer to make quicker decisions, or simply putting him on his back as much as possible. The Cardinals have dangerous receivers, but if the quarterback doesn't have time to let them develop their routes, they can be neutralized.
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers need to focus on their run game. The Cardinals have done solid work against the run this season, but they haven't matched up against a run offense quite as dynamic as that of the 49ers. The 49ers recent success on offense has been due to their running game. The Cardinals secondary has the kind of players that can keep Arizona in the game if they are challenged. The 49ers would be wise to stick with the ground game.