We were five Sundays away from Week 1 as of yesterday. Over the next month, we’ll preview the San Francisco 49ers’ upcoming opponents. We’ll give one reason why the 49ers will win, and one reason why they won’t. We’ve included a poll for the community to vote on whether they expect a win or a loss and see what kind of prediction this provides once we’re through each preview.
The 49ers open up the season at home against a divisional foe and the medias offseason darling Arizona Cardinals. Arizona added DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, and many feel Kyler Murray is on the verge of becoming a star. Have the Cardinals done enough this offseason to steal one from the reigning NFC Champions?
Reason for: The Cardinals offensive line and Kyler holding onto the ball
Last season, Murray was running for his life all year. Funny enough, Week 9 against the 49ers was Arizona’s best offensive performance per DVOA. Arizona’s offensive line was terrible last year, but Kyler took plenty of sacks he could have avoided. Starting the season against the best defensive line in the NFL when they are fresh doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals. If Murray holds onto the ball looking for the big play as he did last year, San Francisco must capitalize on Murray’s greediness. Here’s an eye-catching stat that speaks to Murray’s play in the pocket: 40% of the sacks Football Outsiders charted last year came as “non pressure” sacks, which could either be a coverage sack or a sack where the quarterback failed to get rid of the ball.
Arizona is going to spread you out. According to Football Outsiders Almanac, the Cardinals lined up in 10, 11, or 12 personnel 92% of the time. Kliff Kingsbury brought his air raid system to the NFL, which led the Cardinals to lead the NFL in 10 personnel usage (four wide receivers) and with an empty backfield. This will allow the 49ers to have ample 1-on-1 opportunities. San Francisco has the advantage across the line of scrimmage. That’ll be true in most games this season, but they should dominate the trenches against Arizona.
Reason against: Screens and speed
The 49ers offense should be able to do whatever they want to. The Cardinals drafted a high-end athlete in the first round who is going to play multiple positions, but Isaiah Simmons is not a guy that excels in coverage. Execution will be the only reason the 49ers don’t score.
So we’ll stay on the same side of the ball. Speed gave the 49ers defense issues last year, as did screens. Arizona ran 17 more wide receiver/tight end screens than the next closest team. The Cardinals were below average in breaking tackles on offense last year, but when you’re spread out in a 1-on-1 situation, all it takes is one missed tackle, leading to a big play. To me, that’d be the main reason the Niners lose, aside from turnovers. The Cardinals’ big plays last year came from broken tackles.
Kyler’s speed will always prevent an issue for defenses. Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella are both speedy, as is running back Kenyan Drake. Throw in Hopkins big-play ability, and the 49ers will have to be sure tacklers Week 1 if they want to come away with a victory.
Will the 49ers beat the Cardinals in Week 1
This poll is closed