Today's episode of The Shanaplan features a special guest as we preview the Arizona Cardinals. Blake Murphy of Revenge of the Birds joins Akash and me to preview:
- Whether the Cardinals are for real
- Kyler Murray playing like an MVP candidate
- One advantage the Cardinals have over the 49ers
- A few matchups to watch for
- Score predictions
I was the only one to pick the 49ers to win. This game will be ugly, low-scoring, and both of those things benefit the road team. Arizona has a high-flying offense. They're No. 2 in the NFL in EPA per play.
They have an MVP QB, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, a big-bodied receiver to complement him on the other side, and now, instead of Larry Fitzgerald getting screens, a receiver 20 years younger than Fitz is.
So, why the Niners? Team speed. Arizona cannot cover. Teams, when they don't make mistakes, have thrown the ball all over the Cardinals. I think Arizona's turnover luck ends Sunday.
Expect the 49ers running game to get going with Trey Lance, Trey Sermon, and Elijah Mithcell back healthy. We saw the holes Sermon had with Lance under center. The Cardinals are 16th in rushing DVOA and 29th in rushing success rate.
Defensively, DeMeco Ryans man coverage will give up a big play or two, but, ultimately, I think they'll contain this high-powered offense with Jimmie Ward manning the slot and the outside cornerbacks making the Cardinals complete difficult throws outside of the numbers.
Deebo Samuel and George Kittle have accounted for 71% of the 49ers' targets. We came into the season thinking Brandon Aiyuk would be the focal point of the offense. Aiyuk's play slipped a bit toward the end of August, but he remained far and away the best playmaker on offense.
Aiyuk had more touches as a punt returner than as a receiver last game. For the season, Aiyuk has fewer yards than Deebo's touchdown against the Seahawks. Especially if Lance is going to develop as a passer if he's forced into action, Kyle Shanahan has to find a way to get his former first-round wide receiver — a player he traded up for — involved in the offense.
Part of the reason I keep picking the 49ers to win is due to thinking No. 11 will have a breakout game. Now, more than ever, against a divisional opponent that's undefeated feels like the time to lean on Aiyuk.
You can listen to the entire podcast below:
- Why Trey Lance looked overwhelmed early against the Seahawks
- Things we liked from Lance in Week 4
- How the 49ers can help Lance improve this week
- Why you should take Arizona seriously
- Where the Cardinals are weakest at on defense