The stage is set for a pivotal NFC West matchup as the San Francisco 49ers will travel to the desert to take on the first-place Arizona Cardinals — who are the lone remaining unbeaten team in the league heading into Week 5.
If recent matchups are any indication, this game should go down to the wire, as each of the last four meetings between these teams has been one-score games in the final minute of regulation. I’m going to give a few statistics/sets of numbers that set the stage for this game.
This is the number of pressures registered this season by the pass-rushing trio of Chandler Jones, JJ Watt, and Markus Golden. With rookie Trey Lance slated to start his first NFL game on Sunday, the 49ers' first priority must be finding a way to keep him upright and limit the number of times he is forced to make throws with pressure in his face. Expect a lot of play calls designed to get Lance out of the pocket and on the move to combat this.
This is the number of combined receiving yards between George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Mohamed Sanu, and Brandon Aiyuk. Each player ranks 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively among the 49ers leaders in receiving yards this year.
Deebo Samuel has 490 yards on his own. However, the 49ers' offense needs to have a secondary playmaker step up and compliment the dominant start Samuel has put together thus far.
This is Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray’s passer rating (which is perfect) on throws deep to the right 20+ yards downfield. Murray is playing at an MVP level this season, and it is unrealistic to expect the 49ers defense to outright shut him down, but there has to be a focus on limiting big plays deep down the right side of the field where Murray has found a tremendous amount of success so far.
Murray has been excellent on all throws beyond 20 yards this season as he’s 14-22. The Niners must keep everything in front of them to win on Sunday.
5.4 yards per carry
This is the number of yards the Cardinals defense has ceded on rushing attempts so far this season, which is the second-worst in the league. After an abysmal start to the season for the 49ers ground game, they rebounded well last week against Seattle and will look to continue to build on that success against Arizona’s 31st ranked run defense. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the 49ers, if they aren’t able to exploit this mismatch and run the football effectively, their chances of winning this game become very slim.
That is the average margin of victory in the last four meetings between these teams (this number excludes a fluke touchdown by the 49ers defense on a last-ditch lateral play by Arizona in 2019 when they trailed by 4 points). Since Kliff Kingsbury took over as head coach prior to the 2019 season, the Cardinals have played the 49ers as tough as any team, despite their 1-3 record in that span.