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49ers vs. Cardinals preview - Another home game on the road

Will the Niners take advantage?

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The setting for Monday night’s showdown should be quite the spectacle. The 49ers will square off with their division rival Arizona Cardinals in front of 87,000 fans at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. A week after we saw an impassioned group of fans rock an international NFL game in Munich, the 49ers will now get the chance to experience an atmosphere like they never have before.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers listed as an eight-point favorite. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in this matchup.

First place is on the line

The 49ers enter this game just a half-game back of the division-leading Seahawks for the top spot in the NFC West. However, with Seattle on their bye week, the 49ers have a chance to leapfrog them for first place because of their head-to-head victory over the Seahawks back in week 2.

Another home game on the road

It’s no secret that 49ers fans travel well, and we’ve even seen them turn SoFi Stadium into “Levi’s South” in recent years. However, we might not have ever experienced the magnitude of 49ers fans expected to be in the stands for what is technically listed as a road game for the 49ers despite it being played at a neutral site.

Vivid seats is reporting that 82% of those in attendance at Monday night’s game will be 49ers fans. The 49ers getting a de facto home game over 2000 miles away from the Bay Area speaks volumes about how strong the fan base is represented both domestically and internationally.

It has major ramifications on the outcome of the game as well, as this will likely heavily favor the 49ers' defense by causing communication issues for the Cardinals offense that will likely have to resort to a silent count in a game that is technically a home game for them.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s track record of success vs. Arizona

Garoppolo played arguably the greatest game of his nine-year NFL career against the Cardinals back in 2019 when he was 28/37 for 317 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Garoppolo made his first career start against Arizona back in 2016 and has posted favorable numbers in his five career matchups with the Cardinals. Here are his career numbers against Arizona:

1,590 passing yards (318 yards per game)

13 touchdowns

3 interceptions

112.7 passer rating

Can the 49ers correct their red-zone issues

The one thing that has slowed up the 49ers' offense that is currently ranked in the top ten, has been their inability to convert inside the red zone. They have moved the ball well between the 20s, but when the field shrinks, there has been a consistent inability to cap off long drives with a touchdown, instead settling for field goals as a result.

The Cardinals' defense is currently allowing opponents to score a touchdown on 67.5 percent of their red zone trips, which ranks 28th in the league this season. The 49ers have a fantastic chance to correct some of their issues against a bottom-five red zone defense, but should their woes persist, it could signal an even greater level of concern moving forward in this area, regardless of the outcome of this game.

The 49ers are set up for success on third down

While the 49ers' offense has had some struggles in the red zone, it’s been quite the opposite on third down this season. San Francisco is currently converting 45.6 percent of their third down attempts, which ranks fifth in the NFL this season.

On the flip side, the Cardinals' defense is allowing opponents to convert 44 percent of their third downs this season, which ranks 26th in the league. The 49ers have found a particularly noteworthy amount of success throwing the ball on third and long since Garoppolo took over, converting more 3rd and 8+ situations than every other team in the league outside of the Chiefs.

The Cardinals' offense has had its share of issues extending drives on the money down as well, converting just 34.8 percent of their third down attempts, which ranks 27th in the league this season.