The San Francisco 49ers have a chance to remain undefeated with a win over division rival Arizona Cardinals. This game is more than just improving to 8-0. San Francisco hasn’t won a game against the Cardinals in their last eight outings. That is an embarrassment to say the least. Now the tables are turn as the 49ers are a monstrous unit.
However, the Cardinals are no slouches either. They started off the season relatively slow, but hit their stride prior to week eight. On such a short week and being on the road, this will prove challenging for the San Francisco 49ers. The game can go very smoothly in their favor if they win certain matchups.
With that said, here are three key matchups to watch tonight.
49ers Linebackers vs Kyler Murray
The 49ers’ defense has not faced an athletic quarterback like Kyler Murray. He can gash a defense with his arm and legs, which makes him a threat in the scramble drill. Murray’s dual threat ability can cause a frustration in a defense because of his unpredictability. This where the linebackers of the 49ers comes in. There will be times in the game where Murray will want to take off with the ball.
It’ll become more enticing for him if the pass rush is constantly in his face. It is absolutely critical that the linebackers react quickly and take the correct angles. Any misstep will allow Murray to run free for a huge gain. I do not have any doubt that Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner can do it. There is a bit concern of how fatigued they will be chasing him around on such a short week of rest. This matchup will be telling, as well as a key to the game.
Justin Skule/Daniel Brunskill vs Chandler Jones/Terrell Suggs
The backup offensive tackles, Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill, have done a stellar job in the absence of starters Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. There really isn’t a serious cause for concern when it comes to their execution since they have proven more than capable in their roles. However, both Skule and Brunskill will still have a couple of shaky instances. Against the Panthers last Sunday, Skule allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to get sacked that led to a safety and that was against Bruce Irvin.
Tonight’s matchup will have him see snaps against Chandler Jones and/or Terrell Suggs. These two veterans are highly skilled and can be a handful for the backup offensive tackles. Jones and Suggs have accounted for 13.5 of the sacks for the Cardinals. They are definitely one of the better pass rushing duos in the league. This should be a matchup that will be very fun to watch and another good experience for the backup tackles.
Emmanuel Sanders vs Cardinals secondary
What makes Emmanuel Sanders such a great acquisition is his versatility. The guy can be implemented on almost any spot in the formation. That means he will get matched up with both slot and outside corners of the Cardinals. Tonight’s matchup will be interesting because Sanders will be a bit more accustomed to the offensive playbook. He should see a bit more playing time, but the short week doesn’t help him. The Cardinals defense is sure to focus on George Kittle, so Sanders will have to make them pay for it.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is sure to have told his players in the secondary to stay alert when guarding Sanders. Jimmy Garoppolo is sure to look for him plenty of times in this game. It makes the pressure on Sanders to win his matchup much higher. The most intriguing matchup will be if he gets snaps against Patrick Peterson. Wherever Sanders is running routes out of the formation, he must make the most of his opportunitie