Week nine is already on the doorstep for the San Francisco 49ers who will be on primetime Thursday Night Football tomorrow. The 49ers will take on division opponent Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on such a quick turnaround. It is short weeks like this where elite teams tend to find themselves on the losing side.
The fact that it is a road game makes it much more difficult. However, the 49ers have been battling adversity for most of the season with so many injuries to their key players. The Niners will look to end an eight game losing streak to the Cardinals that dates as far back as the 2015 season. Considering the 49ers are heavy favorites to win this game, they are poised to break that losing streak.
However, Arizona will not just lay down and let the 49ers walk all over them. The Cardinals have been fairly good team this season and should not be overlooked. To get a better grasp of the Cardinals, I went behind enemy lines to Cardinals Maven Sports Illustrated's editor Tyler Jaggi, who was gracious enough to answer five questions regarding this mathcup.
1.) Coming off a huge loss to the Saints in the New Orleans. What is it gonna take for the Cardinals to pick themselves back up to try and win on such a quick turnaround?
TJ: I actually thought the Cardinals played the Saints pretty well through three quarters. They trailed by just 1 score going into the final quarter in a game with Drew Brees returning to the Saints and a game in which Cardinals only combined for 40 yards rushing. The quick turnaround is hard for any team, Cardinals had to trade from Kenyan Drake due to injured to both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.
2.) Without David Johnson and Chase Edmonds, how much of a blow is it to the offense of the Cardinals?
TJ: It will rely on how well Kenyan Drake can pick up the Kingsbury system and carry the load on Thursday. It will take a small blow for sure since the chemistry between how the offensive line open running lanes and Drake's running style.
3.) Prior to the Saints loss, the Cardinals were rolling on a three game winning streak. What started clicking with this team during that span?
TJ: Whenever a team goes on a 3 game win streak, it relies on multiple assets of the team playing well at the same time. To start, the running game flourished during those 3 games averaging 174.7 yards per game. Both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds had great games during the 3 games.
With both likely out for Thursday's matchup, newly acquired Kenyan Drake will need to carry the load. Arizona also committed zero turnover during their winning span. Which is very impressive over 3 games. Murray was playing sound and smart football and not taking too many chances. Again, this helps when the quarterback can rely on a strong running game.
4.) It is well known that the 49ers’ pass rush is one of the best in the league. However, they have never faced such an athletic quarterback like Kyler Murray this season. How will Murray be able to handle the pressure from the pass rush?
TJ: This will be the Cardinals offensive line's toughest challenge yet. Nick Bosa is easily the favorite for defensive rookie of the year. He has lived up to the second overall pick. The Cardinals offensive tackles have caused problems in the passing game for majority of the year. Murray does have some special ability to escape pressure and even make defenders look silly at times with his quick feet.
49ers will need to contain the pocket and bring pressure on the edges as well as up the middle to squeeze the pocket. That has flustered Murray thus far during his rookie season. Not only will pass protection be hard to give Murray time to find receivers down the field, but it will be hard for the offensive line to open running lanes vs. the 49ers defensive front. With Drake taking the lead role for Arizona's running game, it's going to be very tough sledding on this short week.
5.) The 49ers are coming off a beat down of the Panthers. Do you see the Cardinals being able to cause an upset?
TJ: The only clear advantage I see the Cardinals having is playing this Thursday night game at home and not having to travel during the short week. That said, I don't see it being enough to off-set the +10 point spread on the game. Cardinals come in as a major underdog and are a bit banged up coming into this matchup. If Cardinals have any chance for the upset they will need to do several things during this game:
1. Arizona will need to have turnover free game
2. Rush for over 100 yards per game
3. Kyler Murray have an efficient passing game, picking up crucial 3rd downs
4. Cardinals will need to create a few turnovers to have short fields and to build on the momentum. Much like their matchup with the Saints, I don't see the Cardinals getting the upset but I can see them playing well and competing for the majority of this contest with 49ers pulling ahead late.
Final score: 49ers 31 - 20 Cardinals