Another week, another game where the Arizona Cardinals are double-digit underdogs. You’d think we’d get a little more respect from Vegas after following up two hard-fought losses with a massive upset against the Dallas Cowboys, but no.
Either the oddsmakers aren’t buying into the new-look Redbirds under Jonathan Gannon or they’re REALLY buying into the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners have put up an even 30 every week so far and haven’t really been challenged in beating the Steelers and Rams on the road then throttling the Giants at home last week.
Stop me if you’ve heard that one before—it’s basically the same narrative the Cowboys had going for them before it all fell apart for them last week in the desert.
The question is: Can the Cardinals flip the script on the Niners and pull off a second shocking upset in a row? I’m not so sure. There are some key differences between the two matchups. Let’s explore those and then see if we can find a few glimmers of hope for the two-touchdown underdog.
- First, it’s obvious but we’re on the road this week—hence the +-4 line for the home team. It’s much more difficult to pull off upsets on the road. And the Niners are dominant at home, having won 8 in a row and 14 out of their last 15 homes games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have lost 4 road games in a row and 6 out of their last 7. (Fun with arbitrary endpoints!)
- While injuries should never be an excuse in the NFL—the quintessential Next Man Up™ league—the Cowboys were missing three Pro Bowlers against the Cardinals. They were obviously without Trevon Diggs, who tore his ACL in practice before the game. But they were also missing two mainstays on the offensive line: RG Zack Martin and C Tyler Biadasz. The absence of all three was keenly noticeable. This week, the 49ers are mostly healthy, with Deebo Samuel (questionable) the only injury of note.
- Finally, as I pointed out earlier in the week, many of the Cowboys’ wounds last week were self-inflicted. They racked up 13 penalties for 107 yards, went 1-5 in the red zone, and saw Dak Prescott throw a coffin nail interception to end the game. That’s not to say the Cardinals defense didn’t play well—they absolutely did—but the Cowboys still racked up over 400 yards of offense and moved the ball at will between the 20s. While the 49ers don’t rank highly in some of these areas (see below), we can’t count on them to beat themselves like the Cowboys largely did.
Glimmers of Hope
- Yes, we’re on the road, but we’ve actually won 6 of our last 8 in the Bay Area. We did get blown out there last year 38-13 with David Blough under center, but the last time before that when we played in Levi’s Stadium with a backup QB, Colt McCoy led the team to a 31-17 upset. The teams are obviously much different today, but there is an element of precedent here.
- As I hinted at above, the 49ers do have some issues with red zone offense and penalties. They’re a pedestrian #19 in RZ TD% (7 TDs in 13 RZ trips), and they’re in the top 10 in both penalties and penalty yards. (Although so are we and we can’t even blame Kliff this time.) Another stat that might be in our favor: the Niners haven’t exactly excelled in pass protection. They’ve already allowed 6 sacks against just 91 pass attempts, a sack rate that’s in the bottom half of the league. And the Cardinals pass rush has been pretty fearsome so far this season.
- Finally, let’s use another well-worn NFL cliché: the “nobody believes in us” card. The Cardinals played that card last week and won, and STILL nobody seems to believe in this team. Don’t discount this factor, especially with a motivator like Gannon at the helm.
Those glimmers of hope may not seem like much, but they’re there. Still, there’s a lot going against us this week—we’re big underdogs for a reason. A road loss seems fairly likely this weekend. But this team plays HARD and has been proving people wrong for weeks now. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?
Now it’s your turn. You know the drill: vote in the poll and get into it in the comments.
Do you think the Cardinals will—not can, but WILL—beat the 49ers this weekend?
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