49ers vs. Cardinals: Previewing Week 10 for San Francisco
The San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 10 NFC West showdown. Niner Noise breaks down this divisional contest and asks whether or not the red and gold stand the slightest of chances.
Should anyone realistically expect the 1-7 San Francisco 49ers to stand a chance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10?
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You’re weird/unrealistic if you do.
But things have been weird in the NFL all season long. Who would have guessed Arizona, a team in the NFC Championship game last year, would be 3-4-1 this deep into 2016? Still, it’s more than safe to assume the Niners will come away on the wrong side of the win column.
The last time these two teams met was in Week 5 on Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals trounced the 49ers 33-21 using a backup quarterback, Drew Stanton, and enjoyed running back David Johnson’s 157-yard rushing performance.
We know San Francisco can’t stop the run. And with Arizona now at home, any shot of a Niners victory is about as remote a possibility there is.
If he hasn’t already, head coach Chip Kelly may want to start eyeing players for next season (assuming he’s still here) and treat this game — and subsequent ones — as an elongated preseason before 2017.
This might happen. It might not. Who knows? But let’s break down what we do know and try to speculate what the difference-makers will be.
Week 10 By the Numbers
Yes, the Cardinals’ 2016 record is a bit weird. This was a team many felt would be right back in contention for a Super Bowl after coming oh-so close a year ago.
Arizona still has a legitimate shot. But they have to get hot right now. Fortunately for the Cardinals, a seemingly shoo-in victory over San Francisco is about the best thing they can get.
Defensively, there hasn’t been much for head coach Bruce Arians’ squad to worry about. The Cardinals have given up the fourth-fewest points in the league (140) and are leading the NFL in fewest yards against (2,376).
The Cardinals pass defense is a primary reason why teams are struggling to move the ball against Arizona. And pass-rushers Markus Golden and Chandler Jones have combined for 11 sacks over nine weeks.
Cornerback Marcus Cooper — remember when he was with the 49ers? — leads the Cardinals defense with three interceptions too.
Yet the biggest focus, as it has been all season for San Francisco, has been opponents’ rushing games.
Cardinals tailback David Johnson has been tearing up the league all season and has 705 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to his credit. Pro Football Focus ranks him the No. 3 overall running back on the year.
This doesn’t bode well for a 49ers defense, which is allowing a historically bad 193 rushing yards per game.
No, the 49ers won’t have the benefit of going up against a backup quarterback in Week 10. And it isn’t as if that mattered the last time these two teams met.
Veteran signal-caller Carson Palmer will be back under center. He’s completing 62.8 percent of his passes on the year but ranks only 22nd among all qualifying quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
The 49ers have done an OK job handling him over his career though. Palmer owns an 88.8 passer rating against San Francisco. But this figure goes out the window, considering all of the Niners’ defensive woes.
Countering Palmer will be quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kap enjoyed one of his better games against the New Orleans Saints last week. Yet the Saints have a bad defense too, so we shouldn’t read too much into this.
Instead, all we need to recall is the last time Kaepernick squared off in Arizona and went 9-of-19 with four interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns. His 16.7 passer rating in that 2015 game remains the lowest of his career.
Should we expect more of the same? Probably.
Significant 49ers Injuries
San Francisco suffered a major setback this week, losing second-year defensive end Arik Armstead to a season-ending shoulder injury.
It’s a good thing to sideline Armstead for the rest of the year. The 49ers aren’t going anywhere, so he needs to heal up properly for 2017.
But that’s not the only major injury. Here are the rest, courtesy of the team’s website:
- G Zane Beadles (ankle/knee) — full practice
- LB Nick Bellore (shoulder) — limited practice
- DT Quinton Dial (knee/neck) — limited practice
- DT Glenn Dorsey (knee) — limited practice
- RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder) — limited practice
- C Daniel Kilgore (hamstring) — limited practice
- LB Aaron Lynch (ankle) — did not practice
- CB Rashard Robinson (knee) — did not practice
- WR Torrey Smith (back) — limited practice
Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey saw the biggest amount of action in Week 9 since returning from a 2015 ACL tear. The Niners clearly hope he’ll be 100 percent, since he’s one of the better run defenders the team has.
Running back Carlos Hyde is in danger of missing his third consecutive game, although his absence last week opened up the door for backup RB DuJuan Harris to open up some eyes.
Signs are pointing to the 49ers being without linebacker Aaron Lynch and cornerback Rashard Robinson on Sunday as well, which doesn’t bode well for the defense.
Offensive & Defensive X-Factors
San Francisco has given up seven 100-plus-yard rushers over the last seven games. And, not surprisingly, the Niners have lost each one of those contests.
Life won’t get any easier facing off against running back David Johnson. So it’s safe to assume the 49ers will live and die by their run defense.
DT Glenn Dorsey and the 49ers Run Defense
Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey isn’t going to offer much in the pass rush. But in limited action this season, Dorsey has been one of the better run stuffers San Francisco has. He now owns a 69.1 run-stopping grade this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which is tops among all 49ers interior defenders.
He’ll need help though. And looking at the remaining front-seven cast, it’s hard to see where Dorsey will get the assistance to help bottle up Johnson.
CB Jimmie Ward
Even at 33 years old, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald remains a primary weapon. The Cardinals love featuring him out of the slot, which means the 49ers will likely have to match cornerback Jimmie Ward up against him out of nickel formations.
Ward has been one of the better players in the secondary on the season and is tied for second on the team with four pass breakups.
RB DuJuan Harris
It’s too hard to bite on the idea running back Carlos Hyde returns this Sunday. This means fellow tailback DuJuan Harris will likely see some more featured action, like he did a week ago against New Orleans.
If the Cardinals defense does have a weakness, it might come from their run defense. Currently, Arizona ranks 16th against the run, so it isn’t as if this unit is elite here.
QB Colin Kaepernick
Can quarterback Colin Kaepernick build on his performance from last week, at least the first half of it?
Maybe. But the Cardinals defense is, far and away, better than anything Kap had to deal with versus the Saints. We saw a year ago how bad Kaepernick could be against Arizona’s defense. Perhaps head coach Chip Kelly is a difference-maker here, and Kap provides a little more of what’s needed.
At this point, anything marginally better than the Week 3 debacle from a year ago would be a notable improvement.
San Francisco and Arizona kick off Week 10 on Sunday, November 13 at 4:25 p.m. ET at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Here’s the breakdown, from FanSided:
Date: Sunday, November 13, 2016
Start Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Location: Glendale, AZ
Venue: University of Phoenix Stadium
TV Info: FOX
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the Niners aren’t favored in this one. According to Odds Shark, the 49ers are 13.5-point underdogs with a predicted score of 35.8 to 10.2 in favor of the Cardinals.
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For San Francisco to win, almost everything would have to go right and the Niners would have to play mistake-free football — something they couldn’t do a week ago.
And Arizona would have to suffer more than its fair share of on-field gaffes.
This isn’t a likely scenario. So we shouldn’t come close to expecting any sort of NFC West upset here.
We’ll roll with that prediction. The 49ers are going to lose this game. The only question is just how big an embarrassment it will be.