It’s Week Three in the NFL and the Arizona Cardinals are sitting all alone a top the NFC West, but the 49ers are headed to University of Phoenix Stadium for the first divisional match up of the 2015 season.
The 49ers looked like the team that went to the NFC Championship game in their Week One 20-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Week Two was a different story as San Francisco struggled losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 43-18. We all know the Cardinals’ story, beating the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears in the first two weeks.
This has always been a great match-up, as the Cardinals and 49ers split their series in 2014. This season the Cardinals would like to take every match-up with other NFC West teams.
Sep 21, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) dives forward after making a catch against the San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona offense has been near perfect this season. They have a record breaker in David Johnson, who in his first touches got three touchdowns. Johnson has helped quarterback Carson Palmer to 492 yards and seven touchdowns in the first two weeks, with only one interception. With Palmer the Cardinals are 7-for-7 in the Red Zone in the first two games. In last week’s game, receiver Larry Fitzgerald went off for three touchdowns and 112 yards on eight receptions. Fitzgerald has had some of his best games against San Francisco.
Fitzgerald and Palmer will face a 49er defense that is missing several players that have contributed to their success. San Francisco has loss Chris Culliver, Chris Borland, Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, and Patrick Willis, all on the defensive side of the ball. With a struggling defense and a soaring offense, the Cardinals should continue to play well on offense.
Sep 21, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) tackles San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
For the Cardinals on defense their main priority is stopping the run. Arizona had done a great job of that until the second half of last week’s game against the Bears. In Week One and Two, the Cardinals only allowed 163 yards on 48 attempts. They will need to stop Carlos Hyde and a great rushing quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, and in order to do that the defensive line must be able to step up early and often. Hyde had 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns in their Week One victory, but the Steelers limited him to only 43 yards. The Cardinals need to control Hyde in order to get a win.
Calais Campbell will be the Cardinals’ key to stopping the run. In their Week Two match-up Campbell moved to the center position, which he did very well at. Another key for the Cardinals is Deone Bucannon, who is labeled as a safety but often lines up as a linebacker. He is very good at stopping the run, which the Cardinals will need to do this weekend.
Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Even if the Cardinals can stop the run, there is a player that the Cardinals know all too well in Anquan Boldin. He is aging, but is ranked 14th all-time in receptions with 950 and 19th in receiving yards with 12,502 yards. Boldin is the 49ers best receiver, but Torrey Smith is coming into his own with a 75-yard touchdown last week.
In order for San Francisco to win they will need to run the ball effectively and stop the red-hot Cardinals’ offense often. This game could easily set the tone for the NFC West, as the Cardinals could have a two game lead over the whole NFC West by the end of Sunday.
With the success the Cardinals have at home and their ability to control teams’ running game, I give Arizona the advantage winning this game; 34-17.