As the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) prepare for their first divisional game against the Arizona Cardinals (2-0), it will be a matchup in which an all-out backyard brawl should ensue. Two teams that are vastly familiar with each other’s style of play, it will ultimately come down to execution as to who the winner will be this Sunday. But the question remains who will come out victorious? While the 49ers are favored by three points, I believe they will be the ones to come out on top if they can contain the Cardinals wide-receivers.
A task easier said than done as the Cardinals have a plethora of weapons at that position including eight-time Pro Bowl WR Larry Fitzgerald and promising second-year stud WR Michael Floyd, you can be sure the 49ers secondary will have their hands full on Sunday as they tackle this big receiving tandem. Not to mention, the Cardinals also have speedy rookie third-round pick (No. 91) WR John Brown to work with in the slot, it will be very interesting to see the type of scheme 49ers DC Vic Fangio will utilize.
Last week saw rookie first-round pick (No. 30) DB Jimmie Ward get torched for touchdown after touchdown, so it will be a test for him to see how he bounces back mentally. A likely matchup in which he will be one-on-one with Brown in the slot, Ward has struggled against the shiftier receivers in camp on those quick slants and I expect more of the same on Sunday as Brown should have his fair share of catches on those routes.
[Why 49ers’ Must bring pressure to Cardinals QBs]
However, if the 49ers can generate a solid pass-rush while speeding up the Cardinals quarterback’s time-clock, it will do wonders to their pass defense, as the best course of action to a suspect secondary is an elite pass-rush. Three players quickly come to mind that can fulfill that goal and they are none other than DE Justin Smith, OLB Ahmad Brooks, and rookie fifth-round pick (No. 150) OLB Aaron Lynch. If they can create havoc in the backfield especially if QB Drew Stanton gets the starting nod, look for that to be the x-factor as the 49ers stingy defense gets back to playing fast, physical, and aggressive. But they will first need to make the Cardinals offense one-dimensional as Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (Bruce Ellington’s cousin) will be looking for big chunks of yardage on early downs.
A true dual-threat that has quickly come into his own, the Clemson product can cause damage in both the run and passing game. If the 49ers are to contain Ellington like they did last week with Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte they will need to bring him down on initial contact all while setting the edge. Ellington loves to work in space, so if you limit his runs to the outside while flushing him back to the heart of the defense that should bode well for San Francisco’s defense.
With the 49ers doing their part, it will be the offense that needs to show up. And while 49ers TE Vernon Davis is likely questionable for the game, look for him to start as he will be the man on Sunday. Last year, Davis shredded the Cardinals defense for 11 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Look for more of the same as I predict a stat line similar to six catches for 93 yards and one touchdown as Davis routinely beats linebackers and safeties down the seam and on those intermediate routes.
With the 49ers looking to get back in the win column with a tough road victory, look for them to get it done as I predict a close one while the 49ers pull away late in the fourth-quarter in a thrilling 24-20 victory.
NinerFans.com 2-0 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 42, I would slightly take the over. This game will likely be controlled by San Francisco early on as they take a commanding seven point lead, if they can contain the Cardinals wide receivers. If the 49ers defense can generate a pass-rushing presence all while containing Ellington that should be enough as the 49ers hold onto a late lead.
NinerFans.com 1-1 (line)
With the 49ers favored by three points, eat the points and take San Francisco. A team that historically does well after a loss under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers should be good enough to come out on top.
Fantasy Football (2 out of 6)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Last week we went 2 for 3. So without further ado, our three players for this week’s game are:
RB Frank Gore
WR Anquan Boldin
WR Larry Fitzgerald
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