Arizona Cardinals (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date/Time: Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Leviís Stadium, Santa Clara, California
TV: NFL Network
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARI -3/SF +3
Over/Under Total: 42.5
The Arizona Cardinals come to Leviís Stadium to face the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football. This is a critical NFC West battle between a pair of 1-3 teams looking to get their seasons jump-started. Itís been a tough start for one of the top favorites in the NFC, as the Cardinals fell at home to the Rams, 17-13, and lost Carson Palmer with a concussion. Can they right the ship against a San Fran team that shut out the Rams at home this season? Or is this where we start to see the real Cardinals team?
For some reason, the 1-3 start is less-painful for the 49ers, who are in rebuilding mode under first-year head coach Chip Kelly. But compared to last season, the Niners look to be a bit more-dangerous, at least on offense. Itís hard to be optimistic about a team that not that long ago was contending for several straight seasons and is now on the bottom trying to claw their way back up. But for those expecting to see the same listless Niners lost at sea like in 2015, that isnít quite the case. They shut out the Rams in week one and the Rams havenít lost since. They then faced two rough road games against Carolina and Seattle, before losing at home to a good Dallas team. They were competitive in all their games other than the Seattle game.
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The problem with Frisco is their offense just doesnít really have any playmakers. They have a QB in Blaine Gabbert who is gutsy and tries hard, but is just not up-to-snuff in the big picture. Carlos Hyde is trying to establish himself as a good back and he might get there eventually. He had a good game on Sunday with a TD score. Jeremy Kerley led receivers and can be good on the right day, though heís problematic as a number-one receiver and more suited in a complimentary role. TE Garrett Celek also had a good day against the Cowboys. Itís the same cast as last season. They could barely get the ball moving last season, but this season weíre seeing some better bursts of offense from time to time.
Defense is a major issue for the Niners. And it just got worse, as NaVorro Bowman will be out for an indefinite period of time after suffering another bad injury to his Achilles. We sometimes think of the Niners and think of defense, but the Jim Harbaugh era hasnít even left any residual pixie dust with this defense, which went right into the tank when he left. This season, they are allowing running backs like Christine Michael and Fozzy Whitaker to go over 100 yards. On Sunday, Ezekiel Elliott had 138 yards on the ground against this bunch. With Palmer looking to almost certainly miss this game, Arizona might flex more of the run game with surging back David Johnson. San Franciscoís defense is going to have to find some answers. They need to be able to start making more big plays and give the offense a chance.
The 1-3 start has to sting he Cardinals exponentially more than it has the Niners. They have already equaled their loss total from all of last season. At 1-2, they were hosting the Rams and it looked like a chance for them to right the ship and even the slate on the season. No such luck. Now on the road, they look to be without Palmer, whose career revival was key to the Cardinalsí renaissance in the past few seasons, as his record as a starter would attest. Without him, it looks like theyíre back with Drew Stanton, who didnít exactly shine in relief with 4-for-11 passing with two interceptions. At 1-3 with Stanton behind center, things arenít looking as good for the Cardinals as they looked before the season began not too long ago. Stanton will have tools at his disposal, including a stocked receiving crew led by Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and John Brown. Johnson has been a handful and weíll see how good Stanton does in getting the ball in the right hands this week.
The Cardinalsí defense was a game-changing unit last season, with big plays and turnovers and even defensive scores aiding in the overall team cause. They gave up a lot to the Bills in week three and havenít been all that impactful. Still only 47 combined points have been scored by opponents in their other three games. Weíre still seeing a lot more big plays being yielded by this group. With Palmer out and the offense not really clicking consistently, itís a bad time for the defense to be underachieving.
Something just seems ďoffĒ about the Cardinals, as their 1-3 start would indicate. The defense seems to be sleepwalking at times. Even with Palmer in there, the offense wasnít taking to flight other than in the win over Tampa in week two. Theyíve already lost twice at home. And they arenít getting the most out of what they have. On Sunday, they gained 420 yards of total offense, only to see it manifest in a pair of field goals and a single TD.
An element that really stands out for the purposes of this game is the Arizona urgency-level. If they go to 1-4, things start looking really bad. But sometimes, you canít just will yourself to win in this league, especially when you have Drew Stanton behind center. This could be a more-difficult matchup for the Cardinals than what is being forecasted. And with a Cardinals team playing with their backup QB and misconnecting on a lot of different levels, we think the Niners offer some upside as a home dog this week.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the San Francisco 49ers plus 3 points.
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