San Francisco 49ers (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS)
NFL Week 3
Date/Time: Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 4:05PM EST
Where: U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SF +7/ARI -7
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The San Francisco 49ers come south to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in an NFC West battle. Arizona looks like one of the better teams in the league through 2 weeks. Their 48-23 road win over the Chicago Bears was impressive, with a healthy Carson Palmer looking like its making a world of difference with this team. The Niners are looking to shake off a punishing 43-18 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. After looking great at home in week one on MNF, the Niners had a bit of a coming-down-to-earth moment on Sunday.
If just looking at the stats, it was strange that San Francisco was held to so few points on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick threw for 335 yards and ran for 51 more. They only had one turnover and werent heavily-penalized. And still, they managed a measly 3 points through 3 quarters of play. It was a bit curious. But as is often the case with 49ers teams from this era, there are times when its almost as if theres some kind of force-field around the end zone that prevents them notching touchdowns. Promising drives ended with barely a whimper. Third and fourth down conversions were not executed. Its just that sometimes, we see the offense doing big things, without it materializing into points for some odd reason.
The 49ers made it hard on themselves by allowing 5 sacks. The Steelers home defense was robust, with Kaepernick looking battered by the end of the game. Also getting roughed up was RB Carlos Hyde, who came up short following an explosive week one showing. He was hit hard repeatedly and was seen on the sidelines undergoing concussion protocol, though he was cleared.
In week one, the 49ers defense looked like it might be able to withstand massive personnel changes, with a coaching shift to boot. After week two, more questions are present. But it might be premature to relegate the San Fran D to the scrap pile just yet. The Steelers at home are going to give a lot of defenses fits this season and not all those defense will have been terrible. Still, there was minimal resistance during stretches of the game, as Roethlisberger lit up this secondary, with DeAngelo Williams running for three touchdowns, and WR Antonio Brown nearly putting a 200-spot on this defense, which looked so good holding the Vikings to 3 points the previous week. It was a little alarming to see Pittsburgh moving the ball with such ease, to the point where they just decided to go ahead and try for two-point conversions on their first two touchdowns, each of which were converted easily.
The Niners face their second really tough road game, as the first quarter of this season is turning into a real trial-by-fire. The Cardinals are looking good and have the look and air of a team that is worth watching. They are 15-2 in their last 17 games started by Carson Palmer. Thats a powerful stat. Theyre borderline elite with Palmer behind center and while that puts a lot of pressure on Palmer to stay healthy, it also gives the Cardinals hope moving forward in what will be a difficult and pivotal season.
There is a lot to like about the Cardinals. Their coaching is really good, with Bruce Arians one of the best in the business. Beyond the individual components they have at their avail, they have an overachieving aura about them. On paper, there arent any superstars on either side of the ball. But the concept of team is epitomized by this bunch. They play together and their unity is their strength.
With Andre Ellington out at running back for Cardinals, Chris Johnson was brought in and had a respectable 72 yards, as he tries to hold it together until Ellington gets back. Super impressive on Sunday was veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught 3 touchdowns on 112 yards receiving. The passing game is packed with Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, speedy John Brown, tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Darren Fells. Also emerging on Sunday was rookie David Johnson, who ran the opening kickoff back for a 108-yard touchdown, later scoring on a 13-yard run.
After an uneven start, the Cardinals defense was able to stifle the Chicago offense, bolstered by the loss of Jay Cutler to a hamstring injury. Arizona held the Bears to a mere field goal in the second half, as they pulled away with the game. Every week, there is a different star on this defense. On Sunday, it was safety Tony Jefferson, who had a pick-six to go along with 9 solo tackles. CB Patrick Peterson also had a pick.
This is where things get serious, a divisional game between teams that are pretty familiar with each other. In the first two games, each team played an opponent they had no real connection to. These divisional games have slightly more meaning and we often see closer games than one would suspect. Arizona has done enough to earn the -7 point spread and San Francisco is in enough of a state of flux to warrant a number that would have been hard to believe a year or two ago. And sometimes teams like the Cardinals are not able to deliver in a different role, having spent the past few seasons as the spunky underdog against the top of the NFC West. Now theyre the big favorite and thats not the typical space that they occupy. Not that they wont get it done, necessarily, but this has the look of a close game and Ill take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Francisco 49ers plus 7 points laying the extra juice.
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