Week 3 Preview: Cardinals vs. 49ers

The Arizona Cardinals will attempt to start the season 3-0 against the division rival San Francisco 49ers. Brad Wilbricht outlines Sunday's key matchups, provides a betting guide and predicts who will win inside.

Preview

The Arizona Cardinals, off to a 2-0 start, play host to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon in a critical early-season divisional matchup. The 49ers have dominated the Cardinals of late, sweeping the season series in each of the last two years. Over the past 10 matchups, San Francisco has prevailed on nine of those occasions with Arizona’s lone win coming in 2011.

Despite starting 2-0, the Cardinals haven’t been exactly sharp and won ugly against both the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants. Arizona has already been hit hard by injuries this year, most recently affecting QB Carson Palmer. Backup Drew Stanton filled in admirably in New York a week ago, but the Cardinals will need Palmer back healthy to make any kind of noise in the NFC West division.

Meanwhile, the 49ers haven’t been exactly sharp either as they’re off to a 1-1 start that includes blowing a 17-0 lead a week ago against the Chicago Bears. Although it’s been able to manage fast starts in each of the first two games San Francisco has stumbled home, scoring only three points thus far in second-half action.


Key Matchups

QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Cardinals Defense

Kaepernick has been up and down so far, but has the potential to breakout at any time. Kaepernick is surrounded by a plethora of weapons but is still working to find a consistent flow on offense. Should he struggle to find success against a Cardinals pass defense allowing nearly 250 yards per game, Kaepernick will look to do some damage with his legs. If the Arizona defense can keep tabs on Kaepernick and contain him both through the air and on the ground, the Cardinals’ chances of winning will increase dramatically.

RB Andre Ellington vs. San Francisco Run Defense

Due to the absence of key contributors, the 49ers defense hasn’t been its usual self this year. While still a fairly stout unit, the San Francisco run defense isn’t as dominant as it’s been in years past. Ellington, with help from Stepfan Taylor, can certainly make things easier on Stanton by finding some holes on the ground. Ellington has been battling injuries but has still managed to be productive as a runner and a receiver. Through two games this year, Ellington is averaging 90 total yards per game but will likely need to crack the 100-yard mark to give Arizona a chance to win on Sunday.


Betting Guide

Line: Cardinals +3

Arizona
Cardinals are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games as a home underdog.
Cardinals are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as an underdog.
Cardinals are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games as a home underdog of 0.5-3.0.
Cardinals are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games as an underdog of 0.5-3.0.
Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 vs. NFC.

San Francisco
49ers are 23-9-2 ATS in their last 34 games following a S.U. loss.
49ers are 24-7-3 ATS in their last 34 games following a ATS loss.
49ers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games as a road favorite of 0.5-3.0.
49ers are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games.


Prediction

The trends lead in both directions here, but we’re expecting the absence of Palmer to finally catch up with the Cardinals. Stanton is a capable backup, but ultimately, he’s a backup for a reason. Should the 49ers lose on Sunday, it would leave them in a two-game hole in the standings to dig out of. Because of that, coach Jim Harbaugh and team should have a real sense of urgency to prove victorious. Factoring that in, and the loss of Palmer, leads to San Francisco being the pick.

Pick: San Francisco -3

Prediction: San Francisco 23 Arizona 17


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