The Arizona Cardinals' first division game of 2015 comes at home against the rival San Francisco 49ers. Similar to the Chicago Bears last week, San Francisco has a new look this year with a new coaching staff in place.
One thing that hasn’t changed is QB Colin Kaepernick, who will likely be the key to the 49ers’ success this season. Kaepernick has fared both good and bad against Arizona – struggling mightily last season on the road in Arizona.
In two games this season, Kaepernick has already racked up 500 yards passing and 92 yards rushing with a QB Rating of 98.1. Kaepernick appears to be much more comfortable as a pocket passer this year but his patience will be tested against a ball-hawking Cardinals defense.
The 49ers defense boasts many new faces this year and we expect a decent drop off in performance. San Francisco was moved on at will a week ago as the Pittsburgh Steelers totaled 43 points against them.
Look for QB Carson Palmer and the Arizona wide receivers to find plenty of room to move the ball through the air. WR John Brown is due for a breakout game and it wouldn't be surprising to see him surpass 100 yards receiving along with a touchdown or two.
49ers player to watch: RB Carlos Hyde
RB Frank Gore had been a stalwart for the 49ers offense but his move to the Indianapolis Colts paved the way for Hyde to be the team’s feature back. Hyde didn't disappoint in the regular-season opener (168 yards rushing, two touchdowns) but came back to reality last week against the Steelers (43 yards rushing, no touchdowns).
Kaepernick will need help from Hyde to keep the San Francisco offense balanced in this game and the remainder of the season.
If Arizona can force the 49ers into being one-dimensional offensively, its chances of moving to 1-0 in the division and 3-0 on the season will be very high.
Prediction: Arizona 31 San Francisco 20
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