NFL 2019 (Week 9): San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 9): San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals could be considered pleasant surprises for how well they have performed relative to preseason expectations. At 7-0 and fresh off of a 51-13 drubbing of the Carolina Panthers, some pundits are now calling San Francisco the best team in football. And while little good can be found in a 31-9 loss at New Orleans, Arizona had won three straight games and sits at a respectable 3-4-1. Unfortunately, though, both teams are now dealing with significant injuries across the board, so this Thursday night affair may have more of a preseason feel to it. The good news is that both quarterbacks are healthy, so we may just get to see a shootout.

49ers: San Francisco has not had a game decided by a single score since beating Pittsburgh 24-20 in Week 3. In fact, their average margin of victory is nearly 19 points per game, which is second in the league behind only New England. This team is old school, holding opponents to 224.4 yards per game (best in the league) and running the ball to the tune of 181.1 yards per game (second to Baltimore). While head coach Kyle Shanahan is credited as an offensive guru, his quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is playing relatively average football, with only nine touchdowns against seven interceptions. Garoppolo has not needed to carry the load, though, since running backs Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert have each run for over 300 yards so far. With Breida and Mostert both questionable, expect a heavier dose of Coleman and some short passes to stud tight end George Kittle. Kittle has roughly double the number of targets, receptions, and yards of receiver Deebo Samuel, who is next-closest in each category. The 49ers’ offensive tackles are beat up right now, so an inside running game and quick passes to Kittle will likely be on tap.

Cardinals: Many NFL traditionalists scoffed at the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury this offseason. After all, he was fired from Texas Tech after putting up a 35-40 record, and he had agreed to become the offensive coordinator at Southern Cal before leaving to take over the Cardinals. So why was he given the chance to lead a pro team? It’s all about the quarterback. In his time as an assistant at the University of Houston and Texas A&M and as head coach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury helped develop Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel, Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray. Of those, only Manziel is not currently on a NFL roster (Webb is on Buffalo’s practice squad). It seems clear in retrospect that Arizona intended to move on from Josh Rosen after only one year to draft Murray, and Kingsbury’s wide-open offense fits the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner’s skillset to a “T.” While there is always room for improvement, Murray has kept his team in almost every game, with only three outcomes decided by more than one score. His teammates are even more banged up than San Francisco, so he may need to do a lot on his own to keep this one close or squeak out a win.

Prediction: San Francisco stays undefeated, but they fail to cover the 10-point spread against a lively young Arizona squad getting its first taste of primetime this year.

San Francisco 49ers 28, Arizona Cardinals 20

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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