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If you are looking for the lowest-scoring game of Week 8, it probably will be the Monday nighter between San Francisco, which has one of the NFL’s top defenses, and Arizona, which has one of the league’s worst offenses. This is the lowest total on the board by far.
The NFL’s fiercest front seven, featuring Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, will rumble with the Arizona Cardinals’ run-first attack. Considering how badly Arizona’s reeling, though, this might not be as good a showdown as we would’ve anticipated a few weeks ago.
The Cardinals still have quarterback issues, they suddenly feature an unknown running back named LaRod Stephens-Howling, and they have lost three in a row. Even at home, don’t be shocked to see that skid continue, with the San Francisco 49ers further cementing themselves as one of the NFC’s bullies.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald was not thrown to when he went deep in Week 7 because the Minnesota Vikings kept a safety behind Fitzgerald the entire game.
QB John Skelton said he believes future opponents will use that scheme to try to stop Fitzgerald. “I think a lot of teams are going to start looking at it that way and play coverage over the top,” Skelton said. “We’ve got to find other ways to get the ball down the field.”
With the Cardinals having virtually no threat of a run game, San Francisco has the option of playing mostly coverage schemes. The 49ers have an excellent secondary, which is physical and excels at press techniques. The corners can jam Arizona’s receivers, including Fitzgerald, off the snap and really disrupt their routes. That either leads to more time for the pass rush to get there and/or coverage sacks.
The 49ers can play their safeties back in some Cover 2 looks to give the corners deep help because they do not have to play close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Look for the 49ers to also change up their coverage looks in pre-snap to confuse Skelton.
Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked once every 8.6 dropbacks this season, the worst rate in the NFL. The next worst team has been sacked at a rate of once every 11.3 dropbacks. Dropbacks include pass attempts, sacks and scrambles.
49ers QB Alex Smith sprained his finger in Week 5 against the Bills, and since that game, his downfield throwing has taken a hit. Smith has gone 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) on throws more than 10 yards downfield his last two games (third worst), after leading the NFL in completion percentage on such throws (59.5) through the first five weeks of the season.
Arizona has dropped eight of its last nine Monday night games, with its lone win coming 29-24 over San Francisco on Nov. 10, 2008.
VEGASSPORTSBETTING ODDS: 49ers -6.5 (37.5)
49ERS: QB Alex Smith has won 4 of past 5 starts vs. Arz. Is 8-1 in past 9 starts vs. division. In career, SF is 13-0 when he starts & has 100 rating. Has won 19 of past 24 starts … In past 8 games vs. Arz., RB Frank Gore has 720 rush yards (90 per game) & 7 TDs (6 rush, 1 rec.). Since 2006, has 7,618 rush yards, 2nd most in NFL …
TE Vernon Davis has 8 TDs in past 9 (incl. playoffs). Aims for 4th in row vs. Arz. with 25 yard catch. Since 2009 (incl. playoffs), leads NFC TEs with 34 TDs. In past 6 vs. NFC West, WR Michael Crabtree has 35 catches for 481 yards (80.2 per game) & 3 TDs. WR-PR-KR Ted Ginn Jr. had 207 total yards (100 KR, 93 PR, 14 rec.) in last meeting …
Incl. playoffs, LB Aldon Smith has 21.5 sacks in past 22. Aims for 3rd in row with sack vs. Arz. Has 6 sacks in past 6 vs. division. Since 2007, LB Patrick Willis is 1 of 2 with 15 sacks (17) & 6 INTs (6). Has 2 sacks, 2 FF & INT in past 3 vs. Arz. DT Justin Smith has 4 sacks & 2 FF in past 3 vs. Arz. S Dashon Goldson aims for 3rd in row vs. Arz. with INT.
CARDINALS: QB John Skelton is 6-0 at home in career as starter. Passed for 282 yards & 3 TDs with 106.5 rating in last meeting …RB LaRod Stephens-Howling had career-high 104 rush yards & TD last week. RB William Powell rushed for career-high 70 yards (5.4 avg.) in last home game …
WR Larry Fitzgerald aims for 4th in row vs. SF with TD. Has 21 catches for 315 yards (105 per game) & 3 TDs in past 3 meetings. Since 2005, leads NFL in rec. yards (9,294) & rec. TDs (68). WR Andre Roberts had 4th career 100-yard rec. game (103) & TD last week. Has 7 TDs in past 11. WR Early Doucet had 60-yard TD catch in last meeting …
LB Daryl Washington has 7 sacks in past 8, including 2 vs. Vikings. Had sack in last game vs. SF. LB O’Brien Schofield has 4 sacks in past 5. LB Sam Acho had 1st career INT last week. CB PATRICK PETERSON has INT in 2 of past 3. Had 1st career sack in last meeting.
VEGAS TRENDS: 49ers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 meetings. 49ers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings in Arizona. Home team is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings. Over is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings in Arizona.