For the longest time, the Cardinals have been one of the afterthoughts of the NFC West, while the 49ers have luxuriated at the top. But this is a new year and a complete reversal of fortunes.
San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance is the future franchise quarterback in San Francisco. And by all accounts, the 49ers are pleased with his growth this summer in training camp and through the first five weeks of regular-season practice. But a Jimmy Gaoppolo injury was not supposed to be how he got his first career start.
Ideally, it also wouldn’t come on the road against the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team and with the 49ers backs to the wall. The 49ers have lost two straight, including a division loss last week at home against Seattle. Not only was it a second straight loss, but a second straight loss when they were the favorites to win the game.
The reality is that as much as we’ve thought the 49ers had a very talented roster, it may not be that good. The play from the wide receivers is uninspired, and the running backs are inconsistent. Even star tight end George Kittle has been up and down. He’s had two good games (78 and 92 yards), but in Week 2, he had just 17 yards, and in Week 4 against Seattle, he caught just four of his ten targets for 40 yards.
They need more to compete against the Cardinals.
Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
There are quite a few people waiting for Arizona to regress to the mean. Surely they can’t be this good. Surely they aren’t the best team in football.
The jury is still out on that last one, but they are indeed this good. What did we all think would happen when A.J. Green and Rondale Moore were added to an offense with DeAndre Hopkins, led by Kyler Murray and conceived by Kliff Kingsbury?
Murray has been an MVP in waiting, and perhaps his time at the top has already arrived. The Cardinals lead the NFL in scoring with 140 points, and Murray is now the betting favorite to take home the league’s most prestigious hardware.
Arizona’s dominant win last week in Los Angeles was no fluke. This is a first-place team in every way.
Jared Goff threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers threw for 261 and staged his incredible fourth-quarter comeback. Of course, Murray is going to move the ball at home and put up big points.
The 49ers have just one takeaway this season, so the defense will be little help. And there is no one on offense that can step up and keep pace with the high-scoring Cardinals. Arizona wins by double-digits, covering the spread for the fourth time this season.
Arizona will get close to 30 points, but it’s hard to picture the rookie Lance getting more than 20. At 30-17, this final score goes under.