The Cardinals are facing a critical stretch of the season as they begin a series of four winnable games before they have their rematch with the Rams in December. It’s critical in that they want to be sure and keep pace with the 7-1 Rams. But it’s also critical because quarterback Kyler Murray is nursing a bad ankle, and they need him healthy by December.
For the 49ers, it’s about finally getting off that four-game losing streak and trying to string together some wins. Although a game with the 7-1 Cardinals, followed by their own game against the Rams, makes that a challenging task.
All eyes will be on Murray for the remainder of this week, although don’t expect to get much insight into his health or his status until Sunday morning.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Murray, and if he could play in the game even if he didn’t practice this week;
“If it was earlier in his career, probably not. His understanding of the system now and some of the pieces that we have around him, I feel good about that.”
Murray himself said that he’s just taking it “one day at a time” and is hopeful that he will be ready to go.
As for the rest of the Cardinals, they can take solace in how they lost, even if losing is never good. The team was in easy field goal range to send last Thursday’s game to overtime when a strange communication breakdown between Murray and A.J. Green led to a game-losing interception.
While it’s frustrating to think that you could and should be 8-0 at this point in the season, it’s still better for the Cardinals than if they were overmatched by the Packers. Murray did not have his best game, but Arizona was still very much in a position to win.
San Francisco 49ers (-1)
The 49ers quarterback situation is also part of the story this week. The last time the 49ers and Cardinals played, it was rookie Trey Lance making his first NFL start. Arizona won, 17-10, and while Lance showed flashes of his talent, he was clearly not ready to take on the NFC leaders.
Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy and back under center for San Francisco, and he’s coming off what is easily his best game this season and arguably his best game since 2019. Garoppolo threw for 322 yards on just 17 completions and ran for a pair of touchdowns. If Jimmy G is going to start racking up the rushing touchdowns, maybe there is no need for a goal-line Trey Lance package of plays.
The win against the Bears, however, still leaves the 49ers with a tall mountain to climb. They play in the division where the two of the three best records in the NFL reside, and that leaves them with little more than a wild card to play for. And right now, they are a game behind that seventh playoff spot.
When this line opened on Monday, the Cardinals were 2.5-point favorites. But as more news about Murray has come out, and as he’s missed practice, the line has moved enough to make the 49ers the modest favorites.
With no J.J. Watt for Arizona, a best-case scenario that has Murray playing but not running, and Jimmy G playing his best football, the 49ers will win this game by at least a field goal.
The under also looks good in this one. Arizona has gone under in three of its last four games, and a limited Murray means that we’re looking at a 20-17 final score.