Believe it or not, there is a lot riding in this Monday night match up of sub-.500 clubs. It truly is a disgrace to the NFC West and the rest of the NFL that any team below .500 at this time of the year is still a factor in the playoff race. The (3-7) San Francisco 49ers continue there daunting uphill battle of making the NFC playoffs as they roll into the University of Phoenix Stadium to battle their rivals in the (3-7) Arizona Cardinals, kickoff slated for 8:30 PM EST. Many picked San Francisco to win the West prior to the start of this season after the Cardinals won the division each of the previous two years, but neither is looking much like a playoff contender. The 49ers and Cardinals look to bounce back from embarrassing defeats and avoid falling any further out of first place in the NFC West when they meet for the first time this season Monday night in Arizona.
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The 49ers, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002, opened with five consecutive losses and are coming off last Sunday’s 21-0 defeat to Tampa Bay. San Francisco managed a season-low 189 yards and 11 first downs – two via penalties – in getting shut out at home for the first time since 1977. Troy Smith will be making his fourth straight start at quarterback for San Francisco despite coming off a shaky performance against the Buccaneers. Smith, who is replacing a healthy Alex Smith, was sacked six times and completed 16 of 31 passes for 148 yards with an interception. He threw for 552 yards on 29 of 47 passing with two touchdowns in his first two starts. Frank Gore finished with a season-low 23 yards on 12 attempts after averaging 114.0 yards rushing in his previous four games. Gore lined up against a Tampa Bay defense which was ranked 31st against the run and will be facing an Arizona run defense that is 28th in the league at 135.1 yards allowed per game. One of the most intriguing match ups each year is the battle that pits Fitzgerald most often against cornerback Nate Clements. While Clements has had his share of struggles during his time in San Francisco, there seem to be certain times when he steps up his game. Over the last two years, the 49ers have done a very solid job in containing the dynamic Fitzgerald. They don’t completely shut him down but his impact has been lessened.
Two-time defending NFC West champ Arizona has struggled at the onset of the post-Kurt Warner era, as a 3-7 record through the initial 10 games of this season has the franchise in danger of its first losing campaign since 2006.Arizona, in the midst of its longest losing streak since an eight-game skid in 2006 led to the firing of coach Dennis Green, is in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time under Whisenhunt. Arizona has been plagued by quarterback woes and a paucity of offense as well during its disappointing run. Triggermen Derek Anderson and Max Hall have presided over a unit that’s 31st in the NFL in total yards and third-down conversion percentage, and third from the bottom in rushing yards. There are problems on the other side of the ball as well, as the Cardinals have permitted a league-worst 29.2 points per game and are 29th overall in total defense. Arizona was gashed for 159 rushing yards in last Sunday’s 31-13 loss at Kansas City, the club’s fifth straight defeat following a 3-2 start. To say an Arizona defense that returned three Pro Bowlers from last season in lineman Darnell Dockett (33 tackles, 2 sacks), cornerback Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie (33 tackles, 2 INT, 10 PD) and strong safety Adrian Wilson (47 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT) hasn’t met expectations is an understatement. In spite of that cast of proven talent, which also includes two more accomplished vets in outside linebacker Joey Porter (39 tackles, 5 sacks) and free safety Kerry Rhodes (59 tackles, 2 INT, 7 PD), the Cardinals have yielded a lackluster 396.8 yards per game, are 28th in the NFL versus the run (135.1 ypg) and 27th against the pass (261.7 ypg). The Cardinals’ strong cast of receivers should be able to get some open looks against a San Francisco stop unit that ranks just 26th overall in pass efficiency defense and has allowed enemy quarterbacks to complete around two- thirds of their throws. The ball-carrying combo of Tim Hightower (438 rushing yards, 3 TD, 14 receptions) and Beanie Wells (270 rushing yards, 2 TD) did team up for a respectable 101 yards on 20 tries last week, with the talented Wells finally looking healthy after missing some time earlier in the year with a sore knee.
49ers vs Cardinals Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
San Francisco 49ers -1.5
@ Arizona Cardinals +1.5
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49ers vs Cardinals Predictions for Week 12:
Spread Prediction (TOP PLAY) – Head coach Mike Singletary has lit a fire under the bottom of his club and the team has responded favorably be going 2-1 thus far in the month of November. The Arizona Cardinals seem to have folded for this year and will look to draft a young stud quarterback in the 2011 NFL draft. The Cardinals come into this one with a host of injuries to key starters, such as DT Darnell Dockett and S Kerry Rhodes. Arizona is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against San Francisco and are 0-5 SU in its last 5 games. Also, Arizona is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games and is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games at home. RB Frank Gore should have a field day against the rather weak and banged up defensive front of the Cardinals, I also expect TE Vernon Davis to find his spots in a suspect secondary of Arizona’s. San Francisco is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing Arizona. The 49ers swept the season series from the Cardinals in 2009 and are seeking their first three-game winning streak in the series since 2003-04 We will consider the 49ers pulling even closer to the NFC West leading Seahawks with a win on Monday night.
Game Total Prediction – Both teams have been susceptible to the “big-play” all year long and with both clubs coming into this one with key defensive injuries I believe we are in store for some points. These two clubs usually hook up for high scoring affairs and the game being on Monday night and in the controlled climate of the University of Phoenix Stadium I like the OVER so much more. The total has gone OVER in 5 of San Francisco’s last 6 games when playing on the road against Arizona. The total has gone OVER in 7 of Arizona’s last 9 games, also the total has gone OVER in 5 of Arizona’s last 5 games at home. Also interesting to point out, the Cardinals have never been in a Monday night game that has gone UNDER the posted total in their existence in Arizona. Take a look at the OVER. Cheers!