After beginning the season as one of the NFL’s major surprises, the Arizona Cardinals have come back to reality of late. The Cards stormed out of the gates, winning their first four contests, but have now dropped three straight, and it won’t get any easier on Monday night as they host the San Francisco 49ers in a key divisional encounter.
San Francisco has also endured an up-and-down season to date, though they are still regarded as one of the NFL’s premier squads. Their division this season seems more competitive than anticipated, and as a result every game has taken on added importance. Quarterback Alex Smith has been in a bit of a rut of late, but look for him to return to his efficient form against a fading Cardinals squad. After two straight weeks of less than impressive performances, the time is now for the Niners to turn in a solid outing against a weakened opponent on the national stage. Expect a motivated bunch under the Monday Night Lights, before heading into a much-needed bye. On the injury front, only left tackle Joe Staley is iffy. He’s been battling an illness all week, but should be fine for game-time.
Meanwhile in the Arizona camp, the wheels have fallen off. Injuries have derailed this team, especially at the key skill positions, and the Cardinals simply haven’t had the depth or talent to make up for it. Their four-straight wins to open the year seem like ages ago, and things won’t get any easier for Arizona. In their next four weeks, they play San Francisco, Green Bay, and Atlanta, with a bye week mixed in there. If they want a shot at the post-season, they’ll need to get one of those wins, and at home against a divisional opponent on Monday Night Football would be an ideal time to do so. Much of the Cardinals recent failures can be attributed to injuries. On Monday night, they could be without key personnel in their secondary. Kerry Rhodes and Greg Toler will likely remain out for Arizona, which could spell trouble for their pass defense.
49ers vs. Cardinals Betting Odds:
San Francisco 49ers -6.5 (-110)
@ Arizona Cardinals +6.5 (-110)
Over 38.5 (-110)
Under 38.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
49ers vs. Cardinals Pick:
Expect this contest to be a good-old fashioned beatdown. The San Francisco 49ers have to be an angry bunch entering this contest. Their last two weeks have been anything but stellar, and they know they’ll want to feel better about their game before heading into the all-important bye week. After getting throttled at home by the New York Giants, the 49ers turned in a dismal outing last week against Seattle. Though they did just enough to earn a victory, that same type of outing won’t suffice Monday night in Arizona. Alex Smith hasn’t been all that great in his recent outings, and coach Jim Harbaugh has been working diligently to get the former first overall draft pick back in his groove. If he can return to form, it could be a long evening for a banged-up Cardinals secondary.
The Cardinals offense meanwhile, is simply pathetic. And going against one of the game’s most ferocious defenses in San Francisco’s, it will not be easy sledding for John Skelton on Monday evening. San Francisco possesses the #1 pass defense in the NFL and will have no difficulty getting to the immobile Skelton. The Cards’ cannot protect the quarterback, and when you consider that they’ve now lost the more mobile Kevin Kolb, Skelton will be facing pressure all evening from a tough Niners’ front-seven.
San Francisco is also a very well-rested bunch. They haven’t played since last Thursday of Week 7, and have had ample time to re-group and focus for a huge divisional clash on Monday Night Football. Expect a massively impressive outing from Jim Harbaugh’s side, spearheaded by their stifling defense. The Cardinals offense will struggle to move the chains, and don’t expect any sort of letdown from a hungry San Francisco side. Look for something along the lines of a 23-10 rout for the Niners under the Monday night lights.
PICK = San Francisco -6.5 (-110)