Week 5 versus Arizona Cardinals
Thursday, October 6 at 8:25 p.m. ET
What’s up with the 49ers having to take on elite-level NFC teams on short weeks this season?
Such will be the case when the Niners face off against the NFC West reigning champion Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.
Judging by the Cardinals’ recent actions in the NFL Draft and in free agency, Arizona is in win-now mode. Coming off an upsetting loss to the Panthers in last season’s NFC Championship game, it’s not hard to see why Arizona head coach Bruce Arians and Co. want to do everything to get back there once more.
Arizona is a powerhouse on both sides of the ball, but so much of the team’s success will fall on the health of veteran quarterback Carson Palmer.
Remember when Palmer went down with a season-ending injury in 2014? What happened to a pretty-darn-good Cardinals team then?
Here’s some hope for 49ers fans — last year, the Niners lost a tough 19-13 contest to Arizona at Levi’s Stadium and, if it weren’t for a questionable penalty against defensive tackle Quinton Dial, the game could have easily gone in San Francisco’s favor.
Why the 49ers Win
The 49ers would have to replicate their Week 12 efforts from last year and then some. Defensively, shutting down Palmer and second-year running back David Johnson will be at the heart of what San Francisco’s defense must do.
It will help having linebacker Aaron Lynch back, and the trio of Lynch, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead will be fun to watch along the Niners’ front seven.
But the real test will be how San Francisco’s offense will match up against an Arizona defense that ranked seventh in the NFL last year. There really isn’t one particular area of weakness the Cardinals have on this side of the ball, so head coach Chip Kelly will have to engineer an effective and proactive game plan to establish any sort of offensive prowess.
Why the 49ers Lose
It will be the same script for many of the 49ers losses this season — a young and developing Niners defense is nowhere near the competitive level of some of the elite offenses the team will face.
Palmer to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd will be a regular thing, and San Francisco won’t have an answer.
And yeah, that Cardinals defense is still pretty mean.
Next: Week 6 at Buffalo Bills