49ers vs. Cardinals: These Niners will be vital in determining Week 11

San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

42. 8:15 p.m. ET. 32. 49ers -8. 5-4. ESPN. Monday, Nov. 21. 4-6

The 49ers are strong favorites over the Cardinals in Mexico City on Monday night, but these four Niners players have to have a solid outing anyway.

The San Francisco 49ers found a proper formula during their Week 10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, particularly in the second half that helped spur the 22-16 victory so desperately needed coming out of the bye week.

With an added day on the schedule, thanks to the Niners playing the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, head coach Kyle Shanahan is looking to take advantage of some X-factors during the primetime Week 11 bout.

Particularly a strong San Francisco-centric crowd at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca.

Arizona enters the game with the NFL’s third-worst scoring defense, but it’s almost reverse a factor than what the 49ers encountered against the Chargers. The Cardinals defend against the run well enough, but they’re not particularly great against the pass.

Knowing this, that’s something that should play well into the hands of our first of our players who have to have an excellent game on Monday night, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

No. 1: 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk

No team is worse in the NFL through 10 weeks at giving up yards after the catch, or “YAC” as it’s become known. Whether it’s per pass play (6.2 yards) or total YAC (1,535), Arizona is awful at limiting players extending yardage after the catch point.

This bodes well for the Niners’ top two wide receivers, Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. But Aiyuk might be the beneficiary here if the Cardinals shift their focus on defending the more prominent pass-catcher, Samuel.

Related Story: YAC Bros. should go off when 49ers visit Cardinals on Monday night

Aiyuk has recorded at least 80 receiving yards in each of San Francisco’s last four games. That’ll probably continue with some added YAC versus Arizona.

No. 2: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Of course, it takes a player to deliver those passes, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might be enjoying his best season with the 49ers since joining the squad in 2017, posting an even 100.0 passer rating on the year through 10 weeks.

Normally, Shanahan would limit Garoppolo’s pass attempts and elect to go with a run-heavy approach. But, considering the Cardinals defend against the run well, Garoppolo might be called upon to take more advantage of Arizona’s weak pass defense and its deficiencies in giving up post-catch yards.

That’ll mean an uptick in pass attempts for Jimmy G, which always equates to a higher risk of turnovers, one of the ways the Cardinals could pull off an easy upset.

Fortunately, Garoppolo’s interception percentage in 2022 thus far is 1.7, a career-low.

No. 3: 49ers LB Fred Warner

Somewhat surprisingly, Arizona got rid of running back Eno Benjamin despite him posting a solid 4.3 rush-yard average on the year and making fellow tailback James Conner appear to be something of an excess commodity.

Conner, more of a touchdown-scoring rusher and someone who is valuable in the red zone as opposed to a true bell-cow running back, is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry but figures to see an uptick in action with Benjamin no longer in the picture.

And, with run-stopping defensive tackle Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) still out of action, the onus for ensuring Conner doesn’t take over the game, as he did against the Niners a year ago to the tune of three touchdowns, now falls on All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner.

This is a good matchup to watch. Provided Warner suffers few gaffes here, it’s a matchup that goes in San Francisco’s favor.

No. 4: 49ers CB Charvarius Ward

Yes, cornerback Charvarius Ward is the best the 49ers have at this position. And one might figure the Cardinals will target whoever starts opposite Ward, as that No. 2 boundary corner will be lining up against either of Arizona’s top two wide receivers, DeAndre Hopkins or Marquise Brown.

But Ward is still the player to watch here, as defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is likely to slide some protection over opposite Ward, helping out the other corner who starts, perhaps Deommodore Lenoir.

That’ll leave Ward on an island against the likes of Hopkins or Brown, and it’s not an easy proposition.

Opposing quarterbacks are posting a passer rating of just a shade over 60 when targeting Ward this season, and if Arizona is forced to start Colt McCoy instead of the injured Kyler Murray on Monday night, one can only hope Ward has an easier time winning those matchups against two upper-echelon wide receivers.

The Niners and Cardinals square off on Monday, Nov. 21 at 8:15 p.m. ET.

Next. Bold predictions for 49ers game vs. Cardinals on Monday night. dark