Fresh off their 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers a week ago, the suddenly red-hot San Francisco 49ers will battle the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City on Monday Night Football. Currently, half a game behind the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, Kyle Shanahan's group is undefeated since acquiring star running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were able to stay in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt by virtue of their victory over the Los Angels Rams last Sunday. Forced to turn to veteran backup Colt Mccoy, the team was without star quarterback Kyler Murray after he was forced to miss the game due to a hamstring injury. With these two clubs set to square off for the first time this season, here is what to watch for in this one.
San Francisco 49ers
Home to one of the most star-studded groups of playmakers around the NFL, San Francisco's offense has rounded into form over the last few weeks. Led by the play of McCaffrey, the two time First team All-Pro member has racked up 288 scrimmage yards since he arrived in the bay while adding in three touchdowns. Along with this, Brandon Aiyuk has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the season's second half after a slow start to the year. Highlighted by an eight-catch performance against the Atlanta Falcons in week six, the former first-round pick has eclipsed the 80-yard mark in four of his last five games.
Set to square off against a defense that has struggled mightily through ten weeks, one matchup to watch in this one will be George Kittle against the Cardinal's secondary. He is looking to get going with just 29 receptions for 340 yards at the halfway point. Currently ranked 23rd against the pass, Vance Joseph's unit has been unable to slow down opposing tight ends, leading to a prime opportunity for the three-time Pro Bowler.
Once again, one of the elite units across the league, the 49er's defense has led the way. The group has kept its opponents off the scoreboard in each of the last two weeks. On the season, they sit in the top ten in passing yards per game (197.9), rushing yards per game (82.7), and points per game (18.1). Along with this, Nick Bosa and company have racked up 29 sacks while forcing 26 turnovers. Squaring off against an Arizona offense that has been decimated by injuries of late, the franchise has already ruled out three offensive lineman. Meanwhile, Mccoy is likely to start, with Murray on the sidelines for a second straight contest.
A year removed from sitting at 8-2 and atop the NFL, the 2022 season has been a battle for the high-flying Cardinal's offense. Without Deandre Hopkins for the first six games of the season, after he was suspended for violating the NFL's Performance Enhancing Drug Policy, the team has been plagued by inconsistencies and slow starts. Moreover, they have also been hampered by injuries. Without Marquise Brown over the last month, after he suffered a foot injury, the franchise also received tough news this week after it was revealed that tight end Zach Ertz would be lost for the season due to a knee injury. The 49er's front seven will pose a significant challenge for the team. Expect Rondale Moore to lead the way in the passing game as Hopkins remains limited with his hamstring injury.
Arizona's defense has failed to step up amidst their inconsistent play offensively. Remaining stout against the run, the team is 10th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (110.5). However, they have struggled mightily through the air, leading them to rank inisde the bottom ten in passing yards allowed per game (247.1). The group has also been incapable of generating a pass rush following the departure of Chandler Jones in the offseason. They have just 19 sacks, the 8th fewest in the league. Needing to slow down San Francisco's potent ground attack if they hope to pull out the upset in this one, the Cardinals will face a trio of dangerous ball carriers in Mccaffrey Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel.
Points Spread: SF -8.0 (-110) | ARZ +8.0 (-110)
Money line: SF-370 | ARZ +290
Over/Under: O 43.0 (-110) | U 43.0 (-110)
Looking at the eight-point spread, take the 49ers. Beginning to click after winning back-to-back games, Jimmy Garoppolo and company have covered the number in every game but one this season. Additionally, with Murray unlikely to suit up in this one, the Cardinals will turn to Mccoy for a second straight contest. Playing well in relief last week, expect DeMeco Ryan's group to generate pressure all night long, spelling trouble for the veteran signal-caller. With the game total set at 43, lean on the over. One of the most dynamic offenses in the game, San Francisco has eclipsed the 30-point mark in three of their last five games.
In the final international game of the year, San Francisco and Arizona are set to square off for the first time this season. The 49ers are beginning to get healthy on both sides of the ball. They can leapfrog the Seahawks for the top spot in the NFC West with a victory. On the flip side, the Cardinals are aiming to keep their post-season hopes alive. Currently occupying the 11th seed in the NFC, a loss would put their season on life support. While Arizona has played San Francisco tough under Kliff Kingsbury, it's hard to see them keeping up on a neutral site.
Final Score: San Francisco 49ers 28, Arizona Cardinals 17