Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
Remember when everyone freaked out just because the 49ers lost 2 of 3 games. Good times. Losing 2 of 3 games isn’t a big deal. It’s just more noticeable at the start of the season. They’ve won the last two games by a combined score of 69-14. However, everything is still not as perfect as it seemed coming into the season. The 49ers’ 34-3 win masked the fact that Colin Kaepernick completed just 6 passes all game. They won’t be able to win the turnover battle by 4 every time going forward.
Kaepernick is completing just 56.1% of his passes for an average of 7.3 YPA, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions this season and the 49ers are moving the chains on just 69% of opportunities as a result. The problem is twofold. One is his lack of receivers. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham remain out so Kaepernick has been limited to Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and a bunch of scrubs. Boldin busted out of the gate on fire this season with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in the opener, but he’s combined for less than that in his other 4 games, catching 13 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick seriously misses Crabtree, his go to receiver down the stretch last year. Crabtree totaled 66 catches for 950 yards and 9 touchdowns in 11 games with Kaepernick last season, over a third of Kaepernick passing production.
The other reason is he hasn’t been able to run the ball nearly as effectively. After rushing for 568 yards and 6 touchdowns on 75 carries in 11 games last year, Kaepernick has rushed for 154 yards and no scores on 27 carries in 5 games this year. This is a growing trend across the league as mobile quarterbacks like Robert Griffin and Cam Newton have also been kept in check on the ground this year as teams have had an off-season to study them and the read option. It’s something Kaepernick will have to adapt to and, while I believe he’s capable of it, it’s something I’ll have to see first. Kaepernick gets a tough matchup this week against the Cardinals, whose solid defense got even tougher last week when Daryl Washington returned from suspension.
The defense is, of course, very tough for the 49ers as well and things will only get better this week with Patrick Willis returning from injury. The 49ers have done a terrific job holding opponents to 14 points in 2 weeks without arguably their two best defenders, Willis and Aldon Smith. That speaks to their depth. While Smith is still out indefinitely, they should continue frustrating opponent’s defensively going forward.
Given that, I want to take the points and expect a defensive battle, but I’m going with the 49ers for a 3rd straight blowout victory. The Cardinals could be distracted with a Thursday Night Game against the Seahawks and not be as focused as they have to be to hang with a tough 49er team. The 49ers, meanwhile, have absolutely no distractions here with a trip to Tennessee and Jacksonville on deck. The 49ers should rip through these next 3 games going into their bye, starting this week. Also, teams are 25-37 ATS since 1989 as double digit dogs off of a win as home dogs. I’m not confident though.
San Francisco 49ers 23 Arizona Cardinals 9
Pick against spread: San Francisco 49ers -11