Arizona Cardinals (1-3) at San Francisco 49ers (1-3)
After last week’s home loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the perception of the Cardinals right now is that the sky is falling for them. However, they’re a couple plays away from being 3-1, as two of their losses came by a combined 6 points. Their one win, meanwhile, came by 33 points. They still have a +12 point differential and rank 3rd in the NFL in first down percentage differential. Losing quarterback Carson Palmer with a concussion is a big loss, but their defense has been their best unit this season (4th in first down percentage allowed), while the offense has been more pedestrian (11th in first down percentage), largely as a result of some early season struggles by Carson Palmer. Drew Stanton is a capable backup at best and a significant downgrade, but the Cardinals still have a ton of talent around the quarterback position on offense, both at the skill positions and on the offensive line.
The 49ers also come in banged up, losing promising rookie DeForest Buckner (the 7th overall pick) for at least this week and middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman for the year. They join top cornerback Jimmie Ward on the sideline. He’ll miss his 2nd straight game. Those might be their three best defensive players. They do get top pass rusher Aaron Lynch back from a 4-game suspension, but he doesn’t offset the loss of the other guys. The 49ers already have one of the worst offenses in football and now might have one of the worst defenses in football, after it showed promise to start the season. Live will be as easy as possible for Stanton in his spot start, as his offensive supporting cast is far more talented than San Francisco’s defense. It’s a short week, which is tough, but he’s a veteran guy with experience in the system. And in the fact that the Cardinals’ defense figures to shut down Blaine Gabbert and company on a short week and the Cardinals figure to get back in the win column this week.
However, we’re not getting nearly as good of a line as I thought we would. The early line was 6 last week and I figured it would move significantly, with the Cardinals losing at home and Palmer getting knocked out, but it’s still at 3.5. That’s not a small line movement, but 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so I’d be worried about the backdoor cover with Arizona, even in a low scoring game. The 49ers are also in a good spot as home underdogs off of a loss as home underdogs, as teams are 78-53 ATS in that spot since 2002. The Cardinals are the pick, but I don’t recommend putting money on it.
Arizona Cardinals 17 San Francisco 49ers 10
Pick against the spread: Arizona -3.5