San Francisco 49ers (0-3) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
The Cardinals finished the 2015 season #1 in first down rate differential when they finished 13-3 and then they finished #1 in that metric again in 2016, despite going 7-8-1, as they could have easily won 10-12 games if not for numerous special teams errors in close games. However, this Cardinals team is not the same team as the past 2 seasons. They lost five defensive starters in free agency, including defensive end Calais Campbell, safety DJ Swearinger, and safety Tony Jefferson, all of whom were among the best players in the league at this position in 2016. On top of that, they’ve been ravaged by injuries, most importantly a wrist injury to David Johnson that has him sidelined indefinitely.
As a result, the Cardinals are just 1-2, with their one win coming in overtime against the lowly Colts. The good news is they have arguably their easiest game of the season this week with the 49ers coming to town. After starting the season with back-to-back games on the road and then a home game against the Cowboys, this is a welcome sight for them. They’re also getting healthier, with middle linebacker Deone Bucannon set to make his season debut and left tackle DJ Humphries returning to the lineup for the first time since the first half week 1.
The Cardinals still have injury issues, with Johnson, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, and left guard Mike Iupati out indefinitely, but the 49ers have injuries too, with safety Eric Reid and middle linebacker Reuben Foster out and running back Carlos Hyde limited at best with a hip injury. Given the state of these two rosters right now, I have this line calculated at -9, suggesting these two teams are about 6 points apart. We’re getting some line value with the Cardinals as 6.5 point home favorites, but there isn’t quite enough here for me to be confident in Arizona covering.
Arizona Cardinals 24 San Francisco 49ers 16
Pick against the spread: Arizona -6.5