Thursday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Preview, Prediction, and Pick

Game: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Date & Time: Thursday October 31st, 2019, 8:20 (EST)

Location: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

The Line: San Francisco 49ers -10, O/U: 43

TV Channel: FOX/ NFL NETWORK

NFL SEASON ATS RECORD: 26-19-2

Happy Halloween! Nick Ballistreri gives his preview on this Thursday Night matchup as the 49ers look to continue their undefeated season.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Preview

BOO. Happy Halloween, and this year, your treat is some football. 

I’m not sure what’s scarier: Halloween decorations, or the 49ers defense. As you know, the 49ers are one of the two undefeated teams in the league at 7-0. They’re doing it with a QB, Jimmy Garappolo, who has only thrown 9 touchdown passes on the season. He’s no world-beater, but because of their defense, he doesn’t have to be.

The 49ers defense is:

  • 2nd in Defensive Efficiency
  • 2nd in PPG allowed
  • 1st in YPG
  • 1st in Total QBR Against

On top of that, they’re second in the league in rushing yards per game, with an astounding average of 181.1. They’re doing it with a dominant O-Line, and the two-headed combination of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman. To this point, the 49ers haven’t had to rely on the right arm of Jimmy G. We’ll see if that changes Thursday, but to this point, their defense and running game formula has been working wonders.

The Arizona Cardinals are 3-4-1 on the season with rookie QB Kyler Murray running the show. Murray, the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft, has been solid, compiling 1,988 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The Cardinals had been on a 3-game winning streak before their 31-9 loss on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints.

In the years to come, the Cardinals may be judged on their decision to draft Murray. It’s not that Murray has been bad, it’s just that #2 overall pick, Nick Bosa, has been a game-changer for, you guessed it, the 49ers. Bosa has been nearly unblockable this season, totaling 7 sacks in his 7 games, and even recording an interception in last Sunday’s 51-14 defeat of the Carolina Panthers. If Murray doesn’t pan out as expected, there’ll be much debate on this pick for the years to come.

The Cardinals formula had been simple: keep the game-plan safe with quick throws to the running backs and receivers. Therein lies the problem currently. The Cardinals are down to their 3rd running back, as David Johnson and backup Chase Edmonds are both out of this contest. It will be paramount for Murray to get the short passing game going to receivers Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald if they expect to keep this game competitive.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Spread Prediction

The 49ers are 10 point favorites on the road in this game. With the quick turnaround, I will be interested to see how the Cardinals offense responds to being down another running back against this vaunted 49ers D. That may decide the outcome.

The 49ers may be without one of their running backs, Matt Breida, in this contest as he is dealing with an ankle injury. If Breida can’t go, expect Tevin Coleman to get the lion’s share of carries, as I expect the Niners to keep their gameplan on schedule. If the Cardinals allow Coleman to find the running lanes he found this past Sunday when he ran for 105 yards and 4 total touchdowns, this will be a long game.

I like the Cardinals future. They have a young and exciting QB in Murray, and they have some solid skill players to build around. Their coach, Kliff Kingsbury, is also a bright offensive mind who will only get better in the future. That being said, this 49ers defense is too legit right now. 

With the short week, this could be a long week for the Cardinals offense. Expect the Niners D to get after Murray, and completely shut down the running game. On offense, it will be business as usual for San Francisco, as they will ride the ground game and pick their spots with Garappolo to throw down the field. Look for newly acquired WR Emmanuel Sanders to make an impact on the national stage. 

I’ll be taking the 49ers in this game, but buying a half a point to cover myself from a 10-point push. San Francisco will improve to 8-0 as talks of an undefeated season begins to grow a little louder with each victory.

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