NFC West Showdown: 49ers vs Cardinals in Mexico City
The San Francisco 49ers (5-4) and the Arizona Cardinals (4-6) meet in a key NFC West matchup in Mexico City on Monday Night Football.
The Week 11 matchup features a pair of teams on seemingly on different trajectories. However, the Cardinals could inch within a half-game of the 49ers with a win on home field.
The Seattle Seahawks aren’t exactly sitting comfortably in first place in the division either, with a 6-4 record.
Both teams have offenses that are middle-of-the-pack in NFL rankings, while the 49ers boast the league’s best defense.
San Francisco’s defense has allowed the fewest yards per game (301.1) in the league and has been especially effective at stopping the run, with only 82.7 rushing yards allowed per game.
Interestingly, Arizona has been better on the road this season. They’re 1-4 at State Farm Stadium and 3-2 on the road. It’s worth noting, however, that Monday’s game will be played at Estadio Azteca.
Will Kyler Murray Solve the 49ers Defense on His Own?
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since signing a $230.5 million contract, including $160 million guaranteed.
Murray is the second highest-paid quarterback in the league, but isn’t playing like it. He has 12 touchdowns and six interceptions with 2,168 passing yards. His offensive line hasn’t helped, as he’s been sacked 24 times in only nine games.
Murray was a late scratch last Sunday after being a game-time decision, so eight days’ rest should be enough to get him back in the starting lineup.
If it’s not, Colt McCoy will make his second consecutive start. He went 26-for-37 last week with one touchdown and 238 passing yards.
Whoever is under center for the Cardinals will have to have a season-best performance. San Francisco’s league-best run defense will put extra pressure on either Murray or McCoy, especially considering the Cardinals weak rushing attack. James Conner averages just 3.83 yards per carry.
Will the 49ers Continue To Share Snaps at Running Back?
San Francisco is 14th in the league in rushing yards with 123.7 per game, but looked more dangerous in last Sunday’s 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
To the surprise of some, Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell, returning from injury, shared the 32 run plays 14-18. Combined, they rushed for 137 yards. Deebo Samuel added 27 rushing yards on four attempts.
If the 49ers can keep up – or improve upon – that pace on the ground, they’ll be a tough team to beat moving forward, even with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
Garoppolo has been playing well as the starting quarterback. He has 11 touchdowns, four interceptions, and 1,931 passing yards.
San Francisco will likely continue to split snaps between McCaffrey and Mitchell, considering they both have injury-riddled histories.
Mitchell is mostly a traditional back, while McCaffrey can provide the offense with a change of pace and make catches out of the backfield.
Expect a Competitive Game in Prime Time
As of Wednesday, the Cardinals were +8 (-108) underdogs heading into Monday Night Football. Assuming the line stays at 7 or higher, that’s a decent value bet for Arizona.
They need a win to keep their season alive, and Murray, if he plays, has something to prove in primetime. Arizona is 5-5 against the spread (ATS) this season, while the 49ers are 4-5 ATS.
It’s worth noting, however, that before this season Murray was 2-5 in primetime games and Garoppolo was 7-4. Still, the 49ers winning but Cardinals covering +8 seems like the safest betting option.