– Thursday Night Football Preview –
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: 49ers -9.5 | Over/Under 42.5
The NFL season is entering Week 9 and that means it’s time for another showdown on Thursday night football. The undefeated San Francisco 49ers are coming off a 51-13 blowout victory over the Carolina Panthers to head to the desert to take on the 3-4-1 Arizona Cardinals. This is a matchup that clearly favors the 49ers; hence the 9.5-point favorite. If we recall the last time we saw the Kyle Shanahan led offense face a Vance Joseph defense was in Week 14 of the 2018 season. Nick Mullens threw for 332 passing yards and Jeff Wilson rushed for 90 yards in the 20-14 49ers’ victory over the Denver Broncos. George Kittle had a whopping 210 receiving yards. But that is not all the history worth mentioning. Remember that two of the three total wins for the Cardinals last season came versus the 49ers. Talk about how things can change so quickly in just under one season.
Let’s take a closer look at Week 9’s Thursday Night’s Game.
On the season Kyler Murray is averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game good for QB10 overall in that category. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo is averaging just a mere 12.7 fantasy points per game good for QB27 in points per game. Teddy Bridgewater has scored more fantasy points this season than Garoppolo. But if there was ever game where Garoppolo would put up better numbers it would be in Week 9. The Cardinals have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Five quarterbacks that have played the Cardinals this season have scored 30 or more fantasy points. The only concerns for Jimmy G are that his passing volume is going to be low with the 49ers averaging just 26.8 passing attempts per game on the road.
As for Murray’s potential in this game, he is probably going to have to do a lot in this game if the Cardinals figure to be trailing without their top two running backs. It’s actually shocking the number of fantasy points the 49ers have allowed to the quarterback over the past four weeks. An average of .63 fantasy points. Since their bye week, no quarterback has scored more than four total fantasy points. Yikes! That being said none of the quarterbacks they have played have the running upside that Murray has and they did allow a 300-yard passing game versus benched Andy Dalton back in Week 2. Murray plays much better at home where he is averaging 22.15 fantasy points per game versus 14 fantasy points per game on the road. Murray is the better play across all formats.
The Cardinals’ defense funnels more to the passing game as they have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to the RB position. However, they did get completely ripped up by Latavius Murray a week ago, and there is no reason to believe they can stop the 49ers rushing attack that is averaging 181.1 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals are allowing 4.7 yards per attempt this season. At home specifically, they have allowed an average of 126.8 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Tevin Coleman is a lock, and whoever the second running back for the 49ers is also in play. Right now it looks like Raheem Mostert has the best chance to play, but if Matt Breida is active coming off an injury you know the drill. Start him!
As for the Cardinals, they will most likely be without both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds. That will thurst newly acquired Kenyan Drake into the pass-catching a role with Zach Zenner getting mixed in as the main runner. The Cardinals rank 21st in rushing attempts per game, so it just seems like they are just going to throw the ball a lot Thursday night so Drake is the preferred option.
The 49ers’ receiver room is extremely difficult to sort out. The Emmanuel Sanders trade has entrenched him as the number one receiver and that showed up on Sunday in Week 8. Sanders ran the most routes (26) and led all receivers not named George Kittle in targets (five). 50% of his snaps came from out of the slot in Week 8 so Sanders likely won’t draw a ton of coverage from Patrick Peterson. If it’s any consolation anyway I am not sure Peterson is a cornerback that we should be avoiding in fantasy football. According to Pro Football Focus in coverage in Week 8 Peterson allowed five receptions for 47 yards and one receiving touchdown.
A sleeper wide receiver on the 49ers for Week 9 is Deebo Samuel. The 49ers continue to script plays to get him the ball and that is because he is making plays in the open field. Of players with at least 23 targets, Samuel has the fourth-highest average of yards after the catch per reception (8.1). The Cardinals defense is not a great tackling unit; they allowed Michael Thomas to collect 81 yards after the catch and Latavius Murray to collect 65 yards after the catch just last week. Samuel is someone to target in single-game DFS contests.
Larry Fitzgerald had been awful as of late, but like Murray, he plays so much better at home. Now that he is back in the desert I think he is a sneaky play in DFS and player you can have confidence in as WR3 in Week 9. Christian Kirk is also a great play. Kirk has seen at least eight targets in four of his five games started while healthy this season. There is also a strong chance that Kirk sees carries from the backfield in Week 9. After all, he did finish as the Cardinals’ leading rusher in Week 8 with 19 rushing yards.
I’ve mentioned yards after the catch as one of the glaring weaknesses of the Arizona Cardinals defense. The other main weakness is defending the tight end, and that will not stop on Thursday night. As I mentioned before the last time George Kittle faced a Vance Joseph defense he went for over 200 receiving yards. Now factor in that the Cardinals allow the most fantasy points to the tight end position I think he is a lock to finish at the number one tight end overall on the week. Of all receivers and tight ends this season Kittle ranks fifth overall in yards after the catch (253). He has totaled 432 receiving yards but has just one touchdown which is very likely to positively regress. He has also had a large number of touchdowns scored that have been negated by penalties this season.
As for the Cardinals, they have not featured the tight end much this season until last week. Charles Clay was second in the league in air yards at tight end (68) last week to go along with 88 receiving yards. However, he ran just 10 routes and played in just 40.8% of snaps. He is most likely fool’s gold. San Francisco gives up the fewest fantasy points to the tight end position.
The 49ers D/ST is a great play this week. They will most likely force a pass-happy approach from the Cardinals that could create a lot of opportunities for turnovers. One thing to note is that Cardinals rank number one in the least amount of giveaways per game (.5), but rank second to last in sacks allowed per game at home per game (4.2). The 49ers defense is forcing 2.3 takeaways per game and 3.9 sacks per game. For a DFS perspective, I do think that the Arizona D/ST is extremely intriguing at projected lower ownership. The Cardinals have a pretty good pass rush as they are averaging 2.8 sacks per game. The 49ers are still missing their two starting tackles in Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey so there’s a chance that Chandler Jones and company can get after the quarterback.
On the side for kickers, Zane Gonzalez is a very good option. The Cardinals rank first in the NFL in field-goal attempts per game (3.0), and the 49ers have the second-best red zone defense (23.08%). Robbie Gould is also in play for DFS purposes as the 49ers rank second in the NFL in field-goal attempts per game (2.9) and first in attempts on the road (3.5).
The 49ers are clearly the superior team, but it is worth noting that the Cardinals hung around with the Saints longer than expected last week. They play much better at home and I do think that the Arizona defense is underrated especially with their pass rush. I am not confident though that Arizona will be able to stop the ground game of the 49ers, so if they fall behind it could be a long day. Then factor in all the Cardinals’ injuries at running back and Murray could easily be looking at a 50+ passing attempt game where he needs to make a ton of plays. Final score prediction: 30-27 49ers over Cardinals.
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