Scott Shapiro's Thursday Night Football pick: 49ers vs. Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
O 42.5 (-114)
U 42.5 (-106)
San Francisco's defense has been dominantPlain and simply head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have done an awesome job constructing this San Francisco squad. They took a defense that was one of the league’s worst units not so long ago and turned it into one of the most dominant groups in the National Football League. They rank first in the NFL in passing defense yielding less than 129 yards per game and have only allowed 77 points through their first seven contests.
The Niners' ground game has been on pointQuarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been serviceable, but the offense has been all about the National Football League’s second-best rushing attack. When the Niners lost left tackle Joe Staley to injury I was concerned their offensive line would struggle, but credit Shanahan for scripting plays that have allowed them to continue to move the ball willingly on the ground. Whether it be Tevin Coleman who blew up in their Week 8 romp of the Panthers for 105 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries, speedster Matt Breida who leads the team in rushing yards (446), Raheem Mostert who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, or Jeffery Wilson who has four touchdowns, they have run the ball extremely well in a league largely built on the forward pass.
The Cardinals will miss Johnson and EdmondsThe Cardinals played the Saints tough through much of their game in New Orleans last Sunday and were down just 10-6 midway through the third quarter before the roof caved in against one of the NFC’s best teams. Things do not get any easier in Week 9 against San Francisco. Their “Air Raid” offense is likely to be without their top two running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds and they do not have the talent on the outside, other than Christian Kirk, to give San Francisco significant problems deep down the field. They traded for Kenyan Drake on Monday, but expecting serious production from him is probably wishful thinking.
Arizona lost RB Chase Edmonds to a hamstring injury Sunday, already had RB David Johnson dealing with an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him this week and now will add RB Kenyan Drake, who could be in line for significant work Thursday night vs. San Francisco.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 28, 2019
Arizona's D has been woefulThe Cardinals defense gives up 130.1 yards a game on the ground, 277 yards per game through the air and ranks 29th overall in team defense through eight games. My biggest concern is the Niners speed out of the backfield and their inability to cover tight ends. Look for George Kittle and the San Francisco running backs to make a number of big plays early and then for their zone running game to wear down the Arizona front seven.
Normally I would be concerned laying double-digit points with a road team on short rest, but San Francisco was able to rest their key players in their destruction of Carolina at home, so they should be the more rested group. At some point the Niners will meet their match during the 2019 campaign, but I do not see it being in Phoenix on Thursday night.