For the second week in a row, the San Francisco 49ers go on the road to face an NFC West rival, this time Arizona Cardinals, with first place in the division on the line (8.40pm ET, Monday).
After defeating the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 13-6 last week, the 49ers will be hoping for a repeat result. Arizona, on the other hand, are in desperate need of a win. After winning their first four, they have lost three straight. In addition, their schedule does not get any easier from here on out. If they hope to win the NFC West, they will need to beat the Niners in this game.
The Success of the 49ers Runs Through Frank Gore
The 49ers have a solid crop of wide receivers that includes Pro Bowler Randy Moss, former New York Giants’ number one Mario Manningham and the up and coming talent in Michael Crabtree. They also have a pretty good quarterback in the eight year veteran, Alex Smith and a nice short option route receiver in tight end Vernon Davis.
Even with all of these options however, with all of this talent in the passing game, the key to the San Francisco offense is the eight year veteran out of Miami in Frank Gore.
Gore began his career in 2005 and in fourteen games played, proved himself to be a reliable all-around starting back. He ran for 608 yards, averaging 4.8 yards a carry. He also caught 15 passes for 131 yards, averaging 8.7 yards a catch. He followed up this season with a career best year in 2006. It proved to be only the second time in his career that he played the full 16 game season and in those games, he totaled 1,695 yards on the ground. Gore averaged a then career high 5.4 yards per rush and scored eight touchdowns. He also became a huge part of the passing game, catching 61 passes for 485 yards and a touchdown.
Following the 2006 season, Gore continued to put up great numbers as he reached several Pro-Bowls as a member of the 49ers. In his seven full seasons in the NFL, Gore threw for over 1,000 yards all but twice and never once failed to average less than 4.2 yards per carry. He has scored a total of 43 rushing touchdowns and has another nine receiving touchdowns as well 2,397 yards through the air.
For Gore, this season has been no different. In just seven games played, he is averaging a career best 5.8 yards per carry on 601 total rushing yards and four touchdowns. He has also caught 15 passes for a total of 110 yards.
To illustrate Gore’s importance to the team, you have to look at the individual games the Niners have played. If you did, you would see a very clear pattern that the team does in fact go as Gore goes.
In the five games San Francisco won this year, Gore rushed for no less than 64 yards in each and rushed for at least 100, three additional times. He also scored four touchdowns, all of which came in the team’s first four wins.
In the two losses for the Niners, Gore was basically nonexistent. He recorded just 99 total yards on 20 attempts and scored zero touchdowns. In both of these games, San Francisco lost in scoring just 16 points while yielding 50.
Against the Cardinals, Gore should have an easy time racking up yards. Arizona has the 20th worst rushing defense, giving up on average 120.9 yards a game, The San Francisco offense meanwhile is averaging 176.6 rushing yards, good enough for second best in the NFL.
The Patrick Factor: Arizona’s Peterson vs. San Francisco’s Willis
Patrick Peterson, a cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals, stands in at 6’1 and 219 pounds. Now in his second year in the NFL, he has made 85 tackles and has eight interceptions, three of which are from 2012, in a total of 23 games played. He has been used extensively in the return game and in 2011, returned four kicks for touchdowns and 44 kicks for a total of 699 yards. So far in 2012, he has returned 26 kicks for 229 yards.
Opposing him is another Patrick that boasts a wealth of NFL talent. Drafted 11th overall in 2011, Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers is an imposing linebacker that stands in at 6’1 and 240 pounds. He is in his sixth year in an NFL career that has seen him force 13 fumbles, make 750 tackles, intercept six passes and record 17 sacks. In 2012, he has made 58 tackles and has a fumble recovery as well as a pick.
Willis, whose role occurs mainly in pass protection, has helped the Niners to the league’s best passing defense despite having faced the high scoring powerhouses of the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. On the season, Willis leads a squad that has allowed just 173.4 yards to opposing quarterbacks.
Peterson, also heavily involved in the passing game of the opposition, has helped the Cardinals’ to the fourth best mark in the NFL. He had a key interception and played a huge role in Arizona shutting down Tom Brady and the fifth best offense in the New England Patriots. His three interceptions are fourth best in the NFL.
Essentially what this means is that Niners QB Alex Smith and his core receivers as well as Cardinals’ QB John Skelton and (WR) Larry Fitzgerald, could be in for long days. Both teams will need to rely more on the rush and with Arizona ranked just 27th in this category; a clear advantage goes to Gore and San Francisco.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Betting Picks Verdict
San Francisco was in this exact situation last week, facing a team that had the potential to take over the division with a win. They handled it well and although didn’t score extensively, they held up with their strength on defense.
This week should just be more of the same. The 49ers are a better all around team than the Cardinals and recent struggles for Arizona point to their early undefeated start as a fluke.
- Take the Niners (strong -310 favorites on the moneyline) to cover the -7 points spread @ odds of -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook and Bovada for Americans and with Bet365 for non-Americans.