The third week of the NFL is already here and after a lot of deliberation on my part, I have chosen this week’s preview: Carson Palmer and his Arizona Cardinals taking on the Tasman’s favourite NFL team, Jarryd Hayne and the San Francisco 49er’s.
This is an important clash for the NFC West division. Arizona currently lead the division on 2-0 while San Francisco sit on 1-1.
Both teams will be keen to stay ahead of both Seattle and St. Louis so will need to bring their A-Game.
Arizona took full advantage of Jay Cutler’s injury last week and crushed the Chicago Bears 48-23. They are 2-0 and well on the way to improving their record last year, a respectful 11-5 ratio.
Last year the Cardinals held a 7-1 record at the University of Phoenix where they tied with New England, Seattle and Detroit for the 2nd best home record.
Last time San Fran took a step into the University, they were sent home after a 23-14 beating. It’s a result that Palmer & co will be looking to replicate.
Fitzgerald’s Drought Is Broken.
Last season, Carson Palmer only played 6 games due to injury which also stunted the amount of attacking power Arizona had.
The chemistry between Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald is undeniable. In fact, until last week Fitzgerald was on a 9-game TD drought.
With Andre Ellington still injured, Palmer looked to Fitzgerald to step up and between them, they scored 3 Touchdowns for the 1st 3-TD game in Fitzgerald’s career.
Bruce Airans Slowly Bringing it Together.
Bruce Airans took the helm at Arizona in 2013 and has been working the franchise to his design and its really shown over the last couple of seasons.
In 2014/2015, the Cardinals were 11-5 which tied the franchises record for most season wins and he was also named AP Coach of the Year for the 2nd time in his career. If anyone has a chance to turn Arizona into a legitimate threat, its Airans who has just signed on until 2018.
Over the last 5 years, Arizona and San Francisco have met 10 times. The Cardinals have won 2 of those 10 encounters. Each time they have lost, it has been by 10 points or more with the exception of their most recent meeting in 2014 where there was a 3 point difference.
Arizona will have to step up their defence to make sure that this time, they come out on top.
Defence Deeply Worrying.
‘Defence wins matches’ is the old cliché and currently, Arizona is ranked 22nd with their defence. Not a stat you want when you go into a game with the 49er’s.
San Fran are ranked number 2 in rushing and 4 in offence and they look to be improving.
Airans is going to need to do a lot of work to counter Kaepernick and all the options he has for rushing.
Andre Ellington Missing in Action.
Andre Ellington is one of Arizona’s up and coming talents that is just starting to find his rhythm. He’s injured himself in the game against Chicago and at the time of this writing has not been cleared to play against San Francisco so the attack options of Arizona have taken a slight hit.
It will be interesting to see what Airan will do to remedy this.
San Francisco 49er’s
The Hayne Plane is in full effect. With Reggie Bush on a week to week basis, the Rugby League convert has been given a chance to step up and is a contributing factor as to why San Fran are currently ranked number 2 in rushing stats so far this season.
It’s gonna be an interesting battle for the 49’ers if they want a chance to take over from Arizona at the top on the NFC West division.
On Paper, They Look Good.
San Francisco are currently the leading team in the NFL with rushing. They are ranked 4th on offence and 16th on defense. They have a great attack/rushing set up with Kaepernick and Hyde/Hayne. They are a dangerous team to face and with the motivation of taking the lead in the NFC West, they will be hard to stop.
In 2010, Tomsula was named as San Frans interim head coach. Remember before when I brought up the stat that over the last 5 years, these 2 teams have faced off 10 times? And how San Fran have won 8 of these 10 encounters? Yeah, Tomsula had a lot to do with that.
Jim has been a mix of Defensive coach and Head Coach over that period of time. In fact, his first game as Head Coach for the 49er’s ended in a 38-7 victory over Arizona. So he knows what he’s doing when it comes to taking on the Cardinals.
San Fran have one of the most versatile squad of players this season. Even with injuries to Reggie Bush, they’ve been able to counter that with a mix of Carlos Hyde and Jarryd Hayne. Hayne may even be given a shot at another position.
His career is still so young that Tomsula could slide him in at fullback and see how he goes.
The versatility of the 49er offence will be a key factor to their season.
Kaepernick Looking Uncomfortable Under Pressure.
In the 43-18 loss against Pittsburgh in Week 2, something seemed off about quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Usually a cool head under pressure, Kaepernick never look 100% certain and didn’t find a rhythm in his game until the game was well and truly out of reach.
On the receiving end of 5 sacks from the Steelers, he’ll need to get into game mode a lot earlier if they want to overcome the high flying Cardinals.
Turning Drives Into Points.
Two San Fran long drives (17 plays in the first half, 19 in the second) ended with just 3 points on the board for the 49er’s.
Kaepernick threw for over 330 yards in the game against the Steelers. They have had the opportunities with the ball in hand. They just need to turn those opportunities into points.
Rumours are flying at the moment that Carlos Hyde may not be fit enough for this vital clash. With Reggie Bush also on the fence, there’s suddenly a lot of pressure put on the Hayne Plane.
Between him and Mike Davis, there is a chance to step up and make a name for themselves. Can the Hayne Plane step up and be the hero that San Francisco desperately needs?
This is a tough one. I’m going to go with my heart on this one and say San Francisco wins a close one in the final quarter. Ultimately, the mix of Tomsula’s coaching and a re-focused Colin Kaepernick will overcome Arizona at home and add the 1st ‘L’ to the Cardinals this season.
The recent history between these two teams is too much to ignore and Arizona’s defence will crumble to the rushing game of San Francisco.
Players To Watch:
John Brown – Arizona Cardinals. This young player is poised to have a break out year. Potentially the best Wide Receiver in the Arizona locker room, look for Carson Palmer to be targeting Brown a lot during their plays.
Jarred Hayne – San Francisco 49er’s. You could probably guess I was going to pick the hero from Down Under. A good performance here could really top off his already amazing rookie season from a NRL convert to professional NFL Player. Look for him to step up in Carlos Hyde has to take a week off.