Through the first quarter of the NFL season, it appears as though the Arizona Cardinals have yet to recover from the 49-15 beatdown the Carolina Panthers inflicted upon them in the NFC Championship game last season.
The Cardinals, preseason favorites of many to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, have started out the year 1-3. And they haven’t looked anything like the 13-3 NFC West division champions from last year in bad back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills.
On top of that, their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, left Week 4’s game against the Rams with a concussion. He’s still listed as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the division-rival San Francisco 49ers.
When the Cardinals and the 49ers meet, it’s always a battle, and experts certainly expect this Week 5 matchup to be no different.
“You’re talking about a divisional game and how important it is. It doesn’t matter what the record is, you’re playing a divisional opponent,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Bart Scott said. “You want to set precedent, because the first goal of any team is to win their division, and to do that you have to take care of business.”
While many believe that the Cardinals will eventually turn it around and that the 49ers are the perfect opponent to do it against, the 49ers haven’t been nearly as bad as most expected them to be coming into the year.
In year one of the Chip Kelly era, the 49ers have shown that they can hang with some of the best teams in the league thanks to efficient quarterbacking from Blaine Gabbert, a strong running game and a stout defense — a proven recipe for success against almost any team in the NFL.
Even though they sit at 1-3, these 49ers can’t be taken lightly.
“I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t been really surprised by the San Francisco 49ers,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Tony Gonzalez said. “I thought they were going to be a lot worse than what they are, they’ve actually been playing some really good football, some competitive football. But going against the Arizona Cardinals… I’m waiting for this (Cardinals) roster to come together and to play a full game, because this is a team that a lot of us picked to maybe represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. And right now they have not played up to that up to this point. So I’m anxious to see how Bruce Arians gets this team going.”
Last year the Cardinals went 2-0 against the 49ers and demolished them 47-7 when they played in Week 4. However, when the Cardinals traveled to Levi’s Stadium to play the 49ers in Week 12, the game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals only won 19-13.
While the Cardinals have a more talented roster than the 49ers, playing a division opponent in primetime on the road in a short week has spelled disaster for teams much better than the Cardinals. Never mind that Palmer may not suit up for Arizona this week.
Look for the 49ers to control the clock with their running game and put the Cardinals further behind the eight-ball with an upset victory at home.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 10 – San Francisco 49ers 13