Free NFL Pick: San Francisco at Arizona 11-29-2010

November 29, 2010


San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Monday November 29th, 2010 8:30 PM EST

Line: San Francisco -2


Here we are in week 11 and the Cardinals and 49ers are both a miserable 3-7. Both teams have shown flashes of what they could be if they put it together, but poor quarterback play and an underachieving defense puts them tied for last place. That being said, the winner of this game will move to 4-7, putting them one game out of first place in the NFC West.

Keys to the Game:

  • Frank Gore needs to get a lot of carries. Frank Gore always does well against the Cardinals and on Monday Night Football. When Gore does well, the entire offense clicks. Troy Smith showed last week that his game is obviously lacking in some areas. Goire will need to have a big day, which will be more difficult with two rookies on the field and two 49ers offensive linemen, Eric Heitman and Joe Staley, sidelined with broken legs.
  • How bad will the Cardinals be on offense? Larry Fitzgerald has been improving lately, but he still hasn’t taken over games like he did when Kurt Warner was there. The Cardinals will have a tough time running the ball, as Parick Willis leads a defense that is built to stop the run. The Cardinals are splotchy on offense and will need to limit mistakes in order to make this one close.
  • The Cardinals need to keep Troy Smith contained. Last week, Troy Smith had a tough game against the Buccaneers. The Bucs kept Smith contained in the pocket, which didn’t allow him to extend plays and get the ball down the field. Troy Smith got the start over Alex Smith because he showed he could get the ball to Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore. The Cardinals need to be aggressive on the outside with their pass rush and contain Troy Smith within the confines of the pocket. Joey Porter is going to have to have a big day for the Cardinals.
  • The 49ers defense needs to focus on the run. If the Cardinals get their run game going, they will be less apt to put the ball in the air, where they make mistakes. Last week, they allowed the Bucs to pound the football tirelessly. The 49ers have the personnel to shut down the run game, but they can get caught up in playing safe and making plays five yards down field, rather than at the line of scrimmage.
  • Taylor Mays should be back in the lineup. Mays has done everything the 49ers have asked him to do. He might be shaky in coverage, but the 49ers need his sense of urgency on defense. He is a great tackling safety and he has been making plays this year. The 49ers needed to make changes after the slow start, but punishing Mays for doing everything they have called on him to do is unfair. The best 11 should be on the field and Taylor Mays is one of the best 11.

Key Matchup:

Troy Smith Vs. Derek Anderson

  • Troy Smith looked like he had complete command of the offense in his first two games. While a regression was obviously anticipated, the lack luster performance against Tampa Bay has fans wondering if they will ever find a legitimate starting quarterback. I anticipate he will get back on track this week. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he holds onto the ball far too long. The offensive line isn’t good enough to hang onto the ball and wait for things to develop.
  • Derek Anderson is one of those quarterbacks that fans have to hold their breath every single time he drops back to pass. Anderson still struggles to utilize his targets and he has melt down potential. The winner of this quarterback battle will likely win the game. It is likely both will struggle, but whoever struggles less could come away with the victory. Playing mistake free and allowing the other to self distruct could lead to a victory.

Wrap Up:

The Cardinals have dropped five games in a row. While the 49ers certainly have nothing to brag about at this point in the season, they have won two of their last three games and three of their last five. Both of these teams are definitely in panic mode at this point. They need a win on Monday Night to allow them any shot at creeping into the playoff talks. Both teams are obviously vulnerable. While it’s obviously the worst Monday Night matchup of the year, someone is still going to cover. I’m taking the 49ers, because the Cardinals don’t look they are going to be able to get out of their downward spiral.

Free NFL Pick: San Francisco -2

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