Sunday saw the New England Patriots defeat the St. Louis Rams in the NFL’s annual International Series game at London’s Wembley Stadium. Monday Night Football sees a clash between the two teams that kick started that series back in 2005.
Whilst the Niners clash with the Cardinals in 2005 game might not have taken place in London – it was in Mexico City – the success that it brought propelled the NFL into a marketing frenzy, taking its product overseas and making it truly global.
This Monday night’s game might not come with the expectation of 103,467 fans – Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca was heaving that night – and the league’s top brass, but make no mistakes, this could be a big game.
Keep On Rolling
San Francisco (5-2, 2-1 road) travels to the desert as the number one team in the NFC West, something nobody would have doubted this past summer.
Arizona (4-3, 3-1 home) opened the season winning four straight and looking like this season’s surprise package. A three-game losing skid has put paid to such thoughts, and potentially leaves the Cardinals staring into a losing abyss, not to mention in dire need of a win.
San Francisco’s success has come as a result of a very simple formula: running the football and strong defense wins games.
The Niners have the best running game in the league, averaging 176.6 yards per game on the ground. Lead running back Frank Gore is accounting for 85.9 of those yards, proving the Niners are no one-trick-pony. Kendall Hunter has contributed 36.9 per game, while the QB tandem of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick account for 39.8 yards per game. With such a prolific running game, it’s not that surprising that the Niners rank 28th in passing (199.9 YPG).
On the defensive side of the football, San Francisco is a beast. Number one against the pass (173.4 YPG) and in total yards against (272.3 YPG), and number two in points conceded (14.3 PPG), the 49ers weakness is its rush defense, which still ranks 10th in the league (98.9 YPG). Points and yards will be at a premium for the Cardinals.
That being said, the Niners could come up against a potential roadblock at the University of Arizona Stadium. The Cardinals give up just 312.1 yards per game (7th) and 16.9 points per game (4th), numbers that suggest a strong defensive presence. However, those numbers are skewed in favor of the passing game – the Cardinals are fourth in the league at stopping the pass – and there are definite weaknesses against the run. Arizona gives up an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game (21st), which means San Francisco should be able to keep on rolling.
Looking for an Edge
San Francisco leads the all-time head-to-head 24-17, a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1951 when the Cardinals were based in Chicago. The Niners have had the recent edge, going 7-3 in the last 10. Last time out (December 2011) though, the Cardinals beat their division rivals 21-19, snapping a five-game losing streak.
San Francisco will be favorites entering the game. The spread opened at four points but has subsequently risen to seven.
The 49ers are 4-3 ATS this season. Dating back to last season, the team also has a 2-5 ATS record on the road. Arizona is 3-4 ATS this season, giving bettors a real conundrum when it comes to putting a stake on the pointspread.
The over/under opened at 37 and has risen to 38½ ahead of game time. The total has gone under in four of seven Niners games this season, as well as six of seven Cardinals games. That means the smart money will be on the under in this one.