Struggling NFC West teams employing backup quarterbacks look for some positive momentum
Arizona takes on San Francisco Sunday afternoon in Levi’s Stadium in a matchup of teams in similar circumstances. The NFC West rivals are struggling to win games (Cardinals are 3-4, 49ers 0-8), are dealing with injuries to several key players, and are employing backup quarterbacks.
These two teams played a month ago back in Week 4, a game Arizona won 18-15 in overtime. Outside of the game-winning touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, the rest of the scoring was done by kickers Phil Dawson and Robbie Gould. Ironically, neither starting quarterback from that game will be under center for this one, as Brian Hoyer is now in New England and Palmer is on injured reserve with a broken left arm.
San Francisco just finished up a grueling stretch of four of five games away from home with three of those being losses of three points or less. For such a young team, the frustration caught up with them in blowout losses to the Cowboys and Eagles. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard (above, right) has struggled, but the team still thought more of him than Hoyer, who was released. Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a trade with New England earlier this week, will not be available for Sunday, and Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday that there was no guarantee Garoppolo would see the field in 2017. No. 1 wide receiver Pierre Garcon went on injured reserve on Thursday because of a neck injury, and he was one of the few reliable weapons the 49ers had.
Arizona lost its last game 33-0 over in London and showed very little fight while getting blown out. The Cardinals have alternated losses and wins the last few weeks and have been struggling with consistency. There was a report that head coach Bruce Arians was considering retirement at the end of the season, but he was quick to shut it down. Drew Stanton is at quarterback while Adrian Peterson set to play in his third game for Arizona since being acquired from New Orleans. Peterson was good in his first game but struggled his last time out behind an offensive line that is very iffy at best. The Cardinals' defense has been way too leaky of late, allowing 30 points or more in three straight contests.
Arizona at San Francisco
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 5 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Cardinals -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Mediocrity under center
Drew Stanton is in his 10th year in the NFL and has been around the block when it comes to being a fill-in starting quarterback. His lone action this season was a five-completion game against the Rams with an interception. The offense will look pretty close to the same considering how long he's been in Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown and John Brown will do their part to help and should be able to get open against a vulnerable San Francisco secondary.
C.J. Beathard is on the opposite end of the spectrum; it's his rookie year, and now he knows that he's probably not the future at the position for the 49ers. Beathard has not put up good numbers this season as he seems to overthrow a lot of his receivers. Beathard's accuracy, or lack thereof, is an issue for a team that doesn't have game-breakers and needs to matriculate down the field.
I used this key last week when it came to the 49ers game, and the theme continues for this week. What does Beathard think now that San Francisco traded for his replacement? Does he take this opportunity and use it to audition for other teams, or is he down in the dumps? The team has not been competitive the last two weeks and probably won't get much of a bump from a half-empty stadium at home. This will be the first of three straight home games (with a bye mixed in) so there's a chance the 49ers may finally get into the win column. On the Arizona side, do the Cardinals let the Arians retirement rumors bother them, or do they play on? When we last saw them, the Cards were getting blasted, and frustrations were boiling over. They are coming off a bye week, so maybe the team is refreshed and ready to be competitive.
3. Defense, defense, defense
If you look at both teams combined, they've allowed 30 points or more five straight games. San Francisco has already lost several starters to injuries, including defensive lineman Arik Armstead (broken hand) and safety Jimmie Ward (broken forearm), both of whom are on injured reserve. Additionally, first-round pick Solomon Thomas (knee) will more than likely miss this game while second-round pick Reuben Foster (ankle/ribs) and defensive lineman Aaron Lynch (calf) are battling injuries of their own.
Meanwhile, Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby (finger/hamstring) is the only key member that appears on the injury report. I'd like to think a secondary featuring Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu would be able to hold down the 49ers’ mediocre receiving corps. To me, the big edge is the Cardinals’ pass rush against an offensive line that is really banged up. Joe Staley got hurt in the Eagles game and he’s one of four linemen that appear on the injury report.
Field goals. Lots and lots of field goals are what I see in this one. The short line that Vegas has provided us gives me pause in thinking that this will be a blowout. I thought the 49ers would have shown some fight after their record stretch of five straight losses of three points or less, but they haven't. This one may not be pretty to watch, so consider yourself forewarned.
Prediction: Cardinals 12, 49ers 9
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(C.J. Beathard photo courtesy of www.49ers.com)