Week 8 will be a battle for pride for the San Francisco 49ers.
At this point, the 49ers (1-6) just want to stay as healthy as possible and see steady improvement from everyone on the roster. Winning games is still a strong desire, but with the playoffs out of sight now, it’s about aiming for victory without taking big steps back.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan knows how difficult it has been for many of his guys up to this point, especially the younger players. He spoke about the plagued receiving corps, which has seen Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor and rookie Dante Pettis miss games or be limited through these seven weeks:
“I think it has been tough because I feel like we’ve had a little bit of a different lineup every single game. We’ve had to mix and match a number of guys at different positions.”
This week is the first rematch of the season for the 49ers, playing the wallowing Arizona Cardinals (1-6) on the road. While the records might be identical, the overall performances of the two teams are split.
San Francisco has the offensive advantage. They’ve put up at least 27 points four times this season, even though just one resulted in a win. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have managed to score 20 points just once — in their 28-18 Week 5 victory over these 49ers.
Arizona has been better defensively. They have held three opponents to 20 points or less, two games resulting in close losses.
This matchup will be all about which team’s weakness can be mitigated the most. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh thinks his defense isn’t far from a solid performance:
“In that first half [versus LA], I thought we came out with a lot of energy — got the three-and-out, stood up on a short field to force a field goal. On the next drive we had a pick-six in our hands to force another third down conversion for us to force a punt. … I just felt like, in that first half, guys came out with great energy, they competed their tails off and we were getting a lot of wins from down to down.”
A team like the Rams can easily get back on track if it starts slowly, but the Cardinals are not equipped to do that — at least not as effectively as Los Angeles.
The Arizona passing offense is second-to-last, averaging under 160 yards per game. That puts them just above the Buffalo Bills, who have the least-coveted quarterback situation in the NFL. Their rushing offense is dead last, almost an entire 20 yards per game worse than 31st-ranked Atlanta.
Basically, they’re very bad when they have the ball, which is part of the rebuilding process. Particularly with a rookie quarterback who had to play way earlier then he should have.
If the 49ers can avoid giving up big plays and turning the ball over, they’ll have a great chance to win this game. They did well with keeping the Rams from getting explosive plays, which is about the only thing they did do well in that game. However, that will carry more weight against Arizona. The 49ers lost to the Cardinals in their previous meeting because of a 75-yard touchdown pass and a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.
Both teams will have something to prove, coming off the wrong end of blowouts. I believe the 49ers are better-equipped to save face. They basically have the best-case scenario to bounce back, facing possibly the worst team in football after a whole week. I don’t think they’ll let Arizona put them in last place in the NFC West.
San Francisco wins the rematch 27-13, behind a 245-yard, one-touchdown, zero-turnover outing by C.J. Beathard. I see the running backs combining for 120 yards and a touchdown, and the defense will score with a pick-six.