The 49ers in Week 8 head to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals for the second time this season. The Cardinals, like the 49ers, are 1-6 with their lone win coming against San Francisco three weeks ago.
The last time these two teams played, the 49ers absolutely dominated the game. However, they also turned the ball over five times, helping the winless Cardinals notch their first W of the season.
From a previous article: “Last week against the Cardinals, the 49ers doubled Arizona’s yard amount (447-220), had more than three times the amount of first downs (33-10), and had the ball for twice as long (40:12-19:48). But they also had five turnovers.”
The 49ers right now are not a good team, and this has been their Achilles. Their only win came in Week 2 when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was still healthy. They’ve lost five straight games, and are coming off a blowout loss from another division rival.
Despite not being a good team, though, Arizona is probably one of the few teams in the league they are better than. And yes, this can still be true even though they lost to the Cardinals a few weeks prior.
That’s not to say the 49ers will win this game. Because we all know how great the 49ers are at shooting themselves in the foot.
The Cardinals are coming off a bye week and will be well-rested. They’ve had a week and a half to plan for this game. Their last game was a 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, which resulted in the firing of their offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy. So this will be the first game anyone will see them in their new offense.
So it’s difficult to predict how they’ll play. They’ve been the worst offense in the league this season, but that could change.
They have the talent to have a decent offense. David Johnson is a stud in the backfield if they can get him going, Larry Fitzgerald is still solid, and they have other pieces all over the offense, including rookie second-round pick Christian Kirk. If their offensive coordinator can put Josh Rosen in positions to succeed, they have a chance to do some damage.
With all the injuries and miscommunications the 49ers are having on defense, the Cardinals could use this game to get back on track.
The defense played its best game against the Cardinals, but a lot of that was the ineptitude of their offense. They can’t get complacent and expect the same result again. However, with Rosen nursing a toe injury, and the unfamiliarity of a new OC gives the defense a good reason to play aggressively.
The last game against Arizona showed that it doesn’t matter how well the defense plays, if the offense is constantly giving away the ball, the team is still going to lose.
The 49ers currently have a league worst -15 turnover differential. They’ve given away the ball 18 times in seven games. That’s more than two a game. And while the offense is giving away the ball, the defense is incapable of forcing turnovers. Even when the opponent is essentially handing the ball over, the 49ers’ defense can’t capitalize on it.
For instance, the fumble against the Chiefs when there was no one but 49ers even close to the ball, and they still managed to screw it up by stepping out of bounds before recovering it. Or last week against the Rams when Jared Goff through the ball directly to Jaquiski Tartt with a lane into the end zone, and he subsequently dropped it.
With the injuries continuing to stack up, it becomes more and more imperative that the 49ers play clean football.
Injuries on both sides of the ball are hard enough to overcome, and constantly shooting yourself in the foot makes it even tougher. Usually when two bad teams play each other, no one pays attention. But this game actually has important draft implications.
There are five 1-6 teams. And coincidentally, the 49ers will be playing three of them in the next three weeks. In some weird twist of fate, there’s a good chance the 49ers could be 4-6 going into the bye.
Depending on your point of view, that could be good or bad. Good, because the young players will gain some confidence and start to learn how to win. Bad, because they could play themselves out of a top five draft pick, with some meaningless wins.
I’m of the opinion that teams should always play to win, and winning always trumps draft picks. Constantly losing is how bad teams stay bad. The 49ers need to take care of business against the Cardinals, and then the Raiders and Giants. If they can do that without a decent chunk of their best players, it’ll be a good foundation to build upon for next year.
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