Week 8: San Francisco 49ers At Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter on October 18, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    Alex Smith has been poor in back-to-back games against the Giants and the Seahawks. The 49ers might be concerned because Smith could not bounce back after the Niners were dominated by the defending Super Bowl champions. Smith is a good quarterback who looked great earlier in the year. He may be suffering from a loss of confidence at this point.
    The Cardinals were forced to go with John Skelton in the Week Seven loss to the Vikings. Skelton does not have a lot of quickness and can’t dance away from pressure, and that’s a huge issue against the hard-charging 49ers.
  • Offense
    The 49ers play old-school football because they want to beat you up on both sides of the ball. Few running backs in football can dole out more punishment than Frank Gore. He gets help from Kendall Hunter. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis are two of Smith’s favorite targets. Mario Manningham did not play against Seattle as a result of a shoulder injury and his status has not been determined for this game.
    The Cardinals are going to try to take pressure off of Skelton by running the ball with LaRod Stephens-Howling. He ran for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. Larry Fitzgerald is a game-breaking wide receiver and Andre Roberts complements Fitzgerald very well.
  • Defense
    The 49ers are going to try to set the tone early by coming after Skelton. He does not have the escape-ability to get away from pass rushers like Aldon Smith (5.5 sacks) and Ahmad Brooks (3.0 sacks). Patrick Willis sets the tone for the defense with his strength and hitting ability while NaVorro Bowman is a tackling machine who can dominate the line of scrimmage.
    The Cardinals may not have as much talent as the 49ers on the defensive side of the ball, but they play hard and have a couple of solid players in linebacker Daryl Washington (6.0 sacks) and defensive end Calais Campbell (2.0 sacks). Defensive back Patrick Peterson is a game-changing player with three interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
  • Special Teams
    David Akers has the leg strength to hit from 60 yards or closer, but he has been a tad erratic this season. Punter Andy Lee has good leg strength and is a solid directional kicker. Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams are solid return men.
    The Cardinals know that Jay Feely can hit long field goals when the game is on the line. Dave Zastudil is a good but not great punter. Peterson can be a huge difference maker returning punts.
RESULTS
The 49ers are clearly one of the better teams in the NFL, but they are still shaken by their one-sided loss two weeks ago to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Smith is coming off two consecutive substandard games. The Cardinals are hurting, but a big game here could get them going in the right direction again.

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