SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-2)
at ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-3)
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: San Francisco -7, Total: 38
The Cardinals try to stop a three-game losing skid when they host the 49ers on Monday night.
San Francisco has a chance to open up a big lead in the NFC West. The Niners are 2-1 SU and ATS on the road this year, with impressive wins over Green Bay and the Jets. But last December in the desert, QB John Skelton came in for an injured Kevin Kolb in the first quarter and led Arizona to a 21-19 comeback victory with three TD passes. Kolb is again hurt, and Skelton threw for 262 yards in a 21-14 loss at Minnesota last week. The Niners won an ugly one over Seattle last Thursday, 13-6, and will have the extra rest going into this game. Their running game had a big second half, finishing with 175 yards against an elite Seahawks defense, and the final spread would have been more than seven points had Alex Smith not been intercepted in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Will the Cardinals finally get their first win in October? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Smith has won four of his past five starts versus Arizona despite pedestrian numbers: 51% completions, 5.8 YPA, 6 TD, 3 INT. He's been shaky in the past two weeks, passing for just 340 yards (6.4 YPA) with 1 TD and 4 INT. A sprained finger on his throwing hand has contributed greatly to his struggles. Another injury concern for the 49ers is leading rusher Frank Gore, who suffered bruised ribs in the last game against Seattle. The bye week helped him heal though, and he is expected to start. That's bad news for Arizona considering Gore has gained 913 total yards (114 per game) with 7 TD in the past eight meetings with the Cardinals. Two other key injuries are WR Mario Manningham (shoulder) and LB Patrick Willis (ankle), but the bye week has also helped their healing process and both are expected to play on Monday. Willis is the anchor to this excellent defense that leads the NFL in both total yards allowed (272 YPG) and passing yards allowed (173 YPG), while ranking second in scoring defense (14.3 PPG). In the past five meetings with Arizona, the Niners have allowed just 50 total points while forcing 19 turnovers (3.8 per game).
Skelton was a turnover machine against San Francisco last year, throwing five interceptions in just 47 pass attempts over two games. However, he fared pretty well in his first full game of 2012 last week, completing 25-of-36 passes for 262 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against the Vikings. The one negative was that he took seven sacks. All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald has had a down season for his standards (66 rec. YPG, 3 TD), but he has loved facing San Francisco in his career, catching 93 passes for 1,296 yards and 11 TD in 16 meetings. Although Arizona ranks 27th in the NFL in rushing offense (89 YPG), it has done a better job on the ground in the past two weeks with 308 yards on 56 carries (5.5 YPC). LaRod Stephens-Howling had 20 carries for 104 yards in last week's loss, and will be the main ball carrier ahead of William Powell. Arizona ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (16.9 PPG) and seventh in total defense (312 YPG). The Cardinals produced 16 sacks during their four-game win streak to start the year, but have just six sacks during their three-game skid. They also have some key injuries on defense, including DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring), LB Reggie Walker (head), CB Greg Toler (hamstring) and S James Sanders (knee), who are all questionable. S Kerry Rhodes (back) is out indefinitely.