It’s almost hard to remember how cluttered and highly contested the NFC West division was at the start of the 2012 NFL season.
When we take a look now, things are beginning to take shape as playoff contenders begin to pull away from pretenders — not only in the NFC West but all around the league,.
Sitting atop this interesting division, separated by only a single game, are the (5-2) San Francisco 49ers and the (4-3) Arizona Cardinals, the two teams slated to meet in tonight’s edition of Monday Night Football. Who will look like a pretender/contender at night’s end?
Opening kickoff for this intradivisional showdown is scheduled for tonight at 8:40 p.m. EST (6:40 p.m. MST) from University of Phoenix Stadium and it’ll be broadcast live on ESPN.
“We expect these games in the NFC West to be 60 minutes of physical football,” said 49ers left tackle Joe Staley.
According to the latest Monday Night Football odds, the visiting Niners will be 7-point favorites over the slumping Cards this evening and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 38½ points.
The fact that San Francisco comes in winners of three of its last four games is a bit deceiving as far as how things have gone offensively. It’s no secret that for San Francisco to cover tonight’s (-7) spread, the defense will need to play up to its potential and Alex Smith has to get hot at some point.
The fact that the Niners’ 8th-year quarterback has throw 4 touchdowns and four interceptions over the last four games has put immense pressure on Frank Gore and the defense. How bad has Smith been as of late, you ask?
If you take away his 3-touchdown performance against the Bills on Oct. 7, Smith would have thrown only 2 TDs and 5 picks since week 2. That, simply will not get it done during the second half of the 2012 NFL season and/or in the NFL Playoffs.
Tonight, Smith faces a Cardinals defense that comes in fourth in points per game (16.9) and passing yards per game (191.3), as well as sixth in total yards (312.1) per game allowed. However, there is one soft spot in Arizona’s resistance, and unfortunately for them, it just happens to be the Niners’ biggest strength.
As we prepare to close out week 8 of the 2012 NFL season, (DC) Ray Horton’s defense ranks twenty-first in the league, surrendering 121 rushing yards per game.
That has to be an area for concern for those betting on this MNF game, as they can be sure (OC) Greg Roman will dial up No.21’s number time and time again throughout the evening.
Having that said, I don’t expect Gore to be the difference-maker in this game, ironically enough. If what my hunch is right, the way I see the Niners’ game-planning for this one is to try and get their QB going, knowing very well that the running game will be there.
So, yes, I do believe it is Smith the one that’s going to determine the outcome of this game. I believe the Cards will do a good enough job of containing Gore this evening, but in the process will leave themselves open for big plays downfield.
The question for Niners fans is going to be: Can Smith capitalize on those opportunities when/shall they present themselves tonight? My answer to that question is, yes. Thus, my Monday Night Football picks is the 49ers with a 7-point spread over the Cardinals in this pivotal game.
Expect this team to try and establish the run early on, only to mix it up with a heavy-doze of play-action passes right after. If everyone executes, Vernon Davis and the Red and Gold receivers should have big games and put their team in a position to come out victorious by about 7-10 points or more this evening.
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