With both teams coming off of wins over NFC East teams that won a playoff game last year, the supposedly-tanking Cardinals will take on their toughest test yet as they visit the Super Bowl hopeful 49ers. Let’s take a look at key Niners players like Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, and pick some player props to invest in.
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The Niners are heavy favorites, and should have no problem running offense, but who will be the focal point? Let’s dig into some individuals and the role they might play, with very close attention to game script in what could easily prove to be a blowout.
Brock Purdy Under 234.5 Passing Yards (-110)
While I’m not particularly high on Brock Purdy compared to some of the other voices out there, he’s playing pretty well right now, and this bet isn’t about fading that trend. It’s much more about the fact that the Niners should win this game fairly comfortably, and there’s no reason to expect them to spend much of the game pushing it downfield. Purdy is completing a very efficient 67% of his throws this season, but with an average depth of target of just 7.4, he’s not really going for chunk plays, but rather playing within Kyle Shanahan’s system and taking what’s given to him.
Purdy has only cracked this number in one of the Niners’ first three games of the season, which was against the Giants; they have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but managed to stay in the game relatively well, forcing Purdy to keep throwing the ball. He threw the ball 37 times in that game, compared to 29 and 25 in the first two contests of the year, and it’s hard to imagine that Shanahan’s plan would be for him to be coming anywhere close to 40 passing attempts in too many games.
With top receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk not completely healthy, it’s very possible that in a game where the Niners should coast based on just physicality and domination at the line of scrimmage, that duo gets a semi-day off with a drastically decreased workload, and maybe even an early benching. If the Niners are able to lean on the run, don’t expect Purdy to throw the ball enough times to challenge this number.
Christian McCaffrey Over 111.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards (-110)
With those key Niners pass catchers potentially serving in a limited role, they’ll be doubly likely to leverage their do-it-all superstar, Christian McCaffrey. Of course, when major receiving threats are sidelined, the offense is going to trend more towards a rushing approach, which means more touches for McCaffrey. Coach Kyle Shanahan stated an intent to ease up on McCaffrey this year and not overwork him, but either he’s forgotten that plan, or just never meant it; he’s averaged 20 carries per game, and leads the league with 353 rushing yards.
Bur McCaffrey isn’t just a ground and pound rusher, he’s one of the best receivers in the league as well. With Samuel and Aiyuk possibly drawing less targets, McCaffrey could grab some more than usual as the Niners try not to be one-dimensional and simply run the ball every snap. He’s caught 11 passes in the three games so far this season, and has twice cracked the 100-reception plateau in a season; as just the third player to rush and receive for 1,000 yards each in the same season, he’s the premier dual-threat back in the league.
McCaffrey has cleared this number in all three of the Niners’ games this season, and he’s done it with just his rushing total in two of those three contests. Even when the Niners have led big, he’s been the one to carry the ball as the team attempts to salt the game away, rather than resting, staying healthy, and letting Elijah Mitchell run out the clock. With a run-heavy script against a Cardinals defense that ranks sixth-worst in the league in per-snap run defense EPA, and opportunities to get involved in the receiving game, McCaffrey has a great chance to rack up a ton of yards in this one.
Jake Moody Under 1.5 Field Goals Made (+100)
As I always try to mention when we dig into unders in the arena of defense and special teams players, we are not fading that player; we’re making a pick based on game script. That’s especially the case with Moody, who is absolutely fantastic at his job. He’s 9 for 9 from the field in his young NFL career, including a 57 yard kick and two more over 40, as well as a perfect record on 9 extra points. Suffice it to say that this bet is not a prediction that Moody will miss kicks, or that Kyle Shanahan doesn’t have faith in the Michigan product; it’s a statement that the Niners will have no use for field goals in this game.
The Cardinals defense has actually been more competitive through three games than many expected, capped off by that impressive showing against the Cowboys, but the stylistic fit against the Niners is a problem. Arizona ranks dead average in the league in terms of EPA against the pass, but the Niners shouldn’t be leaning on the air game anyways; the San Francisco ground game centered around McCaffrey and Mitchell is good enough that they can be relatively one-dimensional and still be finishing drives against the Arizona defense. Simply put, if the lack of an air game really does prove to be an issue, the Niners may not get into field goal range, and if it’s a non-factor, they should be finishing drives with six points rather than three.