Friday, October 11, 2013

5 Burning Questions For Week 6


On Sunday the 49ers take on the Cardinals in a battle of 3-2 teams.  Over recent years this has become one of the most heated, yet quiet, rivalries in the NFL.  The 49ers swept both games from the Cardinals in 2012, and the winner on Sunday will be able to assure themselves of being no worse than only 1 game behind Seattle for the division lead.

Here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.


1)  Which receiver will step up?  The need for a number two wide receiver has been a common theme for the 49ers throughout Trent Baalke's time as general manager, and 2013 is no exception.  Through the first 5 games Anquan Boldin has been targeted on 32% of pass attempts.  The next closest receiver is Kyle Williams at 14%.  Marlon Moore spent all of training camp and preseason working with the first team offense yet he has seen fewer targets than Jon Baldwin who was acquired in a trade midway through the preseason.

You can be certain the Cardinals will match up their top cornerback, Patrick Peterson, on Boldin wherever he lines up.  This should open up opportunities for Williams, Baldwin, or Moore to step up and contribute.


2)  Will Greg Roman stick to the current offensive formula?  During the last 2 weeks, both 49ers victories, Roman has shown a commitment to the run.  The outcome of each game should be no surprise.  Running the ball is what this team does best, it's their identity.

Throughout last season Roman showed a curious trend of getting away from the run every few weeks, and the 49ers had a win, win, loss pattern to show for it.

The Cardinals bring into this game a run defense ranked third in the NFL.  It will be a good challenge for the 49ers offense, and one they should win.  Arizona has yet to face a power run team like the 49ers.


3)  Can Colin Kaepernick match Alex Smith?  In the first matchup between these two teams last season Smith went 18-19 for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.  The Cardinals brought one of the top defenses in the league into that game, and the 49ers offense took them apart, scoring points on 4 of their first 6 possessions, building a 24-0 lead.


4)  Will Ray McDonald play, and if he does how effective can he be?  McDonald suffered a partial tear in his right biceps muscle during the 49ers victory on Sunday against Houston.  McDonald and the team have stated that he will try to play through the injury and hold surgery off until the end of the season, but according to reports McDonald has not practiced yet this week.

Justin Smith suffered a similar injury last season and did not appear to have the same power and level of play when he came back for the postseason.  This will be something to keep an eye on.  The good news is Tony Jerrod-Eddie stepped in last week and played very well.


5)  Can the 49ers defense keep Carson Palmer's streak alive?  Carson Palmer enters Sunday's game having thrown at least 1 interception in each of the first 5 games this season, including 3 last Sunday against Carolina.  For the second week in a row the 49ers face a struggling quarterback, and we saw how that worked out for Matt Schaub last week.

Prediction Time

The 49ers will beat the Cardinals 24-13.  The Cardinals offense has had at least 1 good touchdown drive in each game this season, but that won't be enough on Sunday as the 49ers grind out another win.

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