We're still very early in the season, but the 1-2 Arizona Cardinals might be facing an early must-win situation when they host the 0-3 San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Glendale.
The Cardinals are coming off a 28-17 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, while the 49ers lost a 41-39 thriller to the Los Angeles Rams in their last matchup on Thursday, Sept. 21.
Who wins this NFC West battle at University of Phoenix Stadium? The ABC15 sports office weighs in with its picks:
ABC15 sports anchor Jason Snavely
Heading into the season, I don’t think anyone had the 49ers game in Week 4 circled as a make-or-break game for the Arizona Cardinals -- but that’s exactly what we have Sunday afternoon in Glendale.
Once again, all eyes will be on the offensive line. And once again, Carson Palmer’s No. 3 jersey will likely be accented with green grass stains by day’s end. In three games, Palmer’s already been hit 27 times, most in the NFL, and this week the Cardinals could field their worst offensive front yet. Injuries continue to pile up at a rapid rate.
Left guard Mike Iupati needs surgery to remove a bone spur in his right arm, sidelining him for at least eight weeks. The team will place him on injured reserve, which means Iupati’s likely done for the season. His backup, Alex Boone, is out for about two weeks with a torn pectoral muscle. Left tackle D.J. Humphries, who was expected to return this week, is now listed as questionable, suggesting he may’ve re-injured his left knee during practice this week. Maybe the most concerning part is the fact the right side of the line has been their weakest, and they’re all healthy!
If the Cardinals win this game, it’ll be thanks to their defense -- and the fact that they’re playing the 0-3 49ers. Regardless of the Cardinals' recent struggles and laundry list of injuries, I say they take care of San Francisco on Sunday in front of their home crowd -- but it won’t be easy.
Cardinals 21, 49ers 17
ABC15.com sportswriter Shane Dale
Schedule makers did the injury-plagued Cardinals no favors, as the 49ers come into this game with four extra days of rest. The Cardinals’ offensive line problems are as big a storyline as star running back David Johnson’s absence. Carson Palmer was hit 12 times and sacked six times in the Cards’ loss to the Cowboys on Monday night thanks to an O-line that likely won't be any healthier Sunday.
The good news is the 49ers have only recorded three sacks this season, the lowest total among all teams that have played three games. San Francisco’s rushing defense isn’t much better, though the Cards haven’t proven they can run the ball since Johnson’s injury.
The key player on offense for the 49ers is Carlos Hyde, one of the NFL’s top running backs when healthy and a decent receiver, as well. 49ers QB and former Cardinal Brian Hoyer is no star, but San Fran’s offensive attack is more balanced than Arizona’s.
The 49ers are 0-3, but they’ve been competitive in their last two games. Look for them to finally break through against a banged-up Birdgang on Sunday.