Last updated: October 29th at 8:30am ET
Team Totals: 49ers 26.5, Cardinals 16.5
A successful run-first, defense-oriented team in an era dominated by the pass, the 7-0 49ers are winning with a contrarian approach capable of overwhelming a futuristic Cardinals team that struggles to defend position groupings where San Francisco’s offense excels. Particularly with Matt Breida (ankle), Jeffrey Wilson (stinger), and Raheem Mostert (knee) all banged up to various extents on a short week, Tevin Coleman should keep running hot against an Arizona defense that has yielded 185/841/4 (4.55 YPC) rushing to enemy backs. Most importantly, Coleman has emerged as the uncontested bellcow in Kyle Shahanan’s aesthetically-pleasing rushing attack on 17.8 touches per game since San Francisco’s Week 4 bye, while Breida is a change-up back when healthy, and Wilson and Mostert sporadically contribute as role players. … A top-15 fantasy passer in 1-of-7 starts, Jimmy Garoppolo’s role in Shanahan’s offense is to manage games and avoid turnovers. Nevertheless, Thursday night’s matchup gives Jimmy G one-off spike potential against a Cardinals defense that has permitted top-ten quarterback outcomes in 6-of-8 games, including to Andy Dalton, Kyle Allen, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees in last week’s return from a six-week absence. Yet to exceed 33 pass attempts in a 2019 game, Garoppolo’s Week 9 appeal remains almost entirely matchup based as a low-volume caretaker on San Francisco’s run-based team.
Jimmy G’s Week 8 target distribution: George Kittle 7; Emmanuel Sanders 5; Deebo Samuel and Dante Pettis 3; Coleman 2; Breida and Kendrick Bourne 1. … The Niners’ target leader in five straight games, Kittle catches fantasy’s top tight end matchup on Thursday night; T.J. Hockenson (6/131/1), Austin Hooper (8/117/1), Mark Andrews (8/112/1), Greg Olsen (6/75/2), Will Dissly (7/57/1), and Rhett Ellison (2/33/1) all smashed the Cardinals in Weeks 1-7 before non-Jared Cook Saints tight ends combined for 8/127/1 receiving on 11 targets versus Arizona last week. … Shanahan maintained a four-man WRBC in Sanders’ 49ers debut with wideout routes distributed as follows: Sanders 26; Samuel 17; Bourne 12; Pettis 10; Richie James 2. … Sanders led the team in slot usage (50%), giving him the best shot to avoid Patrick Peterson, who’s covered the slot on just 6% of his 2019 snaps. Sanders remains a touchdown-reliant WR3/flex play as the No. 2 option on San Francisco’s low-volume passing team. … Samuel is the 49ers’ No. 3 fantasy-viable pass catcher as the recipient of intermittent manufactured touches, including last week’s 20-yard rushing TD off tackle following pre-snap motion. Samuel has cleared 50 total yards in just 1-of-6 appearances, however. Behind Sanders, the Niners’ ancillary wide receivers are all one-game DFS-slate plays only with Samuel next in line followed by Pettis and then Bourne.
Particularly without offensive engines David Johnson (ankle/back) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring), this is a better spot to tee up the 49ers’ D/ST than most Cardinals skill players. Beginning with most recent, San Francisco’s fantasy defense/special teams results are DST2 > DST8 > DST8 > DST2 > DST15 > DST9 > DST1, showing a high floor and ceiling. The 49ers’ exceptionally-talented defensive front is every bit capable of destroying Arizona’s overachieving offensive line, while just 1-of-7 quarterbacks to face San Francisco have beaten QB24 results. Even as Kyler Murray’s dual-threat capability keeps him playable in two-QB-leagues, Week 9 expectations should be kept in check for the rookie. The Niners are allowing 5.8 points per game over the last month. … Regardless of Arizona’s running back identities, this is a situation to avoid in a brutal spot without Johnson and Edmonds. Even including last week’s Christian McCaffrey 40-yard touchdown sprint, 49ers DC Robert Saleh’s unit has held enemy backs to 131/580/1 (4.43 YPC) rushing and a league-low 3.4 running back catches per game. If forced to guess, I’d pick Monday trade acquisition Kenyan Drake to lead Arizona’s backfield in Week 9 touches with Zach Zenner next in line and Alfred Morris third. Zenner was declared active in Week 8, while Morris did not dress.
Murray’s Week 8 target distribution: Christian Kirk 11; Damiere Byrd 5; Edmonds and Larry Fitzgerald 4; Charles Clay 3; Trent Sherfield 2; Zenner and Maxx Williams 2; Pharoh Cooper and Andy Isabella 0. … Finally back from his high ankle sprain, Kirk paced Arizona in targets and played 86% of Week 8’s snaps. In his four full games, Kirk’s target counts are 12 > 8 > 12 > 11, locking him in as an every-week WR3 play at worst in PPR. Fellow slot WRs Tyler Boyd (10/122/0), JuJu Smith-Schuster (3/81/1), Jarvis Landry (4/75/0), and Chris Godwin (3/53/1) have shined versus the Niners. … Scoreless since Week 3 with his usage in decline, Fitzgerald drew Weeks 7 and 8 target counts of 3 and 4 and should stay behind more-dynamic Kirk in the Cardinals’ passing-game pecking order. Fitz is a fringe WR3/flex option. … Byrd is a decoy out wide with a 29.7-yard average and zero scores through six 2019 appearances. Still a speedster with a defined role, Byrd is a big-play-dependent tournament option on one-game DFS slates. … In Kirk’s Week 8 return, this is how receiver routes were distributed by Kliff Kingsbury against the Saints: Kirk 34; Byrd 33; Fitz 32; Sherfield 22; Cooper and Isabella 1. … Tight ends: Clay 10; Williams 9; Darrell Daniels 2.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Cardinals 13