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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 2, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DEN at JAC* PHI at KCC* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
HOU at CIN SEA at WAS DAL at OAK PIT, CHI *Updated

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Arizona 26

As always, these two teams meet both hungry for a win - any win really - and the biggest factor in this game is that the 49ers won both matchups 31-28 in overtime last year which were the only victories for the season. That cannot set well with the Cardinals but then again - can they do anything about it with no running game and going back to Josh McCown?

Update: Arnaz Battle suffered a strained hamstring last Sunday against Dallas and has not practiced so far this week. He is listed as questionable but is currently expected to play. I am downgrading Battle this week and check on his status Sunday to ensure the hamstring doesn't end up keeping him out of the game.

San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
1 28-25 STL 10 Nov 13 @CHI
2 3-42 @PHI 11 Nov 20 SEA
3 31-34 DAL 12 Nov 27 @TEN
4 Oct 2 @ARI 13 Dec 4 ARI
5 Oct 9 IND 14 Dec 11 @SEA
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @JAC
7 Oct 23 @WAS 16 Dec 24 @STL
8 Oct 30 TBB 17 Jan 1 HOU
9 Nov 6 NYG . . SAT
SFO at ARZ Rush Catch Pass
QB Tim Rattay 0 0 250,2
RB Kevan Barlow 60,1 10 0
RB Frank Gore 30 0 0
TE Trent Smith 0 10 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 110,1 0
WR Johnnie Morton 0 40,1 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 50 0
PK Joe Nedney 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The 49ers are still developing under new HC Mike Nolan but there's no denying this team looks better despite the 1-2 record and the blowout loss in Philadelphia. They took down the Rams in week one and then almost held off the Cowboys last week. There's still plenty to work on but at least the team is heading in the right direction again.

Quarterback: Tim Rattay had a huge game last week with 269 yards and three touchdowns but he also lost two interceptions - the final one killing what could have been a game tying drive. He's thrown for multiple touchdowns in both home games but fell just short of horrible on the one road trip to Philly this year. The 49ers will take this week as a test and it is one that Rattay more than anyone must pass. Fortunately, it is against the only team that the 49ers can claim to own.

Ratty threw for 417 yards and two scores in week five last year and Ken Dorsey managed 191 yards and three scores in the last season game in Phoenix in 2004.

Running Backs: Kevan Barlow ran well enough last week, gaining 65 yards on only 12 carries but was taken out of the game plan since the pass worked better. Frank Gore also cut in on his action with seven runs for 42 yards. There has been no official word that Gore is slated for more action and Barlow did have four catches for 28 yards as well but giving Gore seven carries when Barlow only has twelve himself may be setting a future tone.

Maurice Hicks had his fifteen minutes of fame when he gained 139 yards and one score against the Cardinals last year.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Lloyd comes off a career best game, catching four passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys. He only managed 17 yards against the Eagles the previous week but now is the team leader with three touchdowns on the season. Arnaz Battle also scored once last week and had 68 yards on six catches. He's actually been more consistent than Lloyd, staying between 45 and 68 yards all three weeks with about five catches per week. The 49ers have tried to involve Johnnie Morton more but he turned four catches last week into only 19 yards. This remains just about Lloyd and Battle.

Brandon Lloyd scored in both matchups against Arizona last year but the only wideout with much yardage was the now-departed Cedrick Wilson.

Tight Ends: The 49ers observed sixty minutes of silence to honor Eric Johnson last week by failing to record any catches by Billy Bajema or Trent Smith.

Match Against the Defense: When these two teams play, the sparks fly and the score board lights up. So far this season, the Cardinals have been holding up their end of the bargain by still not producing even an average defense this season. Look for Barlow to run with some success here but the recent split with Gore cast some suspicion on what they might mean. Expect moderate numbers here with a chance to some good fantasy points unless Gore steps in.

Rattay has always enjoyed the Cardinal secondary and this year's version looks no better. CB Antrel Rolle is like the best they have and he has a strained knee and may miss the game. That pits a backup corner on Brandon Lloyd. Expect a nice game here by Rattay and Lloyd that could blow up into a great one if the Cards can score enough to make this a shootout.

Arizona Cardinals (0-3)
1 19-42 @NYG 10 Nov 13 @DET
2 12-17 STL 11 Nov 20 @STL
3 12-37 @SEA 12 Nov 27 JAC
4 Oct 2 SFO 13 Dec 4 @SFO
5 Oct 9 CAR 14 Dec 11 WAS
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @HOU
7 Oct 23 TEN 16 Dec 24 PHI
8 Oct 30 @DAL 17 Jan 1 @IND
9 Nov 6 SEA . . SAT
ARZ vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Josh McCown 0 0 280,2
RB J.J. Arrington 10 20 0
RB Marcel Shipp 60,1 10 0
TE Teyo Johnson 0 10 0
WR Anquan Boldin 0 120,1 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 80,1 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 30 0
PK Neil Rackers 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The winless Cardinals were already struggling offensively and now have likely lost Warner for this game due to a groin injury. Josh McCown will take the reins back and since Arrington has been a non-factor, suddenly the Cardinals look a lot like the 2004 version - including their record in the standings. The Cardinals stall every time they near the goal line and have made Neil Rackers become the highest scorer in the NFL. More of the same is in store until they get some decent blocking and discover a running game that has eluded this team since they have moved to the state of Arizona.

Quarterback: Josh McCown takes over for Warner at least this week and he'll provide the same maddening inconsistency that made him a bench player this season. Luckily, McCown enjoyed his best games when facing the 49ers last season and had 231 yards and three scores in San Francisco followed by a 307 yard game in Phoenix with no passing touchdowns.

Running Backs: The Cardinals still contend that J.J. Arrington is a starter but with only 13 carries for 14 yards on the season, his title is largely honorary only. Marcel Shipp has ran reasonably well the last two weeks (12-54 and 10-41) but he never has the volume to produce much. With the current state of line blocking, his totals are actually rather impressive. The RT Oliver Ross just broke a bone in his hand and will miss this week - that doesn't help.

The Cardinals had one rushing score in each meeting against the 49ers last year though never more than 63 rushing yards. Both games had Emmitt Smith as the primary back.

Wide Receivers: Anquan Boldin has turned in two big games lately, with 119 and 88 yards coming in the last two games but he disappears near the goal line. Boldin had nice chemistry with McCown last year and should not see much decrease from swapping quarterbacks. Larry Fitzgerald started out the season with a 151 yard game with a score but he's declined since then, gaining only 70 and then 41 yards in recent games. Fitzgerald had 94 yards and one score in San Francisco last year but then only 47 yards in the second meeting in Phoenix. Boldin was still out in the first meeting but had 109 yards in the second meeting with McCown as quarterback.

Tight Ends: Not a part of the scheme for more than one catch per game this season. Freddie Jones was the tight end last year against the 49ers and he had games of 20 and 34 yards with one touchdown in week five.

Match Against the Defense: The Cardinals may catch a break since LB Adrian Peterson has a hamstring strain and may not play. The Cardinals do not rush well enough to take advantage of the average front line of the 49ers so expect the same moderate to low output from Shipp with enough carries from Arrington to make you wonder why they bother.

McCown has a major opportunity here. The 49ers have allowed every single team this year to throw for at least 340 yards and two scores. That is nothing short of amazing - 340 yards and two scores (Eagles had five TDS). McCown can re-energize his career in this game with a big day and there simply will not be another chance on the 2005 schedule with this sort of potential. McCown already has plenty of experience throwing to Fitzgerald and Boldin and has been successful in the past.

If the Cardinals lose this week, then they could challenge for that #1 pick in the draft next year. This is a pivotal game for the franchise and for Denny Green.