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Week 3 Preview: 49ers at Cardinals

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San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa

*Keys to the game: Two extremes on the confidence spectrum should make for an interesting NFC West fistfight. The 49ers’ defense gave the Vikings just one third-down conversion Week 1, then allowed the Steelers to converted 60 percent of third downs and gave up 43 points last week. The issues are many, but primarily the secondary struggles in man when pressure can’t move the quarterback off his launch spot. The Cardinals must protect QB Carson Palmer to have those downfield chances to speedy WR John Brown and rejuvenated Larry Fitzgerald, because the 49ers have yielded just 155 rushing yards through two games.

San Francisco’s offense was stuck in neutral without RB Carlos Hyde and backup Reggie Bush last week, when QB Colin Kaepernick had a team-high 51 rushing yards but didn’t find receivers regularly until the Steelers went to prevent looks in the fourth quarter. The new regime limits Kaepernick’s freedom at the line and preferred reads are inside the hashes. The Cardinals’ 3-4 can mimic some of the zone blitz looks that resulted in Kaepernick’s five sacks at Pittsburgh.

*Matchup to watch – 49ers WR Torrey Smith vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson: Smith is averaging 18.7 yards on his seven receptions this season. Peterson has one of the Cardinals’ three picks through two games, but Kaepernick has gone 98 passes and three games in the matchup since his last INT.

*Player spotlight – Cardinals RB David Johnson: His serving is expanding weekly according to coach Bruce Arians, who can’t ignore this rookie playmaker with two touchdowns on seven offensive touches and a 108-yard kickoff return to open the Week 2 lashing of the Chicago Bears.

*Fast facts: San Francisco has scored 25 of its 38 total points this season in the fourth quarter. … Fitzgerald has 14 receptions for 199 yards in two games. He caught his 14th pass last season in Arizona’s fifth game.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Cardinals are getting contributions in all phases early this season and if the running game clicks, QB Carson Palmer & Co. could send the 49ers to another road blowout.

*Our pick: Cardinals 35-20.


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