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Cardinals Mexico City Bound in Difficult Matchup

If the Cardinals have playoff aspirations, they can consider this matchup against the second-place San Francisco 49ers a must-win. The 49ers have a record of 5-4, while the Cardinals are sitting at 4-6. Both teams were victorious last week against the Los Angeles teams; the 49ers defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, 16-22, while the Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Rams, 27-17.

The Cardinals won the “battle of the backup quarterbacks,” as both Kyler Murray (hamstring) and Matthew Stafford (concussion) didn’t play. Colt McCoy filled in nicely in Murray’s absence, controlling the game with 238 passing yards, one touchdown, and no turnovers. He did everything asked of a backup by limiting his mistakes and allowing the rest of the team to take over to win the game.

Kyler Murray is listed as questionable and viewed as day-to-day heading into week eleven, but I expect him to play. Last week, he logged a few limited practices and now has an extra day to recover this week since the Cardinals play on Monday. Given the importance of the game in terms of NFC West standings and playoff chances, I would be surprised if Murray doesn’t play.

Cardinals’ Keys to the Game

Limiting the Run

The 49ers arguably have the best running back duo in the league after trading for Christian McCaffrey and having Elijah Mitchell return from injury. They played a huge role in defeating the Chargers last week, with a combined 32 carries, 127 rushing yards, and a touchdown. The Cardinals need to limit their opportunities to make plays in open space and force Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them instead.

Preventing Big Plays

The 49ers roster has a plethora of talent. On the offensive side of the ball alone, they have Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. With this kind of star talent and the Cardinals’ susceptibility at times on defense, it will be imperative for them to prevent the big, game-changing plays that make their offense so dangerous. Preventing these plays will help them win the field position battle and give them a shot to pull off the upset.

Keep It Within Reach

If the Cardinals can take care of the two defensive keys to the game mentioned above, limiting the run and preventing big plays, they can keep this game within reach. In the past four weeks, the Cardinals’ defense has surrendered an average of 29 points to their opponent. On the season, they rank 30th in points allowed per game at 25.8, only ahead of the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.

The Cardinals can’t give up that many points to the 49ers if they want to have a shot at winning. San Francisco’s defense is too solid to rely that much on Kyler Murray and the offense to keep them afloat in a shootout like that.

It’s unlike their identity, but they may have a better chance of winning this game by turning it into a methodical game pace that stays within one possession. They need to get enough defensive stops to give themselves a chance to steal this game at the end.

Game Prediction

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cardinals are currently eight-point underdogs, which is pretty significant. The Cardinals desperately need Kyler Murray to play to have a realistic chance, but it might not be enough. San Francisco appears to be a playoff-caliber team with too much talent.

Cardinals: 14 49ers: 23

No matter the outcome, it’s great that the NFL has these games in places like Mexico City and continues to expand its international reach. Let’s hope the Cardinals put on a show for them on Monday Night Football.

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