On the heels of their home loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Arizona Cardinals are now set for a key road encounter with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9.
Even amid their 7-1 start to the year, the Cardinals are at a point in the season where they simply can not afford to suffer back-to-back losses. Three other teams in the NFC also currently boast a winning percentage of at least .800, including the Los Angeles Rams (.875).
As the Cardinals aim to maintain the top spot in the NFC West standings, they must hit on each of these four feats against the 49ers in order to come away from Week 9 victorious.
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4. Chandler Jones posts a vintage performance
It seems like ages ago, but earlier in the season, Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones opened up the year with a 5.0 sack performance against the Tennessee Titans. Many projected that Jones would go on to be the heavy favorite for the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award following the showing, but this has not panned out.
From a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list to failing to record a sack in his last five games, Jones is currently in sluggish form.
With J.J. Watt sidelined due to his shoulder injury, Jones must now once again lead the Cardinals front seven. And this would begin by causing havoc against quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers in Week 9.
3. Cardinals have a field day in the takeaways department
The Cardinals did not have much success in creating turnovers last season; they amounted to 21 takeaways in 16 games.
The script has certainly flipped for Arizona in this department thanks to its 14 takeaways through eight games so far this season, which is tied with three other teams for the third-most in the league.
From Markus Golden forcing fumbles to Byron Murphy coming away with timely interceptions, the Cardinals bolster multiple game-changing talents on the defensive side of the ball.
The Cardinals should add to their takeaways total in this upcoming clash with the 49ers. Their front seven unit must win the line of scrimmage battle and simply exert a keen influence on a drive-by-basis, whether it is simply getting to Garoppolo or tipping passes.
2. Chase Edmonds and James Conner lead the Cardinals' offensive attack
The Cardinals head into Week 9 with several injury concerns, including with both quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring). They each did not practice this week due to their respective injuries and have been listed as questionable for Week 9.
Thus, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury may rely on running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner to help carry the load on offense.
Whether it will be in run plays or in the short passing game, their names may be called upon quite a bit against Nick Bosa and the 49ers front seven.
1. Cardinals put an end to the 49ers' NFC West hopes
Due to their 3-4 start to the season, the 49ers currently have a slim to none chance of making a surprise run to the top of the NFC West standings. And in Week 9, the Cardinals should end the 49ers' last aspirations of a possible late-season surge for the NFC West title.
The Cardinals do have multiple injury question marks across the board, but with their depth coupled with the one-two punch of Edmonds and Conner, they should move to an 8-1 record following Week 9.