There will be a lot to keep track of and take away from Sunday’s NFC West opener. The 49ers are looking to prove that 2019 wasn’t just a one-year affair, while the Cardinals are eager to show the strides they’ve taken as quarterback Kyler Murray enters his second NFL season.
Despite the 49ers being a seven-point favorite, just about everyone knows this will not be an easy win for San Francisco, and they’ll need a comprehensive performance to put Arizona away without trouble.
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Kyler Murray Gets His
It may come with a pair of interceptions or some mistakes, but it’s hard to think that the 49ers are going to be able to completely shut down the Cardinals’ dynamic QB.
His ability to make the most of broken plays makes Arizona dangerous even when the odds are against him, and he now has one of the NFL’s top pass-catchers in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The key for the 49ers will be to stay on pace offensively, while making impact plays defensively. Disrupting is not enough, the 49ers secondary has to make sure to make sure to force turnovers and score points off of them.
Brandon Aiyuk Goes for 50+
It’s hard to tell exactly how impactful a rookie can be, especially in Week 1, but the absence of Deebo Samuel now means that Brandon Aiyuk will likely get as many looks as one could expect.
If quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plays well and the 49ers offense runs to expectation, tight end George Kittle will understandably be the No. 1 target, but the 49ers will need to diversify their passing game with Aiyuk.
That could come over a plethora of targets, or it could be connecting with Aiyuk on one big play. That’s what is special about the former Arizona State receiver, he’s got the consistency in his hands as well as big-play ability.
Kendrick Bourne will also see more targets, but the 49ers will want to get Aiyuk going as quickly as possible. If the running game is established early, the rookie ought to see several chances for a big play in his first NFL game.
Nick Bosa, Dee Ford Both Get a Sack
While the pair of defensive ends dealt with injury in training camp, the 49ers have said that the pass-rushers ought to be at 100 percent for Week 1, which Nick Bosa couldn’t say last season.
One of the few mismatches in this game is on those edge positions, so the Cardinals will likely be keeping tight ends back for extra blocking, but there’s simply too much to handle between the interior and exterior of the 49ers’ defensive line.
As the game goes on, the pressure will get stronger, which should only bode well for Dee Ford and Bosa.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.