6 Bold Predictions for San Francisco 49ers' Week 3 Matchup

Grant Cohn@@grantcohnFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2015

6 Bold Predictions for San Francisco 49ers' Week 3 Matchup

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    San Francisco 49ers starting running back Carlos Hyde will struggle against the Arizona Cardinals—that’s bold prediction No. 1.

    The Cardinals defense has allowed just 3.4 yards per carry through two games this season—fifth-fewest in the NFL. It is elite. Plus, it is a 3-4 defense, and that gives 49ers problems, in theory.

    The Niners like to run Hyde outside the tackles, which isn’t easy against a 3-4 defense. The offense has to block both a defensive end and an outside linebacker at the point of attack.

    Against a 4-3 defense, the offense only has to block a defensive end at the point of attack. All the linebackers are bunched together in the middle of the field.

    Hyde gained 168 rushing yards Week 1 against Minnesota Vikings—a 4-3 defense. But Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers—a 3-4 defense—he gained just 43 rushing yards. He couldn’t get around the edge of the defense.

    The same thing will happen Week 3 against the Cardinals. Hyde will rush for fewer than 50 yards.

    Here are five more bold predictions for the 49ers’ Week 3 matchup.

WR Torrey Smith Will Gain More Than 100 Receiving Yards

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Wide receiver Torrey Smith gained 120 yards and a touchdown on six catches last week. He was facing Pittsburgh Steelers’ former undrafted free-agent cornerback Antwon Blake. That was an easy matchup for Smith.

    This week, Smith will face Cardinals' No. 2 cornerback Jerraud Powers, who’s allowing 14.6 yards per reception this season, according to Pro Football Focus. It's another easy matchup for Smith.

    Anquan Boldin, the Niners No. 1 receiver, does not have any easy matchup. He’s facing Cardinals’ All-Pro No. 1 cornerback Patrick Peterson.

    Boldin should hold his own against Peterson, but Smith should dominate Powers. Look for quarterback Colin Kaepernick to target Smith at least nine times.

CB Kenneth Acker Will Allow More Than 100 Receiving Yards

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Second-year cornerback Kenneth Acker played only his second NFL game last week and had to cover Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver Antonio Brown, who may be the best receiver in the NFL. Brutal.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Acker gave up six catches for 120 yards to Brown, which was no surprise. Acker is just a beginner. He’s still learning.

    He won’t face Brown again this season—that’s the good news. The bad news is Acker will face three superb receivers this Sunday.

    I’m talking about Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd. On Sunday, Acker will take turns covering each of them and getting burned by each of them, and in total he will give up more than 100 receiving yards.

OLB Aaron Lynch Will Get Two Sacks

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer hasn’t been sacked at all this season, but don’t be fooled. His offensive line is an issue, just like in the past few seasons. Arizona just hasn't faced a good pass-rusher this year.

    Second-year outside linebacker Aaron Lynch is a good pass-rusher. He’ll be rushing against Cardinals right tackle Earl Watford, who has earned a minus-6.5 pass-protection grade from Pro Football Focus through two games this season. He has given up four quarterback hits and five hurries.

    Lynch will run right through Watford Sunday afternoon, and Palmer won’t be able to escape—he’s too slow. Lynch will sack him twice.

RG Jordan Devey Will Give Up Two Sacks

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Through two games, Colin Kaepernick has taken five sacks and has gotten hit in the pocket six times. According to Pro Football Focus, right guard Jordan Devey was responsible for one of the sacks and two of the hits.

    Devey is a former undrafted free agent who started four games for the New England Patriots last season and played horribly. They traded him to the Niners this offseason for tight end Asante Cleveland, who didn’t even make the Patriots’ final roster. That shows you how they felt about Devey.

    So far, he seems like the worst player on a bad 49ers offensive line. This Sunday, he has to face the Cardinals best defensive lineman—Calais Campbell. That's a tough matchup for Devey. Campbell will push him around and sack Kaepernick twice.

The Offense Will Not Score a Touchdown in the Red Zone

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    One issue from the Jim Harbaugh era has carried over to the Jim Tomsula era: bad red-zone offense.

    So far this season, the 49ers have made nine trips to the red zone and have scored only three touchdowns. That’s a 33 percent red-zone touchdown rate—fourth-worst in the NFL.

    The Cardinals' red-zone defense ranks sixth-best in the NFL. They’re giving up touchdowns in the red zone only 33 percent of the time.

    When the Niners offense is close to the end zone, the Cardinals will take away Carlos Hyde and Anquan Boldin—San Francisco’s two best scoring threats. And the Niners will have to kick field goals.

    They will not score a touchdown in the red zone against the Cardinals.

    Follow @grantcohn

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