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Thursday Night Preview: Can San Francisco Keep It Up?

There's a new sheriff in town -- the undefeated San Francisco 49ers sit atop our power rankings as we head into a Week 9 Halloween contest. This team is led by a spooky defense that has absolutely wiped opponents out and ranks as the league's best in our metrics.

On the flip side, the Air Raid offense led by Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals has been fun and fast-paced, but they are only 3-4.

Can Arizona pull off the stunner at home?

Quarterback Breakdown

These are two quarterbacks looking to make names for themselves in 2019, one as a rookie and one as a bounce-back candidate from injury.

From an efficiency perspective, Jimmy Garoppolo has been far better. Among the 32 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, Garoppolo ranks 11th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.19), whereas rookie Kyler Murray ranks only 21st (0.09).

In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- Jimmy G ranks 13th (49.50%) and Murray ranks 21st (45.91%).

In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), neither signal caller is setting the world on fire. Murray has a mark of 7.2, whereas Garoppolo is behind at 6.5.

Overall, it looks like the 49ers have the edge at quarterback. Who has an edge at running back?

Running Back Play

This comparison gets a bit ugly, mostly due to injuries in the Arizona backfield.

Let's start with the more sure thing, where Tevin Coleman looks like the lead back for San Francisco. After a Week 8 explosion, Coleman now ranks eighth among running backs with 70 or more carries in terms of Rushing NEP per carry (0.06).

What's a bit harder is the Arizona backfield -- both Chase Edmonds and David Johnson appear to be hurt, so it could be Kenyan Drake carrying the water this week, who was acquired at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately for Drake, his carries haven't been highly effective so far in 2019. With 48 totes of the rock, Drake owns a putrid -0.20 Rushing NEP per carry mark. Ouch.

While this looks like a mismatch at running back, can the Arizona defense stand tall?

Defensive Matchup

This is a juggernaut of a San Francisco defense -- they rank as the top dog both overall and against the pass by numberFire's metrics. They are still solid so far against the run, too, clocking in seventh.

The Cardinals? Not so much. They rank 3rd-worst in the league overall, 5th-worst against the pass and 23rd against the run. It could be an offensive free-for-all tonight for San Francisco.

When it comes to pressuring the opposing quarterback, this is also a very lopsided affair. In peeking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, San Francisco leads the league (12.2%) with 27 sacks, while Arizona trails behind at 13th (7.5%).

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