Week 8 of the 2012 NFL Season is set to conclude with an NFC West matchup on Monday Night Football.
The Arizona Cardinals will host the San Francisco 49ers in a battle for first place. At 5-2, the 49ers have a one game lead, but a win for the Cardinals would put both teams atop the division.
Through the first half of the season, the NFC West has been the most competitive division in all of football. San Francisco was expected to run away with the lead, but hasn’t been able to distance itself from Arizona or Seattle.
The Cardinals have struggled of late, after starting the season as the most surprising team in the league. They’ve lost three straight games to the Rams, Bills and Vikings, after opening at 4-0.
Because of Arizona’s recent struggles, Las Vegas oddsmakers don’t seem to be believers in the Cardinals. At home, the consensus point spread has them as seven-point underdogs.
Both teams have won their games with some of the best defense in the NFL. It’s not expected to be a high-scoring affair, as the total from the betting line has been set at 38.5.
San Francisco is tied with Chicago as the best defensive team. Both have allowed 14.3 points per game. Arizona is not far behind, giving up 16.9 points per contest.
Since there probably won’t be a lot of points scored, the quarterback that makes a big play down the stretch could determine the winner. Each team has a quarterback that has been very efficient, but isn’t known for making big plays.
Alex Smith’s 93.9 quarterback rating is good for seventh among starting signal callers. He hasn’t made many mistakes, but has, mostly, managed games for the 49ers. Twenty-one other quarterbacks have thrown for at least as many scores as Smith.
The game will air on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET. If you can’t get to a TV, you can watch a free live stream online at espn3.com.
Prediction: After a hot start, the Cardinals have come back down to earth. If Arizona has difficulty scoring against teams like St. Louis and Buffalo, they might not even score one touchdown against San Francisco. The 49ers running game is good enough to help them put up enough scores to avoid an upset.
Predicted Score: San Francisco 24, Arizona 6