Four Downs

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Four Downs: Predictions for 49ers vs. Cardinals on TNF

There's no rest for the weary. Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics for the San Francisco 49ers second game in five days, a Week 5 divisional matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

Let's get to what you should look forward to in this "Four Downs" preview of the 49ers upcoming home game on "Thursday Night Football," presented by SunPower.

1st Down: What is the best matchup in the game?

@Joe_Fann: Torrey Smith vs. Patrick Peterson

Smith sits at nine receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown through four games. The lack of production from the 49ers top wideout has been a topic of discussion leading up to Thursday's contest. Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said on Tuesday that he's confident Smith "will get his" as the season goes along. Could this be the week for Smith? The matchup won't be easy against one of the premier corners in the NFL. But that shouldn't be a reason for Blaine Gabbert to shy away from Smith. The wide receiver said this week that the offense will go as the passing game goes. I'd expect the 49ers to be aggressive in targeting Smith against the Cardinals.

@TaylorPrice: Blaine Gabbert vs. Tyrann Matheiu

I'm going to stick with the offensive side of the ball here. The 49ers are looking to jump-start the passing game against an experienced secondary. It's no easy task. The key, in my opinion, is to be mindful of "The Honey Badger." The versatile defensive back recorded two of Arizona's four interceptions in last season's first meeting between the division rivals. Matheiu returned one of the scores for a touchdown. So why bring up old news, you might ask? It's imperative that Gabbert not gift wrap any passes to Matheiu, who will be lining up closer to the line of scrimmage as a nickel defender this week. Gabbert has this on his side: A 318-yard passing performance the last time these teams met in the Bay Area.

2nd Down: What are your expectations for Aaron Lynch's first game back?

@Joe_Fann: 1 sack

I think it's perfectly fair to hope for one QB takedown in Lynch's 2016 debut. San Francisco's top pass-rusher told media this week that he worked hard on the mental aspect of the game during his four-week suspension. Lynch also said he's also gotten back to his playing weight of 270 pounds. The 49ers are 1-3 and have no reason to slow play it with Lynch. I hope to see the linebacker have plenty of chances to pin his ears back and get after it on Thursday. Having Drew Stanton starting in place of Carson Palmer (concussion) should only help Lynch's cause.

@TaylorPrice: Spark the pass rush

I don't want to put a number on it. But I do think Lynch's presence will free things up for his teammates. So if Lynch (12.5 sacks in 30 career games) is unable to bring down Stanton in this game, his fellow pass-rushers will be in better position to sack the Cardinals No. 2 quarterback. I'd expect Lynch to have a limited role in this game on pass-rushing downs. When Lynch is on the field, it's imperative that he makes it tough on Stanton to drop back and survey the field. I'll predict more than three sacks for the 49ers defense in this TNF matchup.

3rd Down: Who will be the 49ers player of the game?

@Joe_Fann: Arik Armstead

Armstead played a season-high 52 snaps against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4. With DeForest Buckner ruled out against the Cardinals, Armstead will assume even more playing time should his injured shoulder permit. The team's 2015 first-round pick has one sack on the season and has been footsteps away from other big plays. Armstead is a solid candidate to set the tone for San Francisco's defense against the same team that he recorded his first career sack a season ago.

@TaylorPrice: Pierre Garçon

Five touchdowns in four games is an impressive start for the third-year running back, and yet, we're just seeing a glimpse of Hyde's potential. He's already produced a pair of 30-plus yard runs this season. He has a natural nose for the goal line once the offense gets inside the red zone. So what's next? Let's see a dominant performance on the primetime stage. Hyde's been known to "ball out" in the black alternate uniforms. Will Thursday night be the next chapter of him doing so? I'm saying yes.

4th Down: What is your bold prediction?

@Joe_Fann: Rashard Robinson gets his first career interception

Last week the rookie was my player to watch, and I'm doubling down. Robinson was fantastic in his first NFL start, breaking up three passes and allowing a mere 21 yards through the air. The corner added six tackles to his impressive performance. Arizona quarterbacks have seven interceptions on the season, and with Stanton under center, I'm betting Robinson makes it eight on Thursday.

@TaylorPrice: Quinton Patton gets into the paint

And by paint, I mean end zone. Patton is the only one of the team's top three wideouts to not score this year. I think this changes against a familiar foe for the fourth-year wideout. Patton has caught 10-of-18 pass targets for 106 receiving yards so far this season. If the 49ers go four-wide in this game like they did last week against the Cowboys, Patton could see more touches, which leads to the potential trips to the end-zone.

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