With an 8-1 record and wins over potential playoff teams the Bengals, Eagles, Lions and Giants, it is easy for the 49ers to look past games against lesser quality opponents. This Sunday the 49ers host the surging Cardinals who enter the game with a 3-6 record and are on a two game winning streak. Let’s hope the 49ers are not looking ahead to the Ravens, Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh game on Thanksgiving night and are focused on the Cardinals. I know I am are already calling the Cardinals game a win and counting down until the 49ers second biggest game of the season. As fan I can think this way, but Jim Harbaugh and the players cannot. I know Harbaugh will have his team focused on Sunday’s match-up but the Cardinals will still give the 49ers a good game.
The Cardinals vs. 49ers match-ups are always tough games regardless of the team’s record. The Cardinals enter the game on a two game winning streak with wins over the Rams and Eagles. The Cardinals beat the Rams at home in overtime with a punt return for a touchdown by Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals carried that momentum with them to the east coast in the win against the Eagles. Led by backup QB John Skelton the Cardinals came back in the fourth quarter for the upset win. QB Michael Vick played hurt most of the game and the Eagles are not what everyone thought they were, but you have to give the Cardinals credit for the win. Niner fans might think the game will be easier without QB Kevin Kolb starting but Skelton has proven he can play well with 537 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in his two starts. Kolb was limited in practice when he returned on Wednesday so it looks like Skelton will start.
No matter who the Cardinals have under center anything is possible with WR Larry Fitzgerald on the field. The 49ers’ secondary have played well this season but ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass. Last week against the Giants the secondary showed they are vulnerable giving up 310 passing yards and 163 receiving yards combined to WR’s Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham. We can expect the Cardinals offense to try to move the football through the air as they go up against the 49ers number one ranked rushing defense. However that game plan might hit a snag if it rains on Sunday which is calling for 70% chance in San Francisco.
The 49ers enter the game having beaten the Cardinals in the last four meetings. Even with the 49ers seven game winning streak and five game lead over the Cardinals in the NFC West, the Cardinals will enter the game as spoilers and will relish the opportunity to add a loss to the 49ers record. The 49ers are favored to win by 10 points, and they will win, but I would not be surprised if the end result is close and less than a touchdown. I think weather will play a big factor and both teams will end up going to the run if there are wet conditions. The 49ers cannot underestimate the Cardinals and assume a win with tough games coming up against the Ravens and Steelers. The Cardinals have shown they can come out on top in close games but a tight game favors the 49ers.