Week 14 Preview: Cards vs. 49ers
Opportunity awaits the Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals, winners of four of their last five, have an opportunity to upset the NFC West champion 49ers (10-2), to grab the attention of the nation and launch themselves back into the playoff picture at 6-7.
In order for them to accomplish that objective and end a five game losing streak to their hated rivals up the California coastline, the Cardinals must do three things: shutdown the San Francisco running game, have success against the 49ers run defense (1st in the NFL) and don’t give the ball away (the 49ers are 1st in the NFL in turnover margin at +18).
The Cardinals have done a great job at slowing down their opponents rushing attacks in the last five games, holding four of the top 15 NFL rushers to under 100 yards rushing (LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and DeMarco Murray). They held Gore to 88 yards and fewer than four yards a carry in their matchup with the 49ers and San Francisco three weeks ago. If the Cardinals can make the 49ers average offense one-dimensional they will be able to pressure Alex Smith more and take more chances in order to get big plays.
Beanie Wells was a non-factor when the Cardinals played the 49ers three weeks ago as the Cardinals o-line proved to be no match for tough, rugged top-ranked 49ers rush defense. Arguably the NFL’s best linebacker Patrick Willis is expected to be out for Sunday’s game, so if the Cardinals can somehow establish a running attack (and score a rushing TD, the 49ers have not given up one all season amazing), they can take some pressure off Kolb and reduce the chances of turning over the ball to the 49ers (Beanie has been sure handed all season) something they did five times the last time they met.
The whole success of this 49ers team this season has been dependent on ball control, a tough running game and the defense creating turnovers. If the Cardinals can limit the mistakes and not lose the turnover battle to the 49ers (not easy to do) they will have a great chance to win Sunday.
Overall, if the Cardinals want to win they need to keep the time of possession close, engender a balanced offense, force the Niners to throw (Peterson must do a better job on Crabtree he played off him a lot last game and gave up seven catches for 120 yards), and get out to an early lead to get the home crowd into the game and place the 49ers out of their comfort zone.
I think it will happen, the 49ers are bound to slip up and lose to an inferior team sometime this season, why not now a week after clinching their first division title in 10 years and a week before their big time matchup at home with the Steelers (translation: trap game). The Cardinals have lost five straight to the 49ers in a series that has traditionally been close, I think they are due for a victory.
Prediction: Cardinals 19, 49ers 14
Stats courtesy of NFL.com
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com