Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
After the 49ers and Cardinals meet this Monday Night, the NFC West picture should be a little clear. If San Francisco wins then they will put some breathing room between them and the rest of the division. If Arizona wins though, it will keep things very interesting, and the division would be up for grabs. Arizona enters the game on a 3 game losing streak and will need to turn things around if they wish to halt their early season skid and keep their beaks above .500.
Player to Watch
The star of the Arizona Cardinals is Larry Fitzgerald. The wide receiver is considered one of the best at his position and will be the focus of the defense, as no single player can contain him. San Francisco enters the game as the top rated defense against the pass, so it seems as though Arizona is playing into the strength of the 49ers, but Larry Fitzgerald against any secondary is advantage Cardinals. It will be on the shoulders of Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson to provide help to the corners and make Fitzgerald pay for any catches he makes.
The problem Arizona has had though is getting the ball to their play maker. The team has gone between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb at quarterback and neither have proved consistent enough to take claim the job. Not helping out the quarterbacks though is the offensive line that has allowed 35 sacks this year, and 7 last week. The 49ers are not known for a ferocious pass rush, but Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks will certainly have the chance to pad their stats this game, and by applying pressure to the quarterback, should make the task of chasing around Fitzgerald manageable.
When the 49ers Have the Ball
The 49ers have mustered only 16 points the past two games and will try and get back on track against a defensive unit that has allowed more then 20 points only twice this year. As solid as the Cardinal defense has been though, when San Francisco has the ball, it’s a match up that favors the 49ers. Arizona is ranked 4th against the pass, but San Francisco’s success has always been directly related to their success on the ground, and the Cardinals are ranked 20th against the run. It’s no surprise that the two players that concern the 49ers are in the secondary. Patrick Peterson will be matched up with Mario Mannigham or Michael Crabtree for the entire day and will have his hands full with both, but he can also cause damage in the return game, and will certainly use the physical techniques that took the 49er receivers completely out of the game against the Seahawks. The other big name is safety Adrian Wilson, who will make his presence felt in the passing and running game, and will be crucial in disrupting the 49er offensive flow.
49ers Game to Lose
This game figures to be a defensive struggle, if Arizona plays as well as they can, and avoids turnovers. However, this will start with the protection up front. If the 49ers pass rush is effective then it be very difficult for Arizona to sustain drives, and this could quickly turn into a blowout. As with most of the teams that they face, San Francisco is the better team and if they stick to their game plan and focus on their execution, then they should emerge from the game in the drivers seat for the NFC West Crown.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.