The Arizona Cardinals painful season is finally coming to a close. On Sunday, they will face the San Francisco 49ers in a game that means nothing to the Cardinals and a division title for the 49ers. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals pulling out a victory in San Francisco. The team has no motivation and is running on pride. Will pride be enough?
The short answer is no. However, luck is never out of the question. A bad throw here or there and the Cardinals could get ahead early. If QB Colin Kaepernick makes a mistake, you better believe Patrick Peterson and company will be ready. The Cardinals will not be winning this game for the Seattle Seahawks. That ship sailed after the 58-0 beating they took from the men in Seattle.
Like I said, this game is about pride. The Cardinals beat the Seahawks in week one and the New England Patriots in week two. They have not won a significant game since. I believe the Seahawks, Patriots, and 49ers are top five teams. A win on Sunday would give the Cardinals something to build on going into next season. Let’s take a look at the probable starting lineups and highlight three keys to the game for each team.
Quarterback: Brian Hoyer
Running back: Beanie Wells
Fullback: Anthony Sherman (Questionable)
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts
Tight end: Jeff King
Offensive line (from the left): Nate Potter, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wedige, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie
Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick
Running back: Frank Gore (probable)
Fullback: Bruce Miller
Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss
Tight end: Vernon Davis (questionable)
Offensive line (from the left): Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis
Cardinals’ Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive line: DE Calais Campbell, DT Dan Williams, DE Darnell Dockett
Linebackers: OLB Quentin Groves , MLB Daryl Washington, MLB Paris Lenon, OLB Sam Acho
Secondary: CB Patrick Peterson, CB William Gay, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes (questionable)
49ers’ Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive line: DE Ray McDonald, NT Issac Sopoaga, DE Ricky Jean Francois
Linebackers: OLB Ahmad Brooks, MLB NaVorro Bowman (probable), MLB Patrick Willis, OLB Aldon Smith (questionable)
Secondary: CB Carlos Rogers (questionable), CB Tarell Brown, SS Donte Whitner, FS Dashon Goldson
Arizona’s Keys to the Game
The Cardinals need to hold on to the football at all costs. The 49ers are not the greatest team at taking the ball away, but if you make a mistake, they will make you pay. On the other side of the ball, this team needs to take the football away. They need to attempt to strip the ball on every single play. This might lead to a big play for the 49ers eventually, but it will be worth it just to get a well timed turnover.
2. Beanie Wells
Wells says he will not be playing in Arizona next season, so this game will be a tryout for 31 other teams in the NFL. This is actually good news for the Cardinals. He will be running with a purpose again and that is something no running back has done all season long. I give some credit to RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, but his big games were mostly luck and or mistakes made by opposing defenses.
3. Larry Fitzgerald
If the Cardinals wanted to win a game for a player, Larry should be the guy. Fitzgerald is in the middle of his worst season since his rookie year. The receiver needs 215 yards to hit 1,000. He has suffered through three terrible quarterbacks and Kevin Kolb this year and he deserves better. The Cardinals should not be playing this game to save Ken Whisenhunt‘s job, but to let Larry know that his teammates have not quit on him.
San Francisco’s Keys to the Game
1. Run the Football
RB Frank Gore rushed for for just 28 yards on Sunday against the Seahawks because the team got down quick and they needed to throw the football. That will not be the case this week. Gore needs to have 15 carries in the first half and another 10 or 15 in the second half. The 49ers cannot give Kaepernick any excuse to lose this game. The 49ers are in the playoffs, but a stumble on Sunday could ruin their season.
2. Attack the quarterback
The Cardinals are starting their fourth quarterback of the season. The 49ers need to make Hoyer as uncomfortable as possible. If LB Aldon Smith wants to break the sack record, this is the week to do it. The 49ers’ goal should be to cycle through all of the Cardinals’ quarterbacks in one game. Even if they get to the second one, the game will probably be over.
3. Throw the football to Randy Moss
People said Moss was washed up. They said there was no way he could compete at the NFL level after a year off. Well, what did people forget? He’s Randy Moss. He does what he wants. If he wants to be successful, he will. If he wants to help his team win, he will. He is a freak. Continuing his NFL career next year will only add to his legend.
The Cardinals and 49ers are set to battle it out on the final game of the season. A division title is on the line for the 49ers. A win and a Green Bay Packers‘ loss would help them earn a week off heading into the playoffs, but if they lose, it will open the door for the Seahawks to steal the division. The Cardinals just hope they can win one more game and go into the off-season with something to build up.
Prediction: The Cardinals figure out that winning is part of the game. Cardinals 13, 49ers 10
This may not be a realistic prediction, but I want Jim Harbaugh‘s decision to go with Kaepernick over Alex Smith to get him fired and it starts with a loss on Sunday.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33