Players to Watch
WR Larry Fitzgerald- Some analysts predicted a tremendous drop-off in production for Fitzgerald with Derek Anderson under center, but his statistics are not off by much from last year. A lot of his production is a result of being the 4th most targeted person in the league despite playing against multiple double coverage packages. Steve Breaston has stepped up to replace Anquan Boldin as the #2 receiver, but besides him and Fitzgerald, there’s not much to like about the offense. Look for the extremely talented Fitzgerald to see many passes thrown his way against a mediocre 49ers pass defense, and for his amazing hands and jumping ability to be able to beat the double coverage or safety help he is likely to face.
S Adrian Wilson- The 3-time Pro-Bowler is again playing at a very high level and is one of the few bright spots for a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league. The longtime Cardinal plays his position with a linebacker mentality and is quick to recognize plays. Wilson will be making sure that Vernon Davis doesn’t get any cheap yardage in the middle of the field, and punishing Troy Smith for any mistakes that the inexperienced QB will likely make.
RB Beanie Wells- He’s had a very disappointing injury filled season so far and is only averaging 3.5 ypc in the games he has played. With the sporadic playing of Tim Hightower, the Cardinals are looking to make Wells the more featured back in the offense. Wells is finally getting healthy and could have a break out game against an average 49ers rush defense.
Key Matchup: Derek Anderson v. Patrick Willis – The 25-year Willis is the heart and soul of the 49ers defense and has 3 sacks in his last 2 games. Anderson has a decent arm, but has been plagued by his inaccuracy over his career. Anderson will need to take note of where Willis is at all times, or else the linebacker will cause a lot of trouble for the QB. If Arizona is able to limit Willis’s effectiveness, Anderson will be able to improve on his dreadful completion percentage and move the Cardinals offense down the field.
Why the Cardinals Will Win- In a matchup of 3-7 teams, this one is likely to be a toss-up. Arizona is 2-2 at home this year, so they have that working in their favor. They beat the Saints earlier this year and gave the Vikings and Tampa Bay close games, so they are capable of playing good football; it’s just a matter of whether they will. A playoff team a year ago, the Cardinals still has enough talent to be able to overcome the loss of Kurt Warner despite the dreadful play they have gotten from their QBs. I think that the Cardinals, led by Fitzgerald and Wells, will do just enough to win this game against the equally disappointing 49ers.
Prediction: Cardinals 27, 49ers 24