Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Cardinals have looked surprisingly good thus far, but they're not on the 49ers level.
Let’s do a little blind comparison between two teams, dating back to last season.
Team A (last 12 regular season games): 10-2 overall, 7-0 at home.
Team B (last 12 regular season games): 9-3 overall, 5-0 at home.
They’re pretty similar, right? Clearly, they're two very good teams. It should come as no surprise that one of the teams, Team B, is the 49ers.
But Team A might shock you. It's the Arizona Cardinals.
The 3-0 Cardinals have been the surprise team of the season so far. After squeaking out wins against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 and the New England Patriots in Week 2, Arizona dominated the turnover-prone Philadelphia Eagles last weekend, 27-6.
The Cardinals are actually a lot like the 49ers. They too are led by a stingy defense, and they too have a quarterback that’s expected to manage the offense more than win games with his arm.
But luckily for San Francisco, while the Cardinals play like them, they don’t play as well as them.
Arizona’s defense, while very good, isn’t an elite, shutdown unit like the 49ers' is. They also can’t match San Francisco for offense. The 49ers rushing attack is far more potent than that of the Cardinals (141 yards per game compared to 82.3), and while Alex Smith isn’t an elite quarterback, he’s still far more accomplished than the Cardinals’ Kevin Kolb.
The Cardinals are a good team, and they should be in the mix for a wild-card spot this season. It’s just hard to imagine that they have what it takes to debunk the 49ers as the NFC West champions.