San Francisco is frustrated and justifiably so after it got embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks on national television by the score of 42-13.
Nothing against the Cardinals—they just happen to be the team that the 49ers will attempt to use as their stress reliever.
Here’s everything you need to know about this Week 17 matchup.
Where: Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif.
When: Sunday, Dec. 30 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 92 or online at Audio Pass
Betting Line: No line, according to Bovada
What’s At Stake?
San Francisco has yet to clinch the NFC West. If it loses and the Seahawks win, Seattle takes the division crown. But if the 49ers win, they clinch the West and would receive a first-round bye in the event of a Green Bay Packers loss.
Cardinals Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 25)
Rob Housler (shoulder), TE, Out
Early Doucet (concussion), WR, Questionable
49ers Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 25)
Vernon Davis (concussion), TE, Questionable
Mario Manningham (knee), WR, Out
Justin Smith (elbow), DE, Questionable
David Akers (pelvis), K, Probable
Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em and Sleeper
Start: Frank Gore
Gore only rushed for 28 yards last week against the Seahawks. But have no fear. He’ll regain his 4.8-yards-per-carry form against the 28th-ranked Cardinals’ run defense.
Sit: Colin Kaepernick
While the Cards struggle to stop the run, they're actually solid against the pass. Kaepernick will struggle to bounce back against Patrick Peterson and company. They allow less than 200 passing yards a game.
Sleeper: Brian Hoyer
If Hoyer starts this week for the Cardinals, who knows? He could perform well. After all, he has a wide receiver to play catch with who isn't completely terrible in Larry Fitzgerald.
What They’re Saying
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic reported Beanie Wells believes that Sunday will be his last game in a Cardinals uniform. The halfback said of his mindset going into the game, “I’m just going to go out there and put my best foot forward for all the 31 other teams that’s watching.”
One of those 31 other teams, the 49ers, reflected on their prime-time collapse against the Seattle Seahawks and, as Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News reported, Patrick Willis said postgame:
Any great competitor, whether it’s a boxer, basketball player, basketball team, football team, you’re going to have times like this. For us, you have to have the lowest low to be able to enjoy the highs. And I think tonight will be one of those lows for us. But looking forward to next week.
Cardinals Player to Watch: Larry Fitzgerald
Poor Fitzgerald. And I say that in the most sincere way possible about an NFL player with a $120 million contract.
Fitzgerald will fail to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark in a season in which he played at least 15 games for the first time since his rookie year. That doesn’t change the fact, though, that he’s the Cards’ most exciting offensive weapon.
49ers Player to Watch: Colin Kaepernick
With Alex Smith looking over his shoulder, Kaepernick’s game is put under a microscope every time he takes the field and each mistake he makes is amplified. Last week, he only completed 52.8 percent of his passes and threw and interception.
It’ll be difficult to rebound against a talented Cardinals secondary, but Kaepernick must show progress to somewhat silence his doubters.
Key Matchup: Beanie Wells vs. NaVorro Bowman
Because Arizona QBs can’t typically get the ball to Fitzgerald, Wells is the Cardinals’ best shot to score against the 49ers’ top-notch defense. He scored three touchdowns two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions, but rushed for just three yards versus the Chicago Bears this past Sunday.
Bowman, who leads the 49ers in tackles, will look to help Wells repeat the latter performance.
On the Hot Seat: Ken Whisenhunt
Whisenhunt has nightmares about Kurt Warner. He dreams them every Sunday afternoon.
Arizona hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009 when Warner was running the show. He isn’t walking through that door, and that’s why after this year Whisenhunt will be shown the door.
San Francisco will look to bounce back with a vengeance. Arizona likely wants its season to be over. That isn’t combination that’ll lead to a competitive contest.
San Francisco by 14
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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