Tonight on ESPN's Monday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers line up against the Arizona Cardinals in a game that's sure to put the nation to bed early.
The matchup features two, 3-7 teams and figures to be one of the worst games in the NFL this year.
While both organizations are enduring sub .500 seasons, the feeling within each locker-room is decidedly different.
For the Arizona Cardinals, this has been a rebuilding year from the get-go.
The retirement of Kurt Warner left Arizona with no realistic option at quarterback.
Journeyman Derek Anderson and rookie Max Hall have yet to produce anything remotely close to good or consistent football.
Former Heisman Trophy winner and 2006 first-round draft pick Matt Leinart? He's not even on the team anymore.
Although the Cardinals still retain some key playmakers including WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB Tim Hightower, the lack of a legitimate starter under center has left Arizona with the league's 31st ranked offense and, consequently, a mediocre defense that spends far too much time on the field.
So while a 3-7 record is nothing to be proud of, one could say these troubles were to be expected.
The Cards are performing admirably considering their circumstances and should feel somewhat good about themselves—besides, they're only two games out of first place in the dismal NFC West.
Quite the opposite is true in San Francisco, where "disappointment" doesn't quite surmise the sentiments in the "City by the Bay."
The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to not just win, but walk away with the NFC West in 2010.
Coach Mike Singletary lead the 2009 Niners to their first non-losing season—they finished 8-8—in the better part of a decade, and had everyone across the country feeling like the once-fabled franchise was ready to turn the corner in 2010.
Well, the 49ers turned the corner all right, they just turned in the wrong direction.
San Francisco opened 2010 with an embarrassing 33-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and proceeded to lose their next four games in a row, including another two in humiliating fashion to Kansas City and Atlanta.
Their three wins have come against teams with sub-.500 records and during the span of those wins the Niners lost an additional two games—a 21-0 shutout at home against Tampa Bay and a depressing loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Panthers only win of the season thus far.
The 49ers offense, formerly led by quarterback Alex Smith, and now led by third-string Troy Smith, has looked anemic at best throughout the season.
Coach Singletary cannot decide whether he wants a run-first or pass-first offense and his ineptitude has already led to the dismissal of last year's offensive coordinator, Jimmy Raye.
The offensive line—supposedly bolstered by two first-round draft picks in guard Mike Iupati and tackle Anthony Davis—has struggled mightily to get any push up front for running back Frank Gore and has been laughable in its attempts to provide pass protection.
Potential superstars Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree have been quiet all year, failing to produce even average results, much like the team's 26th ranked offense.
The lone bright spot in this otherwise forgettable season has been the play of the defense, currently ranked 12th overall in the NFL.
Yet even the defense, anchored by team captain Patrick Willis, has faltered at crucial moments throughout the year, and is directly responsible for at least two—Atlanta and Carolina—of the team's losses.
Under the microscope lies head coach Mike Singletary, who will undoubtedly stand on the chopping block if the Niners fail to mount an impressive rally to close the season and win the NFC West.
Fortunately for Singletary, the NFC West is such a horrible division that the 49ers are still very much in it.
Win tonight, and San Francisco will be just one game out of first place at 4-6—shocking, I know.
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