San Francisco 49ers Continue Playoff Hopes against the Arizona Cardinals
Written by Greg Smith – 2011-12 NFL Prediction Record (10-3)
The Arizona Cardinals have to be reasonably impressed with their backup QB John Skelton and the fact that he has at least helped create two wins for the team out of their last three games. At least the Cardinals now sit at a more respectable 3-6 record. Not the stellar 8-1 record the 49ers have gained, but certainly better than they could have been. Unfortunately for their prospects going into San Francisco, wins against the Rams and inexplicably weak Eagles do little to boost their standing (at least as far as most NFL experts are concerned). Include with these two wins a close loss against the Ravens in Baltimore as a good sign, but overall the Cardinals have been far too inconsistent in too many areas. Although there may be some talk of whom the starting QB will be on Sunday for the Cardinals, since Kevin Kolb is still coming back from injury and John Skelton has two wins under his belt that Skelton will get the start. In any case, the two QB’s have very similar numbers and win production (described as mediocre at best) so it seems to be largely a moot point. More of concern than who will start for the Cardinals must be how their lacklustre offense will match up against the ferocious defence of the 49ers. The Cardinals are ranked 22nd in the league in points per game, while the 49ers defence is ranked number one in the points allowed per game. On the flip side, the 49ers offence is ranked a respectable seventh place in points per game, while the Cardinals are in 22nd spot. The Cardinals will likely be without at least a few of their starting players as at present tight end Todd Heap, linebacker Joe Porter, tight end Rob Housler, tackle Brandon Keith and full back Anthony Sherman are all questionable to play Sunday. QB Skelton will have his hands full trying to get the ball to backup players, so we can expect the 49ers defence to be highly opportunistic in this area.
The 49ers are looking about as well as can be expected as far as injuries at this point in the season. The main question mark facing this team will be surrounding running back Frank Gore. Although he is currently listed as probably to play this Sunday and by all accounts should be healthy enough to play in a full capacity, the question remains if the 49ers will play him to a full extent. San Francisco would surely love to trounce Arizona, thereby gaining another important step in securing the best playoff position possible. However, if the 49ers are to take full advantage of their success this season, they would ideally want all of their top players as rested and healthy as possible for a deep playoff run. Between the two extremes of keeping Gore out of Sunday’s game and playing him at full throttle, I think it’s reasonable to expect the 49ers to play Gore in a moderate fashion. Looking at how the 49ers played against the New York Giants in their last game, we saw that QB Alex Smith was an integral part of the offensive plan even before Frank Gore went down with an injury. Eleven of the first thirteen plays called were passing plays, showing that even with a fully healthy Gore the 49ers have confidence in their QB to take care of the ball and lead their team to a win. If we accept that the New York Giants led by Eli Manning are at least as good as the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL bettors have to be reasonably comfortable trusting QB Smith (along with Gore in a somewhat moderate capacity) to cover the spread this weekend. Make no mistake, coach Harbaugh will want the win and will do everything reasonable to accomplish this goal. With that being said, I do have to point out that the 49ers will be balancing the need for a win with the need to secure their future playoff potential. While the Cardinals will likely be playing all-out for the win, we can only assume that they’ve been playing this way all season and gotten mediocre results against some mediocre teams. The San Francisco 49ers represent the elite in the NFL and are hungry to gain another step towards a strong playoff berth.
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers -9.5 (5Dimes.com)
Check out Greg’s previous NFL predictions to see just how hot of a season he is having.