In the final game of the 2012 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park. The game is a must win for the 49ers now that they have let their lead in the NFC west slip away. A win on Sunday will solidify their ranking in the division and could possibly give them a first round bye in the playoffs if the Green Bay Packers lose this weekend. So there is a lot riding on the outcome, regardless of the whether or not they have already locked up a playoff birth. And though the heavily favored 49ers should come out with the win, after last week’s performance against the Seattle Seahawks, there is no guarantee.
Problem is, fans don’t know what 49ers team will show up this Sunday. The team that rests on their defensive prowess and chooses not to implement their victory proven offensive game plan. Or the team that takes the field ferociously on both sides of the ball, and forces the opposition to adjust to the power running offensive scheme. Last week the 49ers showed just how vulnerable they could be offensively when they stray from what has worked for them in the past. And even though the Cardinals are near the bottom of the league in winning percentage, they did defeat the Detroit Lions just two weeks ago, putting up 38 points and holding the high powered Lions to just ten. Not to mention the fact that they are in the same division as the 49ers, and pride plays a key factor in all divisional games. It will not be a walk in the Park for the 49ers come Sunday, and they really need to bounce back if they want to carry any momentum into the playoffs.
First and foremost, the 49ers need to run the ball hard. Even if they rest Frank Gore for most of the evening, they still need to run the ball with their back up running backs 25-30 times. And the leading rusher should not be the quarterback Colin Kaepernick this week. Obviously he has the talent to move the ball up the field with his rushing ability, but using that talent too much makes them one-dimensional. His talents are best utilized when he rushes three to four times per game and passes 20 to 25 times per game. Any more, and they are asking too much of the young quarterback, to which he responds by over reaching his talent level and is susceptible to mistakes. They need to make the offense easier for him, just as they did with Alex Smith, who experienced success because he operated in an offense that did not ask him to be a Drew Brees or Tom Brady type hero.
Defensively, the 49ers will take the field with a huge chip on their shoulder. They got embarrassed last week, and they will more than likely look to make amends for their lack of dominance. And as it looks, the 49ers defense should have a field day on Sunday. The Cardinals intend on starting their fourth quarterback of the year, Brian Hoyer, a player they signed off the street just a month ago. A journeyman back up, Hoyer has played four years in the NFL for three different teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. In his four years he has had limited playing time, amassing just 38 completions on 62 attempts for 391 yards and one touchdown to go with two interceptions. This Sunday will be his first time starting an NFL game. So with a first time starter under center and a running back unit that has more or less given up, the 49ers defense should reap the benefits.
Prediction: 49ers 28 Cardinals 10Tha
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