The 2010 season marked the first time in four seasons the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers haven’t met in Week 1. Instead, these two teams won’t clash until Week 12 and 17, an obvious ploy to put two teams vying for the division in a heated late-season battle for the title. If the 49ers season resembles anything like its start, those games could weigh a lot less in the race for the NFC West than previously thought.
After this week’s round of games, the teams will be a quarter of the way finished. And, if San Francisco takes a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, who left the Cardinals scorned (41-7) in Week 2, they’ll start 0-4. Even so, the 49ers haven’t been without moral victories. They made the reigning Super Bowl champs sweat in front of a national audience on Monday Night in Week 2, and the 49ers defense showed glimpses of 2009, when they were one of the more underrated defenses of the year.
They stopped the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals twice last year, which left most favoring the 49ers for the 2010 season. If they could stop Warner, what could they do against Derek Anderson? On offense, Alex Smith will begin work with yet another offensive coordinator, so much for continuity for the former first rounder.
The 49ers failed to come out of the 2010 gates running and any momentum from their performance, albeit a loss, against the Saints was lost in Week 3, with a 31-10 setback to the Kansas City Chiefs. In simple terms, the 49ers are allowing teams to score. A stat that won’t be lost on the yard-struggling, third-down struggling, fumble-struggling Cardinals.
It hasn’t been pretty, but the Cardinals have bagged a pair of wins and a single loss and are sitting in a slight second place position in the division behind the Seattle Seahawks (2-1). The Seahawks escaped with a win over the San Diego Chargers last week, and the Cardinals hope to follow in their footsteps this Sunday. The Chargers lead the league in total offense, a stat the Cardinals were once familiar with. The Cardinals will need to see production from their big guys on both sides of the ball to prevent the Chargers from embarrassing Anderson and running up the score on the defense.
As for the division-leading Seahawks, they will take on division foe, the St. Louis Rams and could take this week to jump ahead.
The Rams are below .500 at 1-2. In both losses (Cardinals, Raiders), the final score was decided by four or less points. Their win over the Washington Redskins last week celebrated Sam Bradford’s first in the NFL. This week, he could be without his biggest offensive threat, Steven Jackson, as Jackson is reportedly day to day.
While there is only one head-to-head NFC West matchup this week, it will be a telling week for all teams.
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