Cardinals vs 49ers: Who Has the Advantage?

Beanie Wells (Bruce Yeung / Yeung Photography)

Ryan Knowles breaks down Monday night's battle between Arizona and San Francisco.

Cardinals Offense vs. 49ers Defense

The Big Red's offense has started strong of late, but has struggled to maintain that momentum throughout the game. Injuries to wide receivers Early Doucet and Steve Breaston and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will not make this unit's job any easier. Quarterback Derek Anderson has been serviceable, but has lacked the accuracy and quality decision-making the Redbirds have had from the position in recent years. Running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower will need to have quality games for Arizona to put points on the board. The 49ers defense is certainly the stronger unit led by playmakers Patrick Willis and Parys Haralson. San Francisco has a stout front seven, but struggle in the secondary. If Arizona can establish the run and use the play-action to its advantage, they will have a chance.

Advantage: 49ers

Cardinals Defense vs. 49ers Offense

Until last week, San Francisco's season-long offensive slump seemed to end under the guidance of new quarterback Troy Smith. However, Tampa Bay stifled Smith with a ferocious pass rush, collecting six sacks. Arizona should take a page from the Bucs and pin their ears back early and often. Running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis have had big games against Arizona in the past and should be the focal point of the defense. This may prove difficult for the Cards with linemen Calais Campbell, Dan Williams and linebacker Clark Haggans being game-time decisions. The unit has also struggled giving up the big play, particularly on third down – something they must correct on Monday Night.

Advantage: 49ers

Key Player: Adrian Wilson

Wilson has struggled in pass coverage this season and it has been reflected in the increase of yards and points allowed. He will need to be at his best against Davis, one of the top receiving tight ends in the league. The Cards will also need Wilson to be big in the pass rush to keep Smith out of a rhythm. The Redbirds' performance on defense often rises and falls on the play of Wilson and they'll need him to be on an upswing to have a shot against their division rival.

Prediction:

As it does so often in the NFL, this game will come down to the play of each team's respective signal callers. Anderson has made some quality throws, but has lacked consistency and accuracy far too often. Don't expect that trend to end as the 49ers will likely stack the line and force Anderson to beat them. Larry Fitzgerald and the receiving corps will have to create separation and make plays downfield.

The Redbirds should be amped playing division rivals at home on Monday night, but will struggle against a San Francisco team just as desperate to escape the NFC West cellar. Gore will have another strong game with 100-plus yards and at least one score while Smith's dual-threat ability sends the Cardinals to their sixth straight defeat.

49ers 31, Cardinals 21

Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52

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