Sure, the Arizona Cardinals already have a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in pocket. But it was so long ago -- Week 3 to be exact -- that it seems like a season ago. In fact, it was three, or was it four, quarterbacks ago? It was so long ago, Drew Stanton was under center for the Cardinals, with Carson Palmer sidelined with an inflamed nerve in his right shoulder.
Since then, Palmer returned, blew out his knee, Stanton replaced him, then went down with a sprained knee before Ryan Lindley got his shot and was so ineffective he is being swapped for rookie Logan Thomas. Got it? And yet, as effective as Stanton was in the Cardinals’ victory on Sept. 21, it was Arizona’s defense that made it possible.
Frank Gore rushed for only 10 yards in six carries in the desert. And while the Cardinals still boast the No. 8-ranked run defense in the league, allowing 102.2 rushing yards per game, that unit is nowhere near the same as it was three months ago. Neither, is the Niners’ run game. Not after unleashing 355 yards against the San Diego Chargers in an overtime loss last weekend.
The difference? Thomas is no Philip Rivers, so it’s hard to see him mounting a Rivers-esque comeback when the Niners are playing loose and for pride.
If, as expected, this is coach Jim Harbaugh’s swan song, expect plenty of emotion from the Niners and a ton of runs. Do the Niners carry Harbaugh off the field? 49ers 30, Cardinals 10.