NFL Wire News

Week 17 Preview: Cardinals at 49ers

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Arizona Cardinals (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-8)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

*Keys to the game: Nothing like throwing a raw rookie into potentially vital regular-season finale. After saying QB Ryan Lindley “missed some throws” against Seattle last week in the understatement of the year, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is handing the reigns to Logan Thomas, who will become the fourth quarterback to start for the team this season.

Arians admitted he’ll have a quick hook if Thomas struggles, especially if he sees the Rams giving the Seahawks trouble in Seattle and opening the door for Arizona to potentially snatch the NFC west.

The 49ers are reeling on and off the field, but they’re still a heavy favorite due to the Cardinals’ quarterback situation along with Arizona being down to Stepfan Taylor and rookie Kerwynn Williams in the backfield.

Forced to be on the field far too long, Arizona’s defense can be worn down and San Francisco set a franchise record with 355 rushing yards last week with QB Colin Kaepernick utilizing his legs more. If the 49ers don’t force Kaepernick into a pocket QB role, San Francisco should control the field position and steadily wear Arizona into submission.

*Matchup to watch – Cardinals RT Bobbie Massie vs. 49ers DE Tony Jerod-Eddie: Jerod-Eddie and Tank Carradine are splitting the role vacated by the released Ray McDonald. Massie, who has been vastly improved this season, will also face impressive rookie OLB Aaron Lynch in pass protection.

*Player spotlight – Thomas: The fourth-round pick has completed one of his nine pass attempts this season, and it was a forced throw into double coverage that somehow resulted in an 81-yard touchdown. He otherwise looked ill equipped to handle the speed of the NFL game at this stage.

*Fast facts: With a win, Arizona would set a franchise record for victories in a regular season. … Kaepernick had 12 carries for 54 yards in the first meeting, a 23-14 Cardinals victory at home in Week 3, while RB Frank Gore had just six for 10 yards.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The resilient Cardinals have finally found their breaking point with a fourth-string QB and backup running backs. Despite all of the controversy swirling the 49ers, they almost can’t help but close with a victory against an Arizona team that simply can’t move the ball.

*Our pick: 49ers 24-9


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