49ers seek sixth straight win in regular season finale in Arizona

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (11-4) will be facing off with the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) in the regular season finale, at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks. They will clinch a division title with a win Sunday and a Seahawks loss. They have already sealed a playoff birth. The Cardinals are in third in the NFC West, one game back of San Francisco. To get into the playoffs Arizona must win, along with a New Orleans Saints loss.

Last weekend the 49ers outlasted the Atlanta Falcons, winning 34-24, in Candlestick’s swan song. The game remained close throughout, with a huge NaVorro Bowman 89-yard interception return with 1:10 remaining in the game hammering the final nail in the coffin. Colin Kaepernick completed 13-of-21 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 51 yards on the ground and a rushing score. Frank Gore rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Michael Crabtree continues to shake the rust off, and had five receptions and 102 yards. Vernon Davis was uncharacteristically held without a catch on three targets.

San Francisco had more trouble than some expected last weekend with the struggling Falcons, but still got the job done. They have won five straight and are looking to make it six before heading into the playoffs. To get to number six they’ll have a tough task, having to beat one of the league’s hottest squads in the Cardinals. They’ve won three straight, including a big upset over Seattle last weekend, and are 7-1 in their last eight contests.

Arizona’s offense has been very middle of the road this season. At quarterback veteran Carson Palmer can still make plays, but is mistake prone. He is among the league leaders with 21 interceptions. At wide receiver he has the always dangerous Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. He has been slowed due to injuries this season, but remains a threat. Michael Floyd has emerged as a strong secondary threat, and leads the team in receiving yards. Rashard Mendenhall has been their go-to back for much of the season, but Andre Ellington has proven to be an explosive change of pace option. As a unit they rank 16th in the NFL in points per game.

The Cardinals defense is far and away their strongest asset. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is having a great season, Patrick Peterson has stepped into his own in the secondary, and the pass-rushing two-headed monster of Calais Campbell and John Abraham have been a force. They allow the sixth fewest points per game, and are especially stout against the run. Surrendering just 84.5 rushing yards per game, they are the league’s best.

This matchup will be a classic case of great running game going up against a great run defense. In their week 6 meeting, Frank Gore still managed to run for 101 yards on 25 carries, but the Cardinals have been at their best recently. Look for Kaepernick and an ever-improving Crabtree to make some significant moves in the passing attack, where Arizona is much more vulnerable.

Pryor further proving himself with 93 yard keeper


by David Zizmor

ALAMEDA–Every win is kind of kind of unexpected the way the Raiders started this season nobody thought the Raiders were going to be any good in fact a lot of us including myself thought the Raiders were going to be among the worst teams in the league and while their not amongst the best teams in the league they are not among the worst either.

We were wrong on that this is actually a pretty feisty squad it’s actually the Pittsburgh Steelers who are among the worst teams in the NFL their not the worst that honor goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This game between the Raiders and the Steelers was not a battle of titans, it certainly has a lot of history locked up in it the Raiders and the Steelers were among the two best teams in the 1970s and battled each other on a regular basis in the some of the most famous games in NFL history.

This game last Sunday was not necessarily one those all time memorable games although it did have a historic play involved the Steelers are just in a down cycle it’s pretty rare for Pittsburgh to be in such a rare situation but they have had a couple of lousy drafts and suffered through some bad injuries and had some misfires and now their sitting with a lousy team record at 2-5.

The Steelers have had some misfires and it all means their all bottoming out right now, the Raiders already bottomed out that was already that kind of last season with the Carson Palmer deal and just everything going on in the off season when they cleaned house and they got rid of everybody the Raiders while their not a great team they have a lot of young feisty players and their in that rebuild process.

So what ends up happening is you get all these young players who are really fighting and clawing and scratching and trying to get themselves into the league and try to get themselves on the roster and get a job and it makes for desperate play and sometimes these guys are playing some desperate football end up playing decent football and that’s what the Raiders have done they have found a decent mix of players who really want to be there who are really receptive to coaching and learning.

Then the Raiders have found a quarterback who knew that former owner Al Davis’ last draft pick quarterback Terrelle Pryor would end up being such a solid player. He has a deficiency and you don’t look on this guy the same way you look at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he broke on the scene last year and Pryor can play.

That 93 yard touchdown run by Pryor last Sunday shows why you want this guy on the field that threat of a guy who can make that kind of a play is something defenses have to respect and it makes you play the game differently if your a defensive coordinator you just have to prepare differently. You see it now with the 49ers now that Colin Kaepernick is 100 percent healthy.

It’s the same thing when you have a quarterback who can run in such a way that he can break a long run just as easily as any running back you have to devote extra resources to cover that guy. You have to have a spy on him and simply having that one guy on him and follow the quarterback around can open things up elsewhere.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio