It’s been a true tale of two teams when comparing NFC West rivals, the Niners and Cardinals this season. One was expected to be a sure playoff bet and a Super Bowl contender, while the other was supposed to miss the playoffs, and not make much noise in the process. Of course, the 49ers were expected to be the former, and Arizona the latter. That’s why they play the games though, as that has not materialized and those teams have essentially flipped roles within the division. It has been a real disaster of a season for the 49ers this year, as conflict both on and off the field has spelled their demise. Jim Harbaugh has been rumoured to be fighting with virtually everyone in the organization, and even before today’s kickoff has already reportedly accepted a job to be the next coach at the University of Michigan beginning in 2015. If that’s not a distraction for his players, I don’t know what else could be. Meanwhile, the Cardinals keep on trucking despite their rash of injuries. They’re on their third-string quarterback in Ryan Lindley right now, but keep fighting and playing hard. Arizona actually enters this Week 17 clash with an outside shot at clinching homefield advantage and won’t be coasting in their final tune-up before post-season action. It’s going to be intriguing in San Francisco today to watch how the Niners respond to their departing coach. Read on below to find out how I’m calling it. There’s a full game breakdown as well as the featured pick for this NFC West clash.
Cardinals at 49ers Betting Odds:
Arizona Cardinals +7 (-120)
@ San Francisco 49ers -7 (+100)
Over 37 (-110)
Under 37 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
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Cardinals at 49ers Pick:
Even though the Cardinals don’t have much to play for, aside from a very remote shot at getting homefield advantage, the spread in this contest is comically high. This is especially true when you take into account the team they’re playing has shown no signs of life recently and looks like a squad that really doesn’t respect or care for their coach Jim Harbaugh. By expectations, this has been a nightmare year for the Niners and surely they’re content to just ride out the final game and watch it come to a sad demise.
And although the Cardinals’ current QB situation is pretty dire, Arizona remains a well-coached and disciplined squad that have been able to find ways to win games this season. The Niners are banged up right now on defense, and perhaps Arizona can take advantage of that. They’ll be without arguably their top-three linebackers, and look for the running game of Arizona led by Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor to break off some big gains and relieve some of the pressure facing Lindley. Since losing Chris Borland to an injury, they’ve been brutal at stopping the run, allowing opposing teams to gain over 100 yards on the ground. While Williams and Taylor aren’t world-beaters, they’re capable enough to overwhelm a depleted and disinterested San Francisco run defense.
One of the biggest mysteries of 2014 is what happened to the Niners offense, and more specifically Colin Kaepernick? The guy who once looked like the next big thing in the NFL has regressed badly this year, and whether it is issues with his head coach or something else, it’s been remarkable to watch how awful the Niners have been at moving the football this year. It won’t be any easier this week either as the reason the Cardinals are going to the post-season is because of their ferocious defense. They’ve overcome many injuries to key personnel and continued on to be one of the best stop units in the NFL. The 49ers don’t have much by way of threats in their passing game. Vernon Davis seems like he’s done, or maybe just unhappy with his current contract. Michael Crabtree is banged up, but doesn’t seem like the can’t-miss receiver he was once billed to be. And while Anquan Boldin remains a solid option, he’s getting up there in age and the Cardinals have the personnel in their secondary to nullify that. Plus, Kaepernick has simply shown an unwillingness to rush the football and has been wildly erratic when throwing it. This offense remains a mystery, and the Cards’ defense remains a trusted unit.
San Francisco has scored less than 18 points in seven of their past nine outings, and look for them to make it 8 out of 10 after they go out with a whimper this week. The Cardinals are well-coached, will remain hungry, and even though they’ve struggled of late with Lindley at the helm, he’s still gone on the road and won (Week 15 at St. Louis). This spread is too high for a team that has shown virtually zero desire from the outset in San Francisco. Sure the Cardinals were punished last week, but Seattle is one of the game’s best teams. Look for the Cardinals to bounceback and at the very least, keep things tight in what should be a pretty docile and defensive affair.
PICK = Cardinals +7 (-120)