Game Scout: 49ers at Cardinals

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
*Keys to the game: In seven games against teams that currently have a winning record, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has thrown 15 of his 21 interceptions on the season. He has a firm grasp of the offense at this point in the season and a strong group of wideouts. But Palmer is still a sitting duck for teams with a strong pass rush and forces too many passes under pressure. The Cardinals will attempt to chip away with RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington and hope to hit on a few big plays downfield as they did in upsetting Seattle last week. The 49ers rolled up 32 points in the first meeting in Week 6 with RB Frank Gore rushing for 101 yards. That ground game is critical for San Francisco with QB Colin Kaepernick still struggling with his accuracy. The 49ers' defense should control the field position and Kaepernick has the weapons to attack the Cardinals' depleted secondary as long as he's not forced to make quick reads in third-and-long.
*Matchup to watch - 49ers TE Vernon Davis vs. Cardinals FS Tony Jefferson: The Cardinals are among the league's worst in defending tight ends all season, highlighted by Davis' 180 receiving yards and touchdowns of 61 and 35 yards in the first meeting. Jefferson is a rookie thrust into the lineup last week due to injuries to Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson.
*Player spotlight - 49ers FB Anthony Dixon: The Cardinals allowed 149 rushing yards in Week 6, but at only 3.9 yards per carry and bring the league's No. 1 run defense into the rematch. Dixon, replacing injured Bruce Miller, was solid in his starting fullback debut against Atlanta but will face a much more difficult test against the Cardinals' front seven.
*Fast facts: Kaepernick is 2-0 with a 103.5 passer rating in two previous starts against Arizona. ... The Cardinals have won seven of their past eight games.
A lot is at stake for both teams - a potential playoff berth for Arizona and a division title for San Francisco pending Seattle's home game against St. Louis. The 49ers produced four turnovers in the first meeting and Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has been a turnover machine against quality defenses.
*Our pick: 49ers 23-17

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