For the second time this season, the Arizona Cardinals face the San Francisco 49ers. This time it is in Arizona, where the Cardinals will attempt to win their fifth game of their last six. They will also be seeking to end a five0game losing streak against San Francisco. They will do so with Kevin Kolb starting at quarterback, who was injured when they last met.
In their previous meeting, John Skelton threw three interceptions and was pulled in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals possessed the ball less than 16 minutes and they lost 23-7. The game easily could have been much worse, had the Cardinals not blocked two field goals and kept the Niners mostly out of the endzone.
With Kolb starting, it will mean that for eight straight seasons the Cardinals and Niners will not have started the same QB pair in both games.
Historically, this series is one of sweeps. Either the Cards or Niners have completed a season sweep in each of the last seasons starting in 2004. The Niners have taken the season series in 2004, 07, 09 and 2010. The Cards sewpt the series in 2005, 06 and 2008.
What has been the key stat for these games? Oddly enough, it is as simple as turnovers. Since 2002, only once has the team with more turnovers won the game.
Another interesting stat? The 49ers have held the Cardinals to one touchdown or less in each of the past five meetings and in single digits in the last four. It should not be surprising that Arizona has lost every single of these games.
Turnovers have been a big factor for San Fran's 2011 success. They are +18 on the season in turnovers. Arizona is -8. The Cards turned the ball over five times in their loss in San Fran. Obviously, Kevin Kolb will have to take care of the ball.
San Francisco still has not allowed a rushing touchdown on the season, either. Their overall defense is ranked fourth, but their scoring defense (the one that matters) is the league's best.
Arizona, though, is not chopped liver defensively. Their overall stats will not knock your socks off, but they are playing well. During the first seven games of the season, the tea, allowed 20 TDs on defense. Since then, the team has allowed only five in the last five games.
It looks like it will be a physical, heated game as a result. The last time they met, the league levied $60,000 in fines for things that happened on the field.
As for injuries, the Cardinals will still be without starting safety Kerry Rhodes, but other than that it looks like the team is pretty healthy. The Niners could be without their defensive heart and soul -- Patrick Willis. He did not practice at all this week. Starting CB Carlos Rogers also missed time in practice, but all indications point to his playing.
The 49ers have already clinched the division, so they will be in the playoffs. However, they likely will not be letting up on how they play. They are fighting for playoff seeding and need to keep winning to stay in position to earn the number two seed and a playoff bye.
The Cardinals, despite their 1-6 start, are still in the hunt for a wild card bid, but are in a situation where, barring a meltdown, they must not lose again. Winning out would mean a 9-7 record. Don't expect the team to talk about the playoffs. Ken Whisenhunt told the press earlier in the week that there is not any playoff talk going on.
Can the Cardinals buck the trends of season sweeps? Can they win the turnover battle? Can they put the ball in the endzone on a rushing attempt? Can Kolb show he is ready and able to lead the offense to 60 minutes of success? Can he have a performance similar to the performance he had in his one start against the, a year ago -- 21/36, 253 yards, a TD and a passer rating of 103.3.
To find out, tune in to FOX at 2 PM, or make your way out to the stadium.