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Cardinals vs. 49ers preview: 6 matchups that matter

A look at what matchups could make a difference in the regular season finale.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals will close their regular season on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, who will not advance to the postseason. It is a hard game to picture because no one really knows what kind of effort or production either team will give.

Here are some matchups, though, that will matter in this game.

Rams vs. Seahawks

As strange as it sounds, the matchup that matters most for this game is one taking place in Seattle. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians admitted he will be doing some scoreboard watching to manage personnel decisions in the game, particularly in the second half.

Seattle is a 12.5-point favorite over the Rams and have been rolling. If they are comfortably ahead, Arians is likely to treat the game in Santa Clara as a preseason finale and pull his key veterans. Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell and others will get the rest of the game off. That would change the complexion of the game completely.

49ers rushing attack vs. Arizona's once dominant rush defense

Arizona is still a top 10 rush defense, but have struggled with big plays and stopping the running games as of late. Seattle rushed for 267 yards against Arizona last week. San Francisco rushed for over 350 yards last week in a losing effort against the Chargers. Both Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore had over 150 yards each.

Can the Cardinals get back to stopping the run? In their Week 3 matchup, Gore was limited to 10 yards  on six carries. Kaepernick did damage early, but ended with 54 yards on 12 carries. If they can shut the running game down, the Niners will have to rely on the passing game, which is second-to-last in the league.

Vernon Davis vs. Arizona's LBs and safeties

Davis did not play in the Week 3 matchup, but he has been a Cardinals killer. Tight ends have again caused problems for the Cardinals defense. Last week it was Luke Wilson and his 138 yards and two scores. Travis Kelce went for 110 yards two weeks before.

It was a problem in 2013 and has begun to be an issue again.

Arizona's running game vs. SF's Top-10 rush defense

Before the debacle against the Seahawks, Arizona had rushed for over 140 yards in each of the previous two games -- both wins. They will need a healthy dose of Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams because Ryan Lindley will need all the help he can get.

Arizona's WR corps vs. the Niners' banged up cornerbacks

Tramaine Brock, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver are all banged up. Culliver is problable, but the other two are questionable for the game. Michael Floyd hauled in five passes for 115 yards when the two teams played before and Larry Fitzgerald has 12 career touchdowns against the Niners. John Brown scored two touchdowns in the last game.

With Lindley throwing the ball, he will need all sorts of help from his playmakers. That didn't happen last week. With a questionable secondary, can Lindley get the ball to his playmakers and can they make plays?

Ryan Lindley vs. his terrible history

Lindley has yet to throw a touchdown pass in 225 attempts. That is a record -- a dubious one. He has one career win as a starter. He has the trust of his head coach, but he has not shown the ability to deliver the ball correctly to his playmakers. he is making the right reads and throws, but he isn't getting the ball there. Can he show fans something other than what he has previously shown?