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Cardinals vs. 49ers: Week 3 battle is early, but it is basically a must-win

How Arizona plays this weekend may well determine their postseason fate.

Norm Hall

The Arizona Cardinals have a very big game this weekend. The play the San Francisco 49ers at home.

It is only Week 3 of the season, and because it is so early, it seems ridiculous to say it, but this game is a must-win for the Arizona Cardinals.


It is a divisional home game against a team that presumably will be in postseason contention.

Arizona's downfall last season, despite a 10-win season, was their play in the NFC West. Specifically, getting swept by the 49ers crushed them. They were 0-2 to the Niners and 2-4 in the division. That meant losing every single possible tie-breaker scenario they needed to get into the postseason.

I have said it for a while now. What will determine the Arizona Cardinals' postseason hopes is their play in the division. A 2-4 NFC West record will keep them out of the playoffs.

They won't be a wild card team unless they are at least 3-3 in the division. If they want to win the division, it will take at least a 4-2 record.

What does that mean? They must win their home games.

Arizona cannot afford to lose at home to the 49ers, as expecting to win in San Francisco is a tall order.

The significance of this game cannot be downplayed. Arizona is 1-9 against the Niners over the last five seasons.

Arizona must win. Carson Palmer might not be able to play, but that doesn't matter.

As early as it is in the season, if you think the Cardinals have any postseason chances, it comes down to this game.

If they win, I like their chances for the postseason, assuming their play continues.

But if they lose, I'm calling it. Unless they beat San Francisco in San Francisco in Week 17, the Cardinals will find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason.