PHOENIX - Week 17: (11-4) San Francisco 49ers at (10-5) Arizona Cardinals:
If you're looking for intrigue and you like to bite your nails, look no further than this coming Sunday afternoon (December 29, 2013) and the San Francisco 49ers at the Arizona Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Both teams are playing for post-season seeding and both would like nothing more than to hand the other a loss in the final regular season game.
The Cardinals are shooting for their third post-season appearance in the last six seasons, but even with a win over the 49ers, they'll still need some help from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Cardinals can pull off a win over San Francisco, Tampa Bay will have to beat the Saints in New Orleans to give the Cardinals a wild card spot in this year's playoffs.
The 49ers are playing for the number one spot in the NFC West, but even if they can beat the Cardinals in Glendale, they'll still need some help from the St. Louis Rams, who take on the Seahawks in Seattle.
Yes, this week is complicated, but it sure does make for a fun final regular season Sunday!
While the Cardinals currently have the number one defense against the run in the NFL and the sixth best overall defense, the 49ers defense is ranked 3rd overall and 3rd against the rush.
Arizona has won 7 of its last 8 games, including 4 straight, and 6 of 7 so far at home this season.
So how does it all play out for the Cardinals? It's confusing, but here we go:
If the Cardinals win and the Bucs beat the Saints, Arizona would be the #6 seed in the playoffs and would be on the road next weekend for a wildcard game. The question is, who would they play? The Cardinals would play in Philadelphia if the Eagles beat the Cowboys Sunday night. If the Cowboys win that game, then the Cardinals would travel to Dallas if Green Bay beats the Bears, or to Chicago if the Bears beat the Packers. Got it?
The 49ers can clinch the NFC West crown with a win and a Seattle loss to the Rams. If that all happens and the Panthers lose or tie at home against Atlanta, the 49ers would clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. WOW!
Ok, back to this Sunday's game in Glendale. The Cardinals and 49ers will meet for the 45th time in the series that dates back to 1951. San Francisco won the game between these two teams earlier this season 32-20 in week #6.
In that game, Carson Palmer capped a nine play drive to open the third quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd to make it 22-20 San Francisco.
After the Niners took a 29-20 lead with 6:35 left to play, Alfonso Smith fumbled at the Arizona 31 and the 49ers capitalized on that turnover with a 44 yard field goal to end the game, 32-20 San Francisco.
All in all, this week's game is much like others across the league, with a number of games involving playoff seeding. Close your eyes and get ready for a great Sunday of NFL Football and let's hope that when the dust settles, the Cardinals have won 11 games and are on their way to the playoffs. If not, they'll be just the second team in NFL history to win 11 regular season games and miss the playoffs.
Can you guess the other team? The 2008 New England Patriots who beat the Cardinals 47-7 in the regular season and then watched from home as the (9-7) Cardinals made an improbable run to the Super Bowl.