Here are the top 10 storylines to track when the 49ers-Cardinals meet on Sunday.
10. The Badger
Tyrann Matheiu has caught the eye of San Francisco’s coaching staff. Arizona’s rookie free safety is the second-leading tackler on his team and was praised this week by 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Matheiu slipped to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft because of character concerns, but he has quickly become a play-maker on the Cardinals. Size and speed are two things working against Matheiu, but the rookie defensive back always finds his way to the football.
9. T-Brock's Encore
The NFC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Week is expected to resume his role as San Francisco’s third cornerback in nickel personnel groupings. Brock recorded a pair of interceptions and returned the first for an 18-yard touchdown. He became the sixth cornerback in franchise history to win the conference’s weekly honor. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Brock’s play will keep him in the No. 3 spot and it’s “possible” veteran
8. McDonald's Pain Tolerance
7. Campbell vs. Staley
For those looking for a one-on-one matchup to highlight in the trenches, look no further than Arizona’s right defensive end and San Francisco’s left tackle. Staley made no bones about his feelings on the matchup – he respects Campbell, but that’s where it ends. Staley’s ascending play is key in the 49ers keeping a clean pocket for
6. Harbaugh at Home
When the 49ers face divisional opponents at home under Jim Harbaugh, the team has not lost. The only blemish, however, was a 24-24 tie with St. Louis last season. Besides that game, San Francisco has won five divisional games with a physical brand of disciplined football. The 49ers were able to minimize penalties last week and were plus-four in the turnover battle. It’s a recipe for success under Harbaugh and the 49ers will look to find that formula Sunday against Arizona.
5. Palmer and 'Fitz'
Arizona’s new quarterback can still make all the throws needed to succeed in the NFL, but Carson Palmer has run into trouble when trying to force the ball to his receivers. The 11-year veteran has thrown five touchdowns and nine interceptions this year. Palmer has a 67.0 quarterback rating, the fourth-worst rating among starting quarterbacks through Week 5. Fitzgerald remains as Arizona’s biggest perimeter threat. He leads the Cardinals with three touchdown catches. The veteran wideout has been hampered by a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
4. Willis Health Watch Part. 3
3. Kap Managing Wins
Stats are for losers. That’s the mindset around 49ers headquarters. If your fantasy football team is suffering, too bad. Kaepernick, Harbaugh and
2. Keep Gore Rolling
Frank Gore has taken the offense on his back in recent weeks. San Francisco’s franchise leader in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns ranks No. 8 in the NFL with 376 yards. After a slow start to his ninth season, Gore has been a force behind an improving offensive line. Gore leads the NFL with six carries of 20-or-more yards. Arizona’s rush defense ranks No. 2 in the NFL, but San Francisco’s offense won’t back down from the challenge of running at an improved defensive unit. With Gore showing no signs of falling off, the bell cow of the 49ers offense will be in play this week.
1. Boldin vs. Arizona
Boldin, San Francisco’s leading wideout, began his career in Arizona, but he said he doesn’t know many of the faces on the Cardinals defense. Boldin keeps in touch with Fitzgerald, but that’s about it. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said his star cornerback, Patrick Peterson, will primarily face Boldin on Sunday. It should be a quality matchup between a savvy veteran and a young cornerback with impressive athletic tools. Boldin faced Peterson when he was a rookie in 2011, but he will now compete against a much improved defensive back who has three interceptions on the year.
- VIEW: 49ers-Cardinals Infographic
- READ: Harbaugh Explains Kaepernick Foot Injury
- READ: Dorsey Plays with Confidence at NT
- READ: Skuta Studies up on Palmer, Cardinals
- WATCH: 49ers-Cardinals Game Preview
- READ: Kaepernick Values Wins over Stats