Week 16 - 49ers vs. Cardinals

We'll have an open thread for the game with more game details, but in the meantime let's take a look at some of the key aspects of tomorrow's game (players, units, mental issues, etc...):

Frank Gore/Alex Smith - For those who've been buried under a rock, Gore will be the key to the game.  I'd fully expect the Cardinals to keep 7 and 8 men in the box until Alex Smith shows he can beat them.  I don't think it's a coincidence that Gore ran for 104 of his 144 yards in the 4th quarter last week.  Alex Smith didn't get going until the last play of the 3rd quarter.  After that, the Seahawks had to play him a little more straight up and that opened up more holes for Gore.  While Gore is a great running back, eight-on-one will be difficult for a north/south runner.

Vernon Davis - So apparently we have the second coming of TO's personality in Vernon Davis.  Seems a little harsh for a rookie, but we'll see how he reacts next time he scores.  He's developing a chemistry with Alex Smith that will be key to both their developments.  It may kill my fantasy chances but I would love to see Vernon Davis put up 100+ receiving with a TD or two.

Offensive line - This deals primarily with Tony Wragge.  The chemistry and gelling of an offensive line are key to success.  Last week they seemed to come together when Heitmann went down so we'll see if they can keep it up.  The two issues that could be created are the exchange between center and QB, and then creating enough time for Smith to make decisions.  A week of practice should solve the first problem, and this is a line of true professionals which should hopefully solve the second problem.

Playoff jitters - One would think a young team would be dealing with jitters of must-win games.  However, that does not appear to be the case and the team doesn't seem to be tight.  Personally I think this is more due to the veterans such as Larry Allen and Bryant Young, but I think Mike Nolan must have a way with these guys.  Nolan seems like a guy who would be very stiff and nervous on game day, but maybe he's just a fiery guy who gets his guys ready both physically and mentally.  Thoughts?

Matt Leinart - Leinart has been very much up and down this year.  While he's made some big plays, he's also turned over the ball in all but 3 games.  This is a big opportunity for the secondary to make some noise and establish positive momentum, rather than have the game dictated towards them.

Edgerrin James - After a horrendous start, Edge rushed for 100+ in back to back games Week 13 and 14.  One interesting note is that his reception numbers are down from the past.  In Indy he was a solid receiving RB, but his reception totals have gone down the last 3 seasons.  Derek Smith could potentially play tomorrow (questionable), and if he could get out there with Brandon Moore, I like our chances of keeping Edge contained and out of the secondary.  Even without Smith I would hope James could be contained, as the defense has done pretty solidly this season against the run.

As I said earlier, we'll have a game day thread tomorrow with some game day details and any game time decisions.  Additionally, on my previous blog I would post my thoughts on the best case scenario, worst case scenario and a prediction so I'll have that posted tomorrow before lunch.

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