I can say with some degree of certainty that this is not the last time between now and the end of the 2011 season that I will use "NFC West Champs" in a headline. Ideally it will be replaced by a little something else in February, but we'll just have to wait and see on that. As Coach Harbaugh and Alex Smith both said, they've punched their dance card, but there is plenty still to be done.
The 49ers travel to Glendale, Arizona to face the 5-7 Cardinals on Sunday afternoon looking to maintain or even build on their one-game lead over the New Orleans Saints in the race for the number two seed in the NFC. They face a Cardinals team that has had a lot of ups and downs but is in the middle of a fairly solid run of 4-1 football. Beating St. Louis twice isn't exactly what superstars are made of, but wins at Philadelphia and versus the Dallas Cowboys are nothing to sneeze at, in spite of some those teams' respective travails.
The 49ers open as four point favorites over Arizona. I'm curious to see how the betting public views this game and whether it might be closer than anticipated. The 49ers will potentially be without Patrick Willis if his hamstring strain doesn't heal up soon. While Larry Grant proved to be an able replacement against the Rams, much of the betting public might not be quite so aware of Grant's solid skills. I don't think the line changes much, but I am always intrigued by movement. While I do enjoy placing sports bets when I'm in Las Vegas, I don't bet on the 49ers one way or the other. Whether it's bad karma or not, I'm a bit uncomfortable with it.