Week 1 Matchup: Arizona Cardinals (0-0) vs. San Francisco 49’ers (0-0)
When: Sunday September 7th, 2008; 1:15pm
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
TV/Radio: FOX 10/KTAR-FM 92.3/Sirius 126 (AZ broadcast)/Sirius 119 (SF broadcast)
Preview: Arizona looks to rebound from two devestating losses last season to the 49ers. Arizona lost last season’s opener in San Francisco 20-17 after failing to pounce on a San Francisco fumble late in the game in the end zone that would have assured a victory. Arizona then lost in a late November clash at University of Phoenix Stadium in overtime after hitting a field goal that would have won the game 34-31 in regulation. However Arizona was called for a penalty and K Neil Rackers missed his second attempt, which then in turn sent the game to overtime, in which Kurt Warner fumbled in the end zone and San Francisco recovered for a 37-31 OT win. Both teams come in with starting quarterbacks not expected to be in that position on opening day, Kurt Warner for the Cardinals and J.T. O’Sullivan for the 49ers.
What to look for: Watch both quarterbacks. If either one struggles, look for a quick hook, although Warner’s leash will probably be quite a bit longer. After beating out Matt Leinart for the starting position, Warner looks to continue where he left off last season when he threw 27 touchdowns, the most he had thrown since his MVP Season. O’Sullivan is a surprise starter after Alex Smith failed to produce results once again and now is in danger of being called a bust.
Offense: Arizona has plenty of weapons, especially in the receiver core. WR Anquan Boldin will be interesting to watch as he continues to play despite his unhappiness with a lack of a new contract. He said earlier this week though, he’s still unhappy, but isn’t going to let it be a distraction for this team. San Francisco’s main offensive weapon is RB Frank Gore. I look for him to have another wild day against the Cardinals. He usually produces some eye-catching fantasy numbers against the redbirds.
Defense: The big question mark for the Cardinals. The defensive line and the linebacker core should be just fine, although as mentioned above, I’m not sure how well they can stop the force of Frank Gore. The secondary was beaten badly on several throws in the preseason. This has typically been an thorn in the side of the Cardinals. Adrian Wilson returns to regular season action after seeing his 2007 season end pre-maturely. Eric Green continues to improve and should be ok against San Francisco. If Darnell Dockett can avoid penalties and rookie Calais Campbell can impress as he did in the preseason, then the Cardinals should win.
Key Matchup: Kurt Warner vs San Francisco secondary. If Warner torches the secondary and connects 5-10 times each with Fitzgerald and Boldin, then coach Ken Whisenhunt looks like a genius – at least for this week.
Prediction: Cardinals 24-23
Notes:…QB Kurt Warner and G Reggie Wells were voted team offensive captains and LB Karlos Dansby defensive captain. Special Team captains are Aaron Francisco and Sean Morey….This will be WR Bryant Johnson’s first game against his old team. NT Alan Branch did not practice on Friday, so it appears he will not play on Sunday. TE Ben Patrick and T Mike Gandy appear a go on Sunday….Warner was 34-48 for 484 yards, 2 TD and 2 INT in the last meeting with the 49ers.