Here are the top 10 storylines for Sunday’s 49ers-Cardinals game.
10. Floyd on the Rise
Michael Floyd has emerged in the second half of the regular season. The former first-round draft pick leads Arizona with 59 receptions for 950 yards. Floyd has five touchdown catches, second behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald’s 10 scores. Floyd poses a deep threat for the Cardinals. The young play-maker averages 16.1 yards per reception. San Francisco will need to defend Arizona’s vertical passing plays, especially with Floyd on the rise. In a Week 6 victory by the 49ers, Fitzgerald broke a few tackles to score a 75-yard touchdown. It was the longest play allowed by San Francisco’s defense all season.
9. Patton as No. 3
8. Defending 100
The 49ers enter Week 17 as the only team in the NFL to not allow a 100-yard rusher. San Francisco’s steady rush defense ranks No. 5 in the NFL, allowing 96.8 yards per game. The 100-yard barrier, however, might not be tested this week. Arizona’s chances of reaching 100 dwindle with the use of a two-headed rushing attack. Veteran Rashard Mendenhall (207 rushes, 640 yards and eight touchdowns) is joined in the backfield by rookie Andre Ellington (109 rushes, 622 yards and three touchdowns). San Francisco is well aware of the threat each runner poses. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio highlighted Ellington as one of the steals of the 2013 draft.
The 49ers tied the Kansas City Chiefs with a league-high eight Pro Bowl selections. San Francisco’s Pro Bowl representatives aim to not play in the game, but after being named as part of the NFL’s All-Star team, those eight players will look to showcase the reasons they were selected by coaches, players and fans. Furthermore, deserving player who were selected as alternates will look to prove why they belonged as Pro Bowlers.
6. Brock's Body Slams
Speaking of physicality,
5. Gore 10K Watch
3. Crabtree vs. Peterson
The game within the game this week has to be
2. Picking Off Palmer
Carson Palmer has been known to be aggressive with the football. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Palmer, an 11-year veteran, has 22 touchdown passes and a career-high 21 interceptions this season. Palmer has thrown 20-or-more interceptions in three different NFL seasons. Palmer was intercepted four times in Arizona’s upset road win over the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers will look to capitalize if Palmer forces the ball into tight windows this week.
Playoff implications are on the line for both teams in the regular season finale. Arizona needs a win and a loss by the New Orleans Saints to become the third NFC West club to clinch a playoff berth. The 49ers, on the other hand, are already postseason eligible, but need a victory and wins by St. Louis and Atlanta to be the NFC’s No. 1 seed.