If there has been a serious thorn in the side of the Cardinals as they try to take the step to the next level – it’s been the San Francisco 49’ers. Last season the Niners won just five games, but two of them came vs the Cards, and those two losses kept the Cards from the playoffs. They hope to reverse that trend on Sunday at Monster Park as they kick off the season vs their division rival.
The Cards come into 2008 with a lot of high hopes. They feel that last seasons 8-8 mark is just the start, and that is partially why instead of going with young QB Matt Leniart, they have instead gone with veteran leader Kurt Warner under center. It’s a move that could pay off right away if Warner can exploit the Niners secondary with big plays from Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Arizona also has to cut down on penalties, as they were the most penalized team in the league in 2007. That and the fact they allowed 399 points and were 2-6 on the road shows that while they are getting there, they have aways to go, but beating the Niners can get them off to that good start they really need. The Niners are a team that Arizona can and should beat, and a loss here would invoke memories of last season.
A lot is riding for San Fran as well. With the shocking move of putting J.T. O’Sullivan in at QB, it’s Mike Martz’s offense this year the team is trying to learn, and unless they can grasp it even better and quicker, they are going to be just as bad as they were on offense last year, when they were painful to watch.
Look for a lot of throws, swing plays to solid RB Frank Gore, and a lot of TE Vernon Davis, who will step up and make his mark this year as one of the better NFC tight ends. The O-line allowed 55 sacks last year, and if that number is even close in 08, this team is not going to win many games.
San Fran is a work in progress, and the Cards are a team desperate to show the NFL it can play well on the road and get off to a fast start that could land them either a division title or at least a trip to the second season as a wild card. Look for Warner to show poise while making some plays, and for the Cardinals to walk out of San Fran with a much needed win to start the 08 season.