Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, January 2, 2011, 4:15 pm EST, TV: FOX
Opening Line: 49ers -7
Current Line: 49ers -6
Opening Total: 38
Current Total: 39
Money Line: 49ers -255 / Cardinals +215
It has been an extremely disappointing year for both the San Francisco 49ers (5-10) and the Arizona Cardinals (5-10) heading into their final NFC West matchup of the season on Sunday. The 49ers (-6) were the preseason favorites to win the division but got off to a brutal 0-5 start while the Cardinals expected to be more competitive in their quest for a third straight NFC West title.
Neither team had a quarterback who could consistently win games, which is why they will watch Seattle and St. Louis battle it out for the division title and a playoff berth on Sunday night. San Francisco relieved head coach Mike Singletary of his duties following a 25-17 road loss to the Rams last week.
Singletary has been replaced with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula for the regular-season finale, and All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis will miss the first game of his career with a broken hand. A Hall of Famer as a player, Singletary never could really decide whether Alex Smith or Troy Smith belonged under center, switching between them three times during the stretch with the team’s postseason hopes on the line. Alex Smith will start again when the 49ers face the Cardinals, who have had their own problems trying to replace Kurt Warner after he retired.
Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt released Matt Leinart before the season started and anointed free-agent acquisition Derek Anderson the starter. But Anderson melted under the pressure and was even caught laughing at the end of the team’s last meeting with San Francisco in Week 12, resulting in an embarrassing 27-6 home loss on national television. He started one more game before giving way to rookie John Skelton, who has started the last three games.
Skelton may or may not be the future for the Cardinals, but he has led them to two wins in the last three games. Without being forced to throw the ball a ton, he has managed the offense and thrown one touchdown and one interception without totaling more than 196 passing yards in any game. They are coming off a surprising 27-26 win over Dallas on Christmas Day thanks to a pair of interception returns for touchdowns thrown by Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna before he left the game with a strained abdominal muscle.
San Francisco has won three of the last four meetings with Arizona, going 4-0 against the spread. The UNDER has cashed in the last three games between the teams and is 4-2 in the past six games for the Cardinals overall.
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