NFC West Preview: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, 12/11/11, 4:05 PM EST, TV:  FOX
Opening Point Spread:  San Francisco -3.5
Current Betting Line:  San Francisco -3.5
Opening Total:  40.5
Current Total:  39.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Arizona Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb didn't play in the first meeting between these fierce NFC West rivals this year

San Francisco clinched the NFC West division by picking up a 26-0 win over the St. Louis Rams as 14-point home favorites last week, falling below the total for the sixth time in seven games.  “It’s a great thing winning the division,” commented 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.  The 49ers are not focused on trying to obtain a first-round bye in this year’s playoffs.  At 4-1, the team has the league’s second best road record in 2011, with the only undefeated team being the Green Bay Packers.  San Francisco is 10-1 ATS on the year and the ‘under’ is 7-5 in its 12 games overall.

The 49ers will likely be without star linebacker Patrick Willis, who is suffering from a hamstring injury, ranking second on the team with 93 tackles and has been the key player in holding opponents to just 71.8 rushing yards per game.  San Francisco has won five consecutive meetings in this particular series, including a 23-7 win in this year’s first meeting as 10-point home favorites.  Quarterback Alex Smith played great in that contests, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

Arizona must be commended for not giving up on its season, winning four of five games, including a 19-13 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys as four-point home underdogs last week.  The Cardinals will be led by quarterback Kevin Kolb for the second straight week after coming back from a toe injury, passing for 203 of his 247 yards in the second half against the Cowboys.  “It was really nice for him to make those strides,” commented Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt about his performance.  Arizona is 4-1 ATS as a home underdog of 3.5 to 7 points.

The Cardinals have lost the last four meetings in this series by an average of 21 points, but are a much better team heading into this particular contest.  Arizona was absolutely terrible on Nov. 20 in San Francisco, as backup quarterback John Skelton completed just 6 of 19 passes for 99 yards and had three interceptions.  On the defensive side of the ball, the unit must concentrate on stopping 49ers running back Frank Gore, who ran 24 times for 88 yards in the earlier meeting.

Bettors will likely back the Cardinals due to their 18-7-1 ATS mark as a home underdog of 3.5 to 10 points, while the 49ers are 3-9-1 ATS as a road favorites.

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