The first game against a division opponent is here. Sunday's matchup will feature your San Francisco 49ers traveling to Arizona to take on the Cardinals
It will be a very difficult matchup first because of it being on the road. Arizona is a tough place to play, and also because Head Coach Bruce Arians is one of the best in the game.
Here are the keys to the 49ers winning the game on both sides of the ball:
When the Cardinals have the ball:
The difference between Week 1 and Week 2 was very simple: against the Vikings, the 49ers got after the quarterback. Against the Steelers, they did not.
If San Francisco is going to come away with a win, they will have to put pressure on Carson Palmer. Palmer's strength is being able to stand in a clean pocket and pick defenses apart, especially with his ability to throw long balls.
The running game will be led by Chris Johnson and rookie sensation David Johnson. For the 49ers to be successful, they will have to do a better job of stopping the run this week than they did last week against DeAngelo Williams.
The Cardinals are likely going to be without former 49ers guard Mike Iupati, which should help. Arizona's offense has played two really bad defenses in New Orleans and Chicago, so they might be more vulnerable than most think against the 49ers, but the Niners will have to play far better than they did last week.
All in all, if San Francisco can pressure Carson Palmer and force him into a mistake or two, they will have a very good chance to come away with a win.
When the 49ers have the ball:
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers should be able to put up points. Last week, they had problems running the ball, especially when Carlos Hyde left the game.
The key will be the offensive line playing better than last week, when each player received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus.
If they can keep Colin Kaepernick upright and block well against Calais Campbell and LaMarr Woodley, then he should be able to find open receivers.
Vernon Davis will be key in this matchup. The Cardinals do have a good secondary with Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tony Jefferson, but they don't really have anyone that can run with Davis, especially if they have to watch Torrey Smith on the outside.
It doesn't look like Reggie Bush will be back, as he will likely be a game time decision, but if the Niners can get the ball to Hyde, Bruce Ellington, and Quinton Patton to compliment Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Vernon Davis, they should be able to gobble up a lot of time of possession.
The tight ends will have to make catches over the middle as the Cardinals will look to keep Boldin and Smith from making big plays.
Carlos Hyde survived a big scare last week and should have a real good opportunity this week to rack up a lot of yards and play well.
I would also expect the Niners to run a couple read option runs to Kaepernick in an attempt to keep the Cardinals honest.
All in all, the Niners will need pass protection, good hands by the receivers, and lots more "tempo, tempo, tempo!" to put up points against the Cardinals.
The Bottom Line:
Arizona has a better chance to win this game, but it should be a hard-fought division matchup and the 49ers have a good chance to pull off the upset, but it will take a full-team effort.