Cards have hopes of division crown, 12 wins

The Arizona Cardinals still have a chance to win 12 games this season and a division title.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Bruce Arians will be in multitasking mode more than usual Sunday.

The Cardinals coach plans to scoreboard watch and follow the St. Louis-Seattle game with keen interest. How that game is going might determine how he strategizes and uses his players against the San Francisco 49ers given the NFC West title is on the line.

While it seems most possible that Arizona will earn the No. 5 seed, the Cardinals (11-4) need to beat the 49ers (7-8) and have the Rams win at Seattle to claim the division.

There's a little added incentive for playoff-qualified Arizona, too.

"We definitely want to win because the franchise has never won 12 in the regular season," Arians said. "We want to be able to have our little piece of history with this football team, and then decide also to be smart for next week."

San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh is likely coaching his final game for the franchise, with the sides expected to part ways shortly after the season ends.

The 49ers try to snap a four-game losing streak — their first under Harbaugh — and avoid a losing record.

"I think that's where everyone's mind is at," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "We want to win this last game and make sure, even though we can't get into the playoffs, that we finish the season right."

Some things to watch in the regular-season finale:

HARBAUGH'S HURRAH: Harbaugh could be out as soon as hours after game's end, or Monday. He has one season remaining on his $25 million, five-year contract, but the relationship between him and CEO Jed York seems to have worn thin. Harbaugh has kept his mouth shut all season through the speculation about his future, saying this week: "The high road's the only road I know. Let's keep on that way."

Harbaugh will command plenty of interest and his alma mater, Michigan, has reportedly already expressed such interest. The Oakland Raiders could be another suitor.

"It's very shocking to me. Jimmy's done an unbelievable job," Arians said. "One bad season shouldn't deter from what they've built there."

CARDINALS D: Arizona's aggressive, smothering defense is drawing comparisons to one of the NFL's all-time great units, at least from 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

"It's about the closest thing that reminds me of the old Chicago Bears defense," Roman said of the 1985 NFL champs.

Kaepernick realizes he will have to make good decisions under constant pressure.

"They just play all-around good team football and that's what makes it tough when you have people flying around chasing the ball," he said.

QB SWITCHEROO: Arians began the week planning to start rookie Logan Thomas under center, but changed his mind and decided on Ryan Lindley. It might not matter as long as Drew Stanton gets healthy for the playoffs, but even that was in question Friday as he is treated for an infection in his sprained right knee.

Lindley has never thrown a touchdown pass in 225 career attempts.

"We've been through this quarterback thing all season, between Carson and then Drew, then Drew and then Ryan and Logan playing also," Arians said earlier in the week. "It's not anything new for us."

Arizona has gone two games without a touchdown, scoring all 18 of its points on field goals.

49ERS INJURIES: The Niners will hardly be at full strength, with injuries to key players at key positions on both sides of the ball.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, nursing a tender knee, figures he might need to play out of necessity in what could be his final game with San Francisco as a prospective free agent.

"We're short on receivers. I can give it a go one more time," Crabtree said. "Those guys over there, Arizona, we've been fighting for years. End it with a bang."

STOPPING THE RUN, STOPPING GORE: Frank Gore needs 38 yards for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and eighth in his 10 NFL seasons. He'd be the 11th player in NFL history with eight 1,000-yard seasons.

While this could be his last game in a San Francisco uniform, general manager Trent Baalke told Gore this past week the team would like to keep him around — and the feeling is mutual.

The Niners' 355 yards rushing last Saturday against the Chargers were most in franchise history and most by NFL team since Minnesota's 378 vs. San Diego on Nov. 4, 2007.

"Right now offensively they're running the ball as well as I've seen them in years," Arians said. "They're back to doing everything successfully they've done with Colin and Frank."


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