Birdseye View Of What Cardinals Should Watch

The Cardinals are licking their wounds and relishing in their big Cowboys win. The bye couldn't have come at a better time as they must face four out of their next six opponents on the road. The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants are both on that agenda. The two face off on Sunday and is a good game for Arizona to keep an eye on. Here's everything you need to know about Sunday's matchup.

The Cardinals took care of the division foes, the San Francisco 49ers in week one. It was killing two birds with one stone, as it was a divisional win and a victory on the road. Ken Whisenhunt and crew couldn't have asked for anything more.

Since then, Arizona's winning on the road came to a complete halting screech as it dropped all of the next road trip matches. In order to stay in first place and earn a playoff berth, the Cardinals need to take care of business at home and everywhere their schedule takes them.

But the two opponents that are facing each other on Sunday will be home games for the Cardinals, the 49ers and the reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants. The two play on Sunday and is a game that Arizona should be watching. Here's what's going on with those two squads:

San Francisco 49ers (2-4) at New York Giants (4-1)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 E GAMEDATE: 10/19/08 SURFACE: FieldTurf FOX (Dick Stockton, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver) SERIES: 27th regular-season meeting. The series is tied at 13-13. The Giants defeated the 49ers 33-15 last year at Giants Stadium. The teams have also met seven times in the playoffs, with the 49ers holding a 4-3 advantage.

PREDICTION: Giants 34-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz certainly can't be accused of ignoring RB Frank Gore, but he will abandon the run too easily during some stretches. Considering QB J.T. O'Sullivan has been sacked 23 times and thrown eight interceptions, Martz must allow Gore to be the bell cow against the Giants' aggressive front seven. For his part, O'Sullivan must improve his 54.2 passer rating on third downs to extend drives.

The 49ers can only hope that Giants QB Eli Manning is slowed physically by the bruised chest and mentally by the three picks he suffered through Monday night. The secondary has been burned by too many big plays, and Manning has plenty of weapons with which to ignite the fire. San Francisco's ability to avoid the big pass plays is directly tied to how well it defends the running game to be less vulnerable to play-action.

KEY INJURIES: 49ers: LB Manny Lawson (hamstring) could return after missing two games; RT Jonas Jennings (shoulder) is likely out; WR Bryant Johnson (groin/hamstring) continues to play at less than 100 percent. Giants: C Shaun O'Hara (toe) is expected to play; WLB Gerris Wilkinson (knee) is day-to-day.

FAST FACTS: Gore leads the NFL with 720 yards from scrimmage. ... The Giants recorded six sacks in last year's meeting, including 1.5 by DE Justin Tuck.


49ers: The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for a physical game on Sunday against the New York Giants. And that does not appear to play to their strength.

When asked if the 49ers are capable of playing a physical game against a physical opponent, coach Mike Nolan answered, "We'll see when we play the game this week. We'll find out."

The 49ers have seemingly been pushed around on both sides of the ball this season. Their defensive and offensive lines have generally been regarded as the team's biggest weaknesses.

Defensively, the 49ers face their biggest challenge of the season, as the Giants own the No. 1-rated offense in the NFL. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and their running backs are averaging an outrageous 6.1 yards a carry.

"We've not played well enough to win the last few weeks, so whatever it is -- physical or not -- we need to play well enough to win this week," Nolan said.

The Giants lead the league, averaging 181.2 yards rushing per game. The 49ers' run defense is ranked 22nd in the league, surrendering an average of 124.2 yards.

Giants 265-pound running back Brandon Jacobs appears to be the worst-possible matchup for the 49ers' run defense. He is a powerful back who can pound away at San Francisco's suspect run defense.

"You don't want him getting started, because once he gets started, that's a crucial guy you have to bring down," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said.

"He's got some big feet to be a big guy. I don't think there's anything easy about bringing him down. He's not like the normal big guy who can do just one thing. He can outrun you if he has to. Or he can run over you and break tackles."


In the end, it could turn out to be a crucial decision, but for now it just seems to make Giants head coach Tom Coughlin nervous.

He has two viable place-kickers, Lawrence Tynes and John Carney.

Tynes was the incumbent, kicked all last season and among his highlights was the 47-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship Game that took the Giants past the home-standing Green Bay Packers and into Super Bowl XLII -- which they won.

But Tynes sprained his knee in training camp, forcing the Giants to look elsewhere. The fact that they did not place him on injured reserve indicated they were confident he'd be able to return this season. So they hired the 44-year-old Carney, and all he has done in his relief role is make all 15 extra point tries and all 12 field-goal opportunities he has had. That's right, he has a perfect record.

So the other day Tynes announced to the media that he's ready and that he expects to be the team's kicker Sunday when the Giants face the visiting San Francisco 49ers and attempt to recover from their Monday night loss in Cleveland, the one that spoiled their perfect (then 4-0) season.

Will Tynes really be the Giants' kicker? Will Coughlin really dismiss the veteran who has accounted for 51 points so far without missing a thing? Will he continue to carry two kickers on the active roster, since Carney isn't hurt and to say he is just wouldn't be allowed?

Remember, Tynes is prone to snap decisions. In that overtime period last January, even before Coughlin had the chance to decide whether to go for it on fourth down or punt, he ran onto the field. That caused punter Jeff Feagles, the holder, to run after him. And he kicked it, an almost impossible effort in swirling winds and below-zero temperature.

But Tynes doesn't make decisions concerning the roster. It will be interesting to see who kicks on Sunday. There is a final possibility -- Carney's kickoff distance is better; maybe he'll do that and Tynes will get the chance to kick for points.

In any case, it is likely that Coughlin will retain Carney's services at least for one more week, if he uses Tynes, to make sure there is no ongoing knee problem.

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