Five to Watch: AZ Cardinals vs. SF 49ers

Monday Night's game against the San Francisco 49ers is more of a statement game than anything else. The Cardinals pulled off some big-time victories this year but nothing matters until they clinch the division, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the playoffs for the second-straight season. These five players performances will be the difference between a win over the 49ers or a sweep to them.

1. Darnell Dockett: The sixth-year defensive end is playing the best football of his career. He's registered a sack in four out of the last five games. Dockett's tank is full and should continue to be through the post-season. Every tackle, every sack, every pass defensed puts him one argument closer to a new lucrative contract. Dockett and the rest of the defense will face a middle-of-the-road quarterback in Alex Smith. While Smith is coming off a career game against the Seahawks, despite the loss, Smith is vulnerable against the better teams of the league. The 49ers have kept Smith sack-less against the likes of Jacksonville and Houston but against Indianapolis and Tennessee, Smith went to the ground four times in each game.

2. Larry Fitzgerald: The All-Pro wideout is always a player to watch but look for a statement game against the 49ers. Fitzgerald has struggled to go long for most of the season. But Kurt Warner looked to change that ailment in last week's win over the Minnesota Vikings. Warner looked for Fitzgerald deep and found him for Fitzgerald's longest play of the season, 34 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers give up the sixth-most passing yards in the league. Look for Warner to air it out all day to Fitzgerald.

3. Bryant McFadden: The fifth-year Pittsburgh Steelers transplant has the cards stacked against him. Teams respect Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's athleticism more than McFadden's. Teams opt to throw toward McFadden, but he has done his part compiling 57 tackles and 14 passes defensed (21st in the league among all defensive backs), a career high and the season isn't over yet. The 49ers' passing game can easily be exploited on Monday night. McFadden should quietly lead the charge.

4. Jeremy Bridges: The word is that Mike Gandy is still nursing a pelvic injury. He was inactive against the Vikings last week, and there is a good possibility that the story line will be the same on Monday night. Bridges stepped in for the injured Gandy. The offensive line has never looked better. While the success is based on a number of aspects, Bridges performance ranks high on the list. He kept Jared Allen off the box score. He should be able to do the same with the 49ers defensive front that is not too shabby.

5. Neil Rackers: Not a very glamorous choice but Rackers has looked solid all year. The Cardinals offense rarely needs the 33-year-old kicker but when they do, he pulls his weight. Rackers has had 13 field goal attempts on the season and has only missed one.


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