Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals look ahead in their schedule and see that in their final eight games, five are opposing teams in the NFC West for San Fran and four are left for the Cardinals. For the 49ers, it is an opportunity to put the rest of the division away and coast to an NFC West title. It can also work the other way. Losing these division games can mean squandering the large lead they currently have. For the Cardinals, it means the best way to crawl back into the playoff picture for whatever small chances still remain.
The two teams face off this Sunday in San Francisco for the first of two games against one another. The rivalry has been one of dominance recently. Each of the past five seasons, one team has swept the other. Three of those seasons the Niners swept the Cards and in two of those seasons, Arizona used their brooms on San Fran.
Over the years there has been some bad blood that has developed. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and Cardinals safety have shown some animosity, as Wilson at one time put a bone-crushing hit on Davis. Davis returned the favor with a TD catch with Wilson covering him. Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and Davis have been know to trash talk on Twitter in seasons past.
But what about now?
Cardinals second-year quarterback John Skelton, who by all indications will be the starter this Sunday in northern California, described the rivalry between the two teams as "intense" and "probably as good as any in football."
SF QB Alex Smith attributed the rivalry to having so many of the same players over the years. "Anytime that happens," he said over a conference call, "you get that rivalry going."
This time around, the Cardinals are seeking to break the four-game losing streak against the Niners, the last of which came on a Monday night and became famous for the Derek Anderson postgame rant, where he made it clear just how serious he takes things.
A good game is what many are expecting. As Skelton said that San Francisco "is a good team" at 8-1 and the Cardinals "are kind of on the upswing" with two straight wins.
We all should expect a dogfight (not the Michael Vick sort). Arizona has a chance to bring San Fran down to earth a bit, while the Niners can get awful close to clinching the division with a victory.
Wouldn't be sweet to see Arizona spoil things for the Niners? After the San Fran dominance of the past two seasons, they are hoping for something toget excited for.