The Arizona Cardinals are once again the crème of the NFC West.
Coming into this week Arizona sits 8-4 atop the division thanks to an offense that’s sixth in the NFC in scoring with 297 points.
In addition the Cardinals are fifth in the NFL in passing yards (266.8), ninth in points (24.8) and tenth in total yards (360.9) per game.
Credit to that high-flying offense rests on the arm of ageless wonder Kurt Warner. In spite of being 38 years-old the 12 year vet has passed for 3,003 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Warner has shown that last year was no aberration and his play has some seeing the Cardinals capable of making another surprise Super Bowl run.
Helping in Warner’s success is his trio of wide-outs that remains unchanged from last year. Larry Fitzgerald, one of the game’s best receivers, tops the troupe with a league-leading 10 TDs and 969 receiving yards.
Close behind are Anquan Boldin (763 yards and four TDs) and Steve Breaston (579 yards and three TDs).
Statistically the Cardinals’ run game may be an afterthought (averaging a paltry 94.1 yards per game) but on the field it has shown marked improvement and the ability to change games.
Credit for that rests in the emergence of rookie Beanie Wells who has 517 yards and four TDs. Then again Tim Hightower has not been too shabby with 535 yards and six TDs.
All of those offensive weapons for Arizona should be on display tonight against a resilient 5-7 San Francisco 49ers team at 8:30pm on ESPN.
For the record the Niners deserve props for coming out of the dungeons of the division and being a team of note this season.
San Fran pushed Minnesota to the brink of defeat and has solid wins against the Jaguars, Bears and Cardinals.
As a team the 49ers have issues on offense with team numbers that fail to impress (the squad is in the bottom half of the league in almost every statistical category).
In a way much of that ineffectiveness stems from a lack of sustained production at the quarterback position (Alex Smith is just getting into a groove with 13 TDs after being a benchwarmer behind Shaun Hill most of the season).
Nevertheless the team has shown some bright spots. Running back Frank Gore is a great talent (668 yards, six TDs) and only lost playing time due to injury will keep him back from a 1,000 yard season.
Team captain Vernon Davis has enjoyed a breakout season with 781 yards and 10 TDs.
For all of those offensive bright spots the key to any chance of a San Fran upset is their defense. The Niners are an eye-opening fifth in run defense allowing just 95.8 yards per game.
Among the key defensive players are Patrick Willis (with his 123 tackles) and Manny Lawson (with a team-best six sacks).
However San Fran struggle defending deep balls as they allow over 250 yards through the air, a fact that bodes well for Arizona’s pass-happy offense.
This reporter sees Warner going off for 300 plus yards and three TDs in a solid 37-26 Arizona win.