Are Gore, Niners Primed to Run Away with MNF Matchup vs. Cardinals?

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals will square off on Monday night in a  pivotal NFC-West battle due to have playoff implications.

The Cardinals, who led the division just two weeks ago with a quick 4-0 start, have now lost two straight and are within one loss of losing grip of the NFC-West race.  The two-game drought included a 21-14 misstep against the Minnesota Vikings when they allowed running back Adrian Peterson to run for over 153 yards and a touchdown last week.

During the two-game span, Arizona, unfortunately, saw it’s expensive quarterback Kevin Kolb go down with a rib injury and is said to miss up to six weeks.  Still, the Cardinals are well-equipped to handle such a loss.  John Skelton, the team’s 2012 opening day starter, has returned after a lengthy injury layoff, to test his luck against one of the best defenses in the league.

In last week’s matchup, Skelton threw for 262 yards and a touchdown in the team’s second loss of the season.  However, the Cardinals did see some improvement from running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who tallied 104 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  Skelton and Stephens-Howling will be well tested against the 49ers come Monday night.

“I don’t think anyone is packing it in, no one is ready to call it a season,” said Skelton (via Kansascity.com).  “We’re going to get back to our winning ways, starting with San Francisco this week.  It will be another dog fight with an NFC West opponent but we just have to be ready for it.”

The 49ers are the supposed frontrunners in an improved NFC-West division, even after their losses to the New York Giants and Vikings this season.  They rattled off a hard-fought 12-6 win over Seattle in Week 7, thanks to a late touchdown catch by tight end Delanie Walker, and are poised to make a have another big game in Arizona.

Last week, San Francisco got a boost from their running game, a story that hasn’t got the bulk of the attention this season with the new additions of wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.  But they make do.  In fact, Frank Gore added 131 yards on 16 carries and caught over 50 yards in their bounce back win against Seattle to regain their division-leading swagger.

Still, the 49ers have their question marks.  Alex Smith has been inconsistent as of late, notching a meager 140 yards on a meager 14-for-23 passing day.  In the last two games, he has been less than “managerial” in his passes, throwing for three interceptions in that span.

The game will be another tightly fought battle of NFC-West rivals as the passing game looks to take a back seat in a matchup sure to be decided on the ground.  Even if both defenses are playing superbly well.

Prediction:  49ers squeak out another barn-burner, 17-9.

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