2014 DRAFT GUIDE
49ers look to clinch NFC West against Cardinals

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ - AP Sports Writer
    2012-12-29 23:23

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Just two months ago, the San Francisco 49ers grabbed control of the NFC West from the Arizona Cardinals behind Alex Smith's near perfect performance on a Monday night in the desert.

Oh, how much has changed since.

The slow and steady Smith has been replaced by Colin Kaepernick, a high-risk, high-reward quarterback who coach Jim Harbaugh is counting on to lead the suddenly fragile 49ers (10-4-1) deep into the playoffs. The Cardinals (5-10) are on their fourth starting quarterback in Brian Hoyer and have lost 10 of 11 games to put coach Ken Whisenhunt's job in jeopardy.

One team is headed to the postseason, the other for a head start on the NFL draft. The only question left is where each will be seeded for their final destinations.

San Francisco can clinch its second straight division title and keep its shot at a first-round bye alive in Sunday's regular-season finale against Arizona at Candlestick Park. The once promising Cardinals are 60 minutes away beginning another offseason of upheaval.

``Sometimes in a game like this, anything goes,'' Harbaugh said. ``Their mindset will be to win the game. So you have to be ready. You have to be alert for just about anything.''

At the very least, last week should've reminded the 49ers of that much.

San Francisco's 42-13 shellacking in Seattle handed Harbaugh the worst loss of his NFL coaching career. It showed how flimsy the 49ers and their second-ranked defense can be without Justin Smith, the versatile lineman whose streak of 185 games ended because of a partially torn left triceps. Smith is not expected to play against Arizona and his status for the playoffs remains murky.

Harbaugh has shown the ability to rebound his team quickly. The 49ers are 7-0 after a loss or tie in his tenure, and he'll need to rally his players again at the most important time.

The 49ers can still secure the No. 2 playoff seed - and the first-round bye that comes with it - with a win coupled with a Green Bay loss at Minnesota. If they lose and Seattle (10-5) wins at home against St. Louis, the Seahawks will steal the NFC West and send San Francisco on the road for the first round.

``It's for the NFC West,'' 49ers running back Frank Gore said. ``That was our goal coming into this season - to win the NFC West. We get a chance to do that this Sunday. That's what we want. We're upset about last week. We've got to win.''

Last week alone should provide an attitude strong enough to keep San Francisco sharp.

Hoyer is making his first NFL start, less than three weeks after the Cardinals claimed him off waivers from Pittsburgh. The former Michigan State quarterback spent three seasons as a backup to Tom Brady in New England, was out of a job for most of the year and then relieved Ryan Lindley in Arizona's 28-13 loss to Chicago last week. Hoyer has appeared in 14 NFL games, including 13 with the Patriots. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards with one interception against the Bears while operating an offense that ranks last in the league.

``It's a crazy business, but to me it's the best job in the world,'' Hoyer said.

Quarterback will be near the top of Arizona's to-do list when the season is over, although just who will be in charge of that decision is uncertain.

Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said he will assess the situation after the final game to determine if Whisenhunt comes back for the last year of his contract. General manager Rod Graves also might be gone. If Whisenhunt stays, some of his assistants almost certainly won't.

``It's been tough,'' Whisenhunt said. ``This business is about winning games. And when you don't do that, it makes everything more difficult.''

Arizona started the season with four straight wins and still had a chance to pull even with San Francisco after dropping three straight in October. Then the 49ers routed the Cardinals 24-3 on Oct. 29, a game Smith completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 157.1 rating in a performance that earned NFC offensive player of the week honors.

Smith suffered a concussion the next game against St. Louis, Kaepernick took over and had his own Monday night breakout in a home win against Chicago. Kaepernick, a second-round pick out of Nevada last year with a strong arm and fast feet, is 4-2 as a starter.

The sometimes spectacular, sometimes shaky quarterback will lead an offense that has been depleted by season-ending injuries to wide receivers Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. Tight end Vernon Davis also must clear the league's NFL concussion protocol after getting knocked off his feet by Seattle's Kam Chancellor last week.

The absence of so many key targets will put even more pressure on Kaepernick in a quarterback debate that continues to rage on - maybe this week more than most.

``I just think that Alex worked for seven years to get to the position he was in,'' said Cardinals guard Adam Snyder, who spent seven years playing alongside Smith in San Francisco. ``He was 19-5 (the past two seasons) and had the best QB rating in the league and was doing his job to win games, you know?

``I don't know. It was surprising to me. But, hey, they get paid to make those decisions, and that's the decision they went with.''

--

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Sam BradfordApr 24 06:02p

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota could be selected by the Philadelphia Eagles if the team could make trades with the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, according to one draft rumor. [ More ]

Chris PolkApr 24 05:42p

Philadelphia Eagles restricted free-agent RB Chris Polk's tender offer has been rescinded by the Eagles, according to a source. Polk will become an unrestricted free agent and allowed to sign with any team.

Jaiquawn JarrettApr 24 04:52p

New York Jets restricted free-agent SS Jaiquawn Jarrett signed his tender offer Friday, April 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Hakeem NicksApr 24 01:42p

Free-agent WR Hakeem Nicks (Colts) agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal with the Tennessee Titans Friday, April 24.

Justin BlackmonApr 24 12:42p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is likely done with the Jaguars if he's reinstated into the league, in the opinion of beat writer Ryan O'Halloran.

Adrian PetersonApr 23 05:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson may not be in the Dallas Cowboys' plans after all, according Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Robinson said the Cowboys have not spoken to the Vikings regarding Peterson.

Demaryius ThomasApr 23 03:32p

Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas has decided not to participate in offseason workouts because he does not want to suffer an injury, but general manager John Elway does not [ More ]

Will HillApr 23 03:12p

Baltimore Ravens restricted free-agent FS Will Hill signed his tender offer Thursday, April 23, according to sources. Hill received a one-year deal worth $1.54 million.

Andre EllingtonApr 23 03:02p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington's (foot) injured foot is about 95 percent healed, and Ellington has not suffered any setbacks, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

M. Jones-DrewApr 23 02:22p

Free-agent RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Raiders) will sign a one-day deal to retire as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars next Tuesday, April 28. He played nine seasons and rushed [ More ]

Victor CruzApr 23 02:12p

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) said he believes that he will be ready to play in the season opener next season and play like he did before he suffered the injury.

Justin TuckerApr 23 01:52p

Baltimore Ravens restricted free-agent PK Justin Tucker has signed his one-year tender offer. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Bear PascoeApr 23 12:52p

Free-agent TE Bear Pascoe (Falcons) signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears Thursday, April 23. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sam BradfordApr 23 01:53a

The Philadelphia Eagles and QB Sam Bradford have yet to make significant progress on a contract extension sparking speculation the quarterback might be traded again, although head coach Chip [ More ]

Brandin CooksApr 22 11:43p

New Orleans Saints WR Brandin Cooks (knee) spent time training together with QB Drew Brees during the offseason in San Diego. 'Man, I love everything about him, his makeup, [ More ]

Greg JenningsApr 22 06:13p

Free-agent WR Greg Jennings (Vikings) signed an undisclosed deal with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, April 22.

Philip RiversApr 22 05:33p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers may be losing faith in the organization, according to NFL Network analyst and former Chargers' RB LaDainian Tomlinson. 'The parts around him keep [ More ]

Jacques McClendonApr 22 04:13p

Free-agent OG Jacques McClendon (Jaguars) signed an undisclosed deal with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, April 22.

Adrian PetersonApr 22 02:23p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is not expected to be traded by the Vikings unless the team is overwhelmed by an offer from another team, according to a source. [ More ]

Antonio BrownApr 22 02:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown said he is not participating in voluntary workouts because he is spending time with his newborn child. Brown said he will report to offseason [ More ]

Marvin LewisApr 22 11:33a

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis signed a one-year extension Wednesday, April 22. He's under contract through the 2016 season.

S. RichardsonApr 21 05:23p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Shaquille Richardson (undisclosed) was released Tuesday, April 21, with a failure to disclose physical condition designation.

Adrian PetersonApr 21 01:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson remains a candidate to be traded, and a source close to the situation believes that if he isn't traded before or during the 2015 [ More ]

Dennis PittaApr 20 06:52p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) is participating in the team's voluntary conditioning program that started Monday, April 20. Pitta's career remains in doubt after fracturing his right hip [ More ]

Prince AmukamaraApr 20 05:22p

New York Giants CB Prince Amukamara (biceps) said he's about 90% recovered from a torn biceps he suffered last season.

Adrian WilsonApr 20 05:02p

Updating a previous item, free-agent SS Adrian Wilson (Bears) signed a contract to officially retire with the Arizona Cardinals.

Tim TebowApr 20 03:52p

Free-agent QB Tim Tebow (Patriots) officially signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, April 20. Financial terms were undisclosed.

Adrian PetersonApr 20 01:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is not in attendance for the start of the team's offseason workout program Monday, April 20, according to league sources. However, Peterson hasn't attended [ More ]

Antonio BrownApr 20 11:02a

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown is seeking a new contract and could hold out from minicamps and training camp, according to sources.

Adrian WilsonApr 20 07:22a

Free-agent SS Adrian Wilson (Bears) is expected to retire Monday, April 20, and join the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff. The Cardinals, the team Wilson played for from 2001-2012, have announced a press conference.

Tim TebowApr 19 07:42p

Free-agent QB Tim Tebow (Patriots) is expected to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, April 20.

Stefen WisniewskiApr 18 01:02p

Free-agent C Stefen Wisniewski (Raiders) signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday, April 18. Financial terms were undisclosed.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group