49ers at Cardinals preview: Three keys to a 49er victory 

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS ... Much like the St. Louis Rams, these aren’t the same Cardinals the 49ers played in Week 1. Arizona has a balanced offense that can attack on both land and air. And that means the Niners will need more Joe Nedney to make the score close. CARDINALS 24, 49ers 12

1 The Niners take on an Arizona Cardinals team that let a victory slip away in their Week 1 matchup. But loss may have helped the Cards because now, they’re very much in the NFC West hunt (imagine if the Niners had started the season with that loss). With Alex Smith out for at least another two weeks, Trent Dilfer will make another start for the Red and Gold. That means Vernon Davis must be an important element to the Niners’ success on Sunday. And that doesn’t mean throwing key blocks. The Niners need this guy to catch some passes.

2 Running back Frank Gore rushed for 55 yards the first time he faced the Cardinals. He also scored his first touchdown of the season. But he hasn’t sniffed paydirt in the last eight games (all losses) and he ran for an abysmal 32 yards on 15 carries last week against the Rams. While hopes of a 2,000-yard season are long gone, Gore must find a way to salvage the 2007 campaign.

3 Nate Clements was signed to an eight-year $80 million contract because a bulk of the elite receivers reside in the NFC West. The man on top of that list is the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, who has 66 catches for 904 yards and four TDs. Stopping him is key.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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