Believe it or not, picking the San Francisco 49ers over the Arizona Cardinals is one of the hardest choices to make thus far. No hesitation whatsoever in regards to games against the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, but once you start getting into divisional matchups, things get a little more interesting.
Now, I've never considered home and away games to be that much different, outside of how far the 49ers typically have to travel. I don't consider Candlestick Park to be this place where it's hard for opposing teams to win. So the fact that the game is in Arizona really doesn't have any bearing on my prediction for this one.
The fact that it's a Monday Night Football game against the Cardinals is what throws a wrench in my predictive works.
For whatever reason, Arizona just knows what's up on primetime, especially against the 49ers. They generally meet on Monday Night Football, and the game is generally very crazy. Rarely does the pregame matchup to watch or the prediction come through when these two teams meet, as every player seems to get into it and really ... embrace the rivalry aspect of things.
That being said, things have cooled since the 49ers have become, how you say, a good football team. Jim Harbaugh has changed things in San Francisco, and the 49ers players need to get pumped up for this rivalry game a lot less than they used to. Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis can jaw all they want prior to the game, but when it's all said and done, this rivalry was built on insecurity and a lack of real contenders coming out of the division.
San Francisco needed the Cardinals to make that jump to the next level. They needed to be able to fight for something, even if it was a terrible NFC West. Well, the division looks better as a whole this year, but the 49ers are in a different league at this point. Arizona's record is fun and all, but they won't be able to sustain it given how things have looked at multiple key positions.
Anything can happen on Monday, but smart money is on the 49ers picking up another win.