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Friday Five: Cardinals At 49ers


A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-49ers game Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara:

**Avoid the trap

Two games on the nationally televised "Sunday Night Football." Two emotionally charged outcomes against two very good teams. Two late rallies. It's hard not to think that playing against a struggling 49ers club in the middle of the afternoon – possibly in front of a less-than-capacity crowd – could feed into a letdown. Bruce Arians insists that won't be the case, pointing only to the many times the Cardinals have lost to the 49ers in recent years and well, that they are the 49ers. But we will only really know Sunday, when the game is kicked off.

Get after Gabbert

The Cardinals hammered the 49ers the first time the teams played, and it started with the Cards harassing quarterback Colin Kaepernick into two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game. That isn't going to happen again – if for no other reason than Blaine Gabbert is now the San Francisco quarterback. But the Cards need to get after Gabbert. One plus is that he isn't nearly the running threat Kaepernick was. Gabbert has had limited success, and he doesn't have a good offensive line and his top running backs are hurting. This is a game where the Cardinals' defense needs to make an impression – much like they did against the Niners in Week 3.

Re-establish CJ2K

Chris Johnson is still the third-leading rusher in the NFL, although he's been slowed considerably the past two games against stout front sevens. The 49ers do not have a stout front seven, and in fact, it was against the 49ers that Johnson had his first 100-yard game of the season. Getting Johnson going makes all the sense in the world, especially in a road game. Maybe Andre Ellington gets a little more use as well. This seems a week where the rushing yards add up.

Confidence on the corners

Patrick Peterson isn't healthy. He may or may not play, but more importantly, he won't be 100 percent healthy if he does. That puts some pressure on a thin CB corps. Jerraud Powers had a rough night tackling against the Bengals, and Justin Bethel is the man counted upon when Peterson cannot go. Robert Nelson could be active, but it is Powers and Bethel (with some slot help from Tyrann Mathieu) that need to make this go against the Niners if Peterson can't help.

Hold on to the ball for once

One of the more remarkable facts of the last three wins is that the Cardinals have lost the turnover battle in each and still managed to come away with a win. That's a trend that needs to stop, at least from the perspective of turning it over. The Cards, who have had a slew of interceptions, have only had one the last two games. The fumble luck continues to go against the Cardinals this season too. But if the Cards don't turn it over themselves, the worst they can do is be even in the turnover department, and that should be good enough to win.

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