The three biggest things to watch for Saturday when the Cardinals play the 49ers at State Farm Stadium:
Kyler To D-Hop, Trending
Those concerns DeAndre Hopkins wasn't being targeted enough? Those have faded, thanks to Hopkins' back-to-back 100-yard games and the passing game coming back around to the heights it was reaching earlier in the season. Murray even had a career-high with 406 yards passing last weekend. Now, is 400 yards passing each week in the offing? Probably not. But the Cards did a good job on offense the first time they played the 49ers and the Niners aren't in the same place, both with personnel or motivation as their lost season comes to a close. Hopkins, in his Cardinals' debut, exploited the Niners for 14 catches and 151 yards that day. He and Murray seem to be on a similar path heading into this one.
The Pressure That Was Difficult To Predict
Vance Joseph acknowledged it was a scary moment earlier this year when Chandler Jones went down with a season-ending injury. Where was that production going to come from? It turns out, from within. Jones, Haason Reddick and Dennis Gardeck combined for 20 sacks last year – 19 of them from Jones. This year, with two games left, the trio has 19, thanks to Reddick (11) and Gardeck (7) exploding on the scene. That help could take a hit, given Gardeck's knee injury. But Reddick has been great, Markus Golden remains a factor, and Joseph has continued to make the pass rush work. Plus, they get to get after 49ers QB C.J. Beathard, whom the Cards have sacked 13 times in the three career starts he has made against Arizona.
Win, And Maybe You're In (Lose, And Maybe You're Out)
It's the most basic of realities for the Cardinals, and the biggest picture view. The Cards are trying to get into the postseason, and they have control of whether they do that. Win their last two games, it's a lock. Win Saturday against the 49ers and get the Bears to somehow lose to the Jaguars – who currently are so bad they own the No. 1 pick in the draft – and the Cardinals also lock up a spot. Beyond that, it gets dicey. The Bears, one game behind the Cards, own the tiebreaker, so the Cards can't afford to tie in the standings. The Cards' matchup against the Rams in the final game also isn't ideal, given that the Cards have yet to beat the Rams under Sean McVay. You play to win the game. And you play to get to the postseason, and both things are necessary.