This week's "Monday Night Football" game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET) features the 49ers on the road versus the Cardinals. Scouts Inc. has all the story lines to watch in this NFC West showdown.
The 49ers must identify Cardinals' SS Adrian Wilson before the snap because he may be the most aggressive DB in the NFL. He can blitz very effectively or move up and play in the box in run support. Watching a potential face-off between Wilson and RB Frank Gore will be interesting.
Look for the 49ers to shorten their passing game a little bit with Shaun Hill under center. His arm strength is not as good as J.T. O'Sullivan's and a shorter passing game fits San Francisco's receivers better because they don't have a lot of speed or explosiveness. We should see less seven-step drops and more three- and five-step drops. Look for Gore to be used as an outlet receiver and runner.
Good, but not elite defense
Arizona's defense has been up and down this season. The Cardinals use some exotic defensive schemes under Clancy Pendergast and they can really confuse offenses with their pre-snap looks. They also have a quality pass rush, but for some reason they don't always play with great consistency, especially on the backend. At times, the Cardinals' tackling will get sloppy and their secondary will have some assignment breakdowns, which leads to big plays. But, when they are focused and disciplined this is a good defense. They need more consistency every week to be an elite defense.
They Cardinals have excellent red zone receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Both can elevate, catch fade routes and more often than you might think they can get a matchup on a linebacker. Plus, QB Kurt Warner is as calm as it gets when throwing into tight windows -- which doesn't bode well for the 49ers' secondary.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.