San Francisco 49ers

Leading Off: Carson Palmer could give 49ers trouble

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• The 49ers were lucky to win last week against Atlanta, and they’ll need to play much better today to beat the Cardinals in Arizona. The Cardinals have won seven of eight, including last week’s victory over the Seahawks in Seattle and a Week 12 drubbing of the Colts. Quarterback Carson Palmer – yup, the guy who wasn’t good enough for the Raiders – has completed 334 of 523 passes (63.9 percent) for 3,867 yards and 22 touchdowns (though he has been intercepted 21 times and sacked 40 times). In comparison, Colin Kaepernick is 222 of 382 (58.1 percent) for 2,887 yards and 19 touchdowns. We’re not saying we’d rather have Palmer than Kaepernick, just that Palmer is capable of beating the 49ers.

• Speaking of quarterbacks, look for the Broncos’ Peyton Manning to pass for at least 265 yards today against the Raiders to break the NFL record for most passing yards in a season (5,476). Manning already broke the record for touchdown passes – he’s at 51 and counting – and figures to win his fifth MVP award. As we’ve said before, he should be in any conversation about the greatest quarterback of all time, especially if he leads the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory.

• The NFL thinks it is doing fans a favor by changing the format for next month’s Pro Bowl. Since almost no one cares about the game anymore, the league came up with the genius idea of eliminating the NFC vs. AFC format that has been used since 1971. Instead, players will be “drafted” for the two teams. Instead of all the 49ers players being on the same NFC team, for example, they’ll likely be on opposite sides. If you’re a 49ers fan, do you cheer for Frank Gore or NaVorro Bowman? It’s a dumb idea and takes away the only reason to watch the game. Way to go, NFL.

– Tom Couzens

What to watch

NFL, 49ers at Arizona, 1:25 p.m., FOX40: If the 49ers win and the Rams upset the Seahawks, the 49ers win the NFC West.

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