"It's a division game. (The) 49ers," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It's an opportunity for us to finish well and going against a good football team."
The 49ers and Cardinals have experienced some heated and close games in the recent past. However, earlier this season the 49ers trounced Arizona 24-3 in a Monday night game. Whisenhunt believes the familiarity and rivalry will help the Cardinals show up to play before heading into the offseason.
"I'm sure that doesn't hurt," he said. "I know we have a lot of respect for that football team. They've been very good the last two seasons, and you also want to win. It's important for us to play well. And I think our team will be motivated to come in there give it our best shot."
Alex Smith was the quarterback the last time the 49ers played the Cardinals. In his final full game at quarterback before sustaining a concussion and getting benched, Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"I can't comment much on a quarterback because we've had our share of making moves with quarterbacks during the year," Whisenhunt said. "He played well against us. And he's played well for them, and I have a lot of respect for that. But they've done a good job all year. (Colin) Kaepernick's got in there and played well, also. There's not a lot to complain about when they have the record they have. They have a chance to win the division."
Injuries and poor play have led the Cardinals to play quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley nearly equal amounts this season. Brian Hoyer could be in line for a start Sunday. Whisenhunt said he will make an announcement Wednesday afternoon which quarterback will play against the 49ers.
In any event, the Cardinals' main objective in the offseason will be to solidify the quarterback position.
"I'm sure that's a question, if you look at teams in the NFL, the ones that have stability at that position, consistency of play, it's an important component," Whisenhunt said. "We haven't gotten the consistency out of that position that we needed. And that's something you always look to try to attain."
--In six quarters without the services of 49ers' All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, the 49ers have surrendered nine touchdowns on defense. Smith is out indefinitely with an unspecified injury to his left arm/elbow.
"I haven't noticed anything different from an attack," Whisenhunt said. "I think the 49ers still look good defensively. I mean, when you're a good football team like they are, the next guy steps up and plays well. We're certainly very aware of how good of a player Justin Smith is. But I think they still play very well even without him."