So it has all come down to this.
The Arizona Cardinals (10-5) and San Francisco 49ers (11-4) will close out the regular season in Glendale, with a possible playoff berth on the line for the home team.
The last time these teams played, the Cardinals lost a tough one in San Francisco by a score of 32-20. Arizona was competitive, but turned the ball over four times in the game.
The Cardinals are coming off a big 17-10 win over the Seahawks in Seattle while the 49ers clinched a playoff spot by knocking off the Atlanta Falcons at home on Monday Night 34-24.
Each team has something to play for, and neither team is particularly fond of the other. Should make this a good one.
Sunday, December 29
Mario Manningham placed on IR (ESPN.com)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Mario Manningham, who never fully bounced back from a December 2012 injury in which he tore his ACL and PCL, is out for the rest of the season. The 49ers placed the former Super Bowl hero on injured reserve Friday.
Chiefs, 49ers lead Pro Bowl roster selections (ESPN.com)
Kansas City and San Francisco will have plenty of clout in Honolulu if they don't make it to New Jersey for the Super Bowl. The NFL revealed Friday that the Chiefs and 49ers each had eight players voted into the Pro Bowl.
Greg Roman likely to ride coach carousel (ESPN.com)
Last week, we wrote to expect to hear Greg Roman's name often when it comes to the coaching carousel, which is just about to heat up. Tuesday, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported that if the New York Jets fire Rex Ryan, Roman, the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator, would be on their short list.
Familiar foe awaits Crabtree (SFGate.com)
On his third snap of his first career game against the 49ers in 2011, Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson was done in by a Michael Crabtree specialty: the double move. Peterson bit when he thought Crabtree was running a shallow route, but the 49ers wide receiver turned upfield and burned him for a 38-yard reception.
49ers WR Quinton Patton up with Manningham out (49ers.com)
Within an hour of Jim Harbaugh revealing that Mario Manningham would miss Sunday's season finale in Arizona, the 49ers announced they were placing Manningham on Injured Reserve. The early end to the No. 3 wideout's season paves the way for rookie Quinton Patton.
Infographic: 49ers at Cardinals Preview (49ers.com)
Some key statistics between the two teams meeting up in Week 17 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Friday, December 27
Mike Iupati earns praise in return (ESPN.com)
The San Francisco 49ers' offensive line is, once again, intact and it played at a high level Monday night against Atlanta. Left guard Mike Iupati returned to the lineup after missing four games with a knee sprain.
Manningham's health questions linger (ESPN.com)
It appears Mario Manningham could miss his second straight game Sunday at Arizona. Manningham did not practice Thursday because of a lingering knee issue.
Bowman says his focus is on improving (ESPN.com)
NaVorro Bowman's name has been getting some traction in talk about the NFL defensive player of the year award. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been pumping him up for the award.
Double Coverage: 49ers at Cardinals (ESPN.com)
ESPN.com's Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson discuss Sunday's big game in Glendale, with playoff hopes on the line for Arizona.
Cell Pitch: 49ers' Roman made calls for Cardinals' Dray (SFGate.com)
Before the 2010 draft, then-Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman called NFL teams to talk up Jim Dray, an unheralded tight end whose workouts weren't about to wow anyone. Roman, now the 49ers offensive coordinator, urged teams to take a closer look at his diamond in the rough.
Arizona run defense learned from mistakes vs. 49ers (CSNBayArea.com)
The 49ers imposed their will against the Arizona Cardinals two months ago. The 49ers wanted to run the ball, and that's exactly what they did with an 18-play, 89-yard drive that chewed up 9-plus minutes.
Cardinals don't see the same Crabtree ... yet (CSNBayArea.com)
Michael Crabtree might not look like the same wide receiver the Arizona Cardinals have been accustomed to seeing. But the guy who caught five passes for 102 yards on Monday against the Atlanta Falcons was not too shabby, either.
49ers-Cardinals matchup No. 3: Iupati vs. Dockett (CSNBayArea.com)
Mike Iupati comes face-to-face with Darnell Dockett, a strong run defender on Arizona's defensive front. The Cardinals own the No. 1 run defense in the league with a defense that Roman likens to an old-fashioned 5-2 alignment.
Thursday, December 26
• NaVorro Bowman adds to DPOY cause (ESPN.com)
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers was a name Jim Harbaugh tossed up as a potential defensive player of the year candidate earlier in the season. Now with a signature moment on his highlight reel with a victory-sealing pick-six against the Falcons, Harbaugh knows this much: "It's sure not going to hurt him (in his DPOY campaign)."
• Crabtree likely to join 49ers' 'hands team' (CSN Bay Area)
After failing to recover an Atlanta Falcons' onside kick Monday, the 49ers are looking to reconfigure their "hands team" in the event that they face another onside kick attempt Sunday against the Cardinals or in the playoffs. In effect, Michael Crabtree -- who has the best hands coach Jim Harbaugh has ever seen -- will see some time on the special teams unit.
• Healthy 49ers roster awaits regular-season finale (CSN BayArea)
The 49ers roster will be as full as it's been all season when they take the field Sunday against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
• Scoreboard watching will not influence 49ers' plan (CSN BayArea)
With hope still alive in the 49ers' quest for a third consecutive NFC West title, the team is expected to play Sunday's contest against the Cardinals in full force, despite having already secured a playoff berth with Monday's win over the Falcons.
"Too much at stake. Too big of a game," Harbaugh said. "As you know, too many things can happen and there's too much at stake."
• Fallback plan at fullback has smashing debut (SFGate.com)
Fullback Will Tukuafu was brought in after Bruce Miller was placed on the injured reserve list. And though 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh anticipated Anthony Dixon would play the majority of snaps at fullback, Tukuafu was used more in the team's last game.
Expect a combination moving forward.
Wednesday, December 25
• 49ers' Harbaugh beaming over finish (SFGate.com)
Only one team worked out Penn State inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman before the 2010 NFL draft: the Falcons.
Nearly four years later, Atlanta obviously wishes it would have followed up by selecting Bowman, a third-round pick who has blossomed with the 49ers into a two-time All-Pro with a knack for tormenting the Falcons.
• Must/happen can't happen against the Cardinals (ESPN.com)
Must happen: Get the ball to Vernon Davis. When the 49ers beat Arizona 32-20 in October, Davis took over. He had one of the great all-time days by a tight end in NFL history. He had eight catches for 180 yards. The Cardinals have struggled covering the tight end this season. The 49ers have to exploit it, especially after Davis was held catch-less against Atlanta. It was the first time he didn't have a catch all season.
Can't happen: The 49ers can't let the Cardinals pass at will against them. The 49ers have been good all season on defense. But the pass defense struggled against the Falcons. Matt Ryan completed 37 passes and threw for 348 yards. The Cardinals can be dangerous in the passing game. If Carson Palmer gets in a groove with receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, they can easily stay in this game.
• Fullback committee up next for 49ers (ESPN.com)
We have some clarity to how the San Francisco 49ers are going to handle the fullback position in wake of Bruce Miller's season-ending scapula injury.
It is going to be a two-player committee.
Both Anthony Dixon and newly signed Will Tukuafu played Monday in the 49ers' 34-24 win against Atlanta. Coach Jim Harbaugh indicated both will continue to play moving forward.
• Will Greg Roman get some coaching looks? (ESPN.com)
It is going to be coaching season soon, and there could be a chance the San Francisco 49ers' staff attracts interest.
Tuesday, ESPN analyst John Clayton mentioned San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman as a potential candidate for the New York Jets if they fire coach Rex Ryan.
• Watch out for the red-hot 49ers (MercuryNews.com)
The hottest team in the NFL is putting the heat on the team that owns the best record in the National Football Conference.
The 49ers closed out Candlestick Park on Monday night and won their fifth straight game by rallying to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-24. The Niners, 11-4, jumped to second in our weekly power rankings and are only one game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West. They will win the division title by beating the Cardinals in Arizona if the Rams win in Seattle on Sunday.