On the strength of a pass-heavy offense and Anquan Boldin's 106 receiving yards, the 49ers seem to have a solid grasp on at least the No. 5 seed in the playoffs as they lead Arizona 17-7 at the half.
Boldin, who spent the first seven years of his career in Arizona, has been the star so far. He either caught or ran the ball on San Francisco's first three plays, gaining 27 yards. He added a 63-yard catch and run at the end of the first quarter and finished the quarter with all but three Colin Kaepernick's 109 passing yards.
Frank Gore entered the game needing only 47 yards to reach 10,000 for his career. However, he's having a tough time against the league's top-ranked run defense. Gore had 7 yards on eight carries at the half.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, entered the game with 10 wins and an outside shot at the postseason. But they didn't look like a playoff team in the opening quarter. Quarterback Carson Palmer, who had four interceptions last week in Seattle, nearly threw one on the opening series that safety Eric Reid had a shot at catching.
On the second Arizona series, last week's 49ers hero, NaVorro Bowman, stepped in front of a Palmer pass and returned it to the Cardinals 22-yard line. Five plays later, Kaepernick hit Boldin for a four-yard touchdown, Boldin's seventh of the season.
The Cardinals got back in the game in the second quarter with a long Palmer-to-Larry Fitzgerald pass in front of Carlos Rogers. Arizona drove to the San Francisco 1-yard line when, on fourth down, the 49ers linebackers bit on a run-fake and left tight end Jake Ballard all alone in the back of the end zone.
The 49ers answered with a long drive that included two first-down catches by Michael Crabtree and receptions by fullback Anthony Dixon and tackle Joe Staley, who was eligible on the play and who was tackled after a 14-yard gain. But the drive stalled at the 6-yard line and Phil Dawson missed a 24-yard field goal. That halts his streak of made field goals at 27.
The 49ers, Packers and Seahawks are all winning at the half. If those scores hold, the 49ers will open the playoffs in Green Bay no matter what happens in tonight's game against Philadelphia and Dallas.
-- Matt Barrows