This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cardinals matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX-TV), at Candlestick Park.
49ers OLB Aldon Smith vs. Cardinals LT Nate Potter/D'Anthony Batiste
Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, second season, Missouri
Potter (76): 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, rookie, Boise State
Batiste (74): 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, seventh season, Louisiana-Lafayette
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Aldon Smith has not recorded a sack in the past two games, including six quarters of action without defensive tackle Justin Smith on the field.
But Smith still has a chance to make history in the 49ers' season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, who are among the worst in the league at protecting their quarterback.
Smith has a team-record 19.5 sacks through 15 games. Since the NFL started recognizing sacks as an official statistic in 1982, Michael Strahan holds the single-season record of 22.5, which he set in 2001 with the New York Giants.
Aldon Smith, like every member of the 49ers' defense, has benefited from playing with Justin Smith. But Justin Smith will not play Sunday against the Cardinals after sustaining a partially torn left triceps tendon when a bone spur containing a portion of tendon was detached early in the third quarter of the 49ers' Dec. 16 game at the New England Patriots.
Justin Smith is expected to undergo surgery in the offseason -- after attempting to return to help the 49ers in the playoffs.
Even without Justin Smith lined up beside him Sunday, Aldon Smith should have a favorable matchup against either rookie Nate Potter, who is questionable with an ankle injury, or seven-year pro D'Anthony Batiste.
According to Pro Football Focus, a site that grades the performances of every player at every position, Potter ranks 63rd and Batiste is 75th in the NFL among the 76 offensive tackles who have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps this season. Potter has allowed seven sacks, while Batiste has surrendered 12 sacks.