What an absolutely crazy two weeks of highs and lows. The Cardinals-Lions game was a perfect microcosm of the last two weeks of being a Cardinals fan: the 17-0 lead was destroying the Vikings, the 24-24 tie was being brought down to Earth after a humiliating loss to the 49ers, and the win against the Lions was clinching the NFC West for two years in a row. Yes, the Lions win was ugly. Our offense looked terrible (especially Kurt Warner) and without Beanie Wells we would have lost that game. But let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. For the first time in a very long time, the Cardinals are hosting playoff games in back to back years. They finally have a potential franchise running back who is starting to play at a very high level right before the playoffs start. And to top it all off, they still have a chance at a first round bye. So during this holiday season, be grateful that you have a talented football team, that your team is again a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl, that they have a proven Super Bowl winning quarterback leading your team, and that they play in the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers: Oh what a week can change. One week ago the 49ers kept their playoff hopes alive with a dominating win against a division rival. One week ago it seemed certain that the Niners had their franchise quarterback. Now, some would say both hopes have been dashed. A bad loss at the Philadelphia Eagles erased San Francisco’s playoff hopes and mathematically eliminated them from the playoffs. To be honest, they would have needed an unlikely collapse from the Cardinals or two unlikely collapses from the Giants and Cowboys, while running the table to have had a real shot at a playoff berth. But it always hurts once it’s official. Alex Smith went 20/37 for 177 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INTs. Inexplicably, Frank Gore had only 16 carries. Many are blaming much of this loss on Alex Smith (after all, he did throw three picks) but is it wrong to say the Niners just don’t have the talent the Eagles do and that they were playing on the East Coast in a blizzard? The Niners need to spend their next two games really deciding if Alex Smith is their future or if they should go in a different direction. The Niners take on the Lions this week at home.
The Seattle Seahawks: The biggest news out of Seattle this week had more to do with the Cleveland Browns than anybody in Seattle. The Browns signed longtime Seahawk coach Mike Holmgren to be their President, their new "czar" of football. This has been discussed endlessly on Field Gulls so I’ll spare you the commentary. What is interesting is that one of the lead candidates for the vacant GM job in Seattle is the Arizona Cardinals Director of Player Personnel Steve Keim. Keim has been with the organization for a long time, primarily as a scout. He has been part of a front office team which drafted players like Adrian Wilson (who went to Keim’s alma mater), Darnell Docket, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, among others. Field Gulls has a good breakdown of his draft history here, although I’m not sure I agree with all of the commentary. What does this mean for the Cardinals? It’s hard to tell. In all likelihood, Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt are responsible for most of the decisions in Arizona. However, Keim has proven to be an excellent scout and it is hard to find good evaluators of talent. Although he has had his share of misses, without Keim’s eye for talent, it is unlikely that Arizona would have made the Super Bowl last year. The Seahawks play in Green Bay this week after coming off an unlikely loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The St. Louis Rams: It is getting increasingly hard for me to believe the Rams were the model team of the NFC West at the beginning of this decade. Today the Rams are not only the worst team in the NFC West, they are probably the worst team in the whole NFL. They are the front runner for the number one pick in the upcoming draft and have few players who would be key contributors to a championship team. The Rams need to replace everybody on their offensive line except Jason Smith. Marc Bulger has not looked great this year, and was placed on IR this week, but don’t forget that he is a Pro-Bowl talent. It would be foolish for the Rams to spend the number one pick on a high profile quarterback: making a mistake in that pick would set the Rams back for years. Bulger also signed a huge contract extension two years ago and is owed a lot of money. Instead, the Rams should rebuild their offensive line and their receiver core to make use of a productive Bulger. On defense, it is hard for me to like anybody except Chris Long and James Lauranitus. Coach Steve Spagnulo needs time to find the players to fit into his defensive schemes. Unfortunately for Rams fans, the team is likely to stay near the bottom of the league for at least another year, and probably two. The Rams take on the Arizona Cardinals this week in Arizona. In their last game the Cardinals were able to handily beat the Rams, although that was the game which gave Kurt Warner a concussion. Hopefully the game is over after the first half and we have another Matt Leinart sighting.
No playoff preview this week, ROTB has covered that pretty extensively here.