The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a demoralizing loss, demoralizing because they lost three starters to injury. Word late Monday night is that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will most likely play while Calais Campbell and Anquan Boldin are going through further testing. Campbell, who fractured his thumb, was fitted for a special cast after undergoing surgery yesterday and the Cardinals are hopeful about his chances. Less certain is the status of Anquan Boldin. Adam Schefter reported on his Twitter page that the Cards are not optimistic about Boldin’s chances with an ankle and knee injury. However, he does not name any sources in that opinion. Q’s injury comes at an especially bad time, as he had been very dominant recently after fighting injury problems earlier in the season. Check back at ROTB for injury updates and a playoff preview.
San Francisco 49ers: Midway through the third quarter, a friend of mine responded to my disgust at the Giants meltdown against Minnesota (I was hoping for the 2 seed): "At least your team isn’t losing to the Rams!" And for a while, it seemed as if the Rams would pull it out. This was mostly due to the 49ers inability to get their offense rolling early. Luckily, they scored three 4th quarter TDs, and made the score look respectable to those who weren’t actually watching the game (and let’s be serious, who really wanted to watch this game?). The 49er’s lack of success this year always comes back to the same thing: is Alex Smith going to be an elite NFL QB someday? In today’s NFL, good teams are required to have an elite QBs. Of the top 12 passing attacks in the league, 10 of them made the playoffs (the 2 that didn’t were eliminated in week 17). The 49ers are very close to being a good team and are a good quarterback away from competing for the playoffs. For the first time since 2002 they did not finish with a losing record. Mike Singletary stated after the win against the Rams that Smith would be the starter next year and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye would return. Although our friend’s at Niners Nation have been less than happy with Raye, it is important for Smith’s development to keep the same offensive coordinator. The Niners also have 2 first round picks in the upcoming draft, and can improve their weaknesses greatly. Whatever happens this offseason, it is likely that the Niners will be a legitimate threat for the NFC West title next year and the Cardinals should take notice of whatever they do.
St. Louis Rams: For a while it looked the Rams were actually going to give up the 1st pick in the draft (actually even if they had won, they would have received the 1st pick in the draft based on tiebreakers). Now with a disappointing 1-15 season on the books, the Rams can focus on what’s more important for them: the offseason. This offseason is a very important one for the Rams. The biggest question for many is should the Rams take a QB or Ndamukong Suh with the first pick in the draft. Although Suh is the consensus number one talent in this year’s draft pool, the Rams have invested very heavily in the defensive line in past drafts. This decade alone saw 1st round picks Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy, Adam Carriker, and Chris Long. Pickett is now with the Packers, and while Carriker and Long have been productive players, neither of them has given the Rams first round production. Suh, however, is touted by many as being a "sure-thing" and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was used to having Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora as his defensive ends, is surely excited at the possibility of having a dominant defensive tackle. Since the Rams haven’t taken a QB in the first round since 1964, and considering their most successful QB (a hall-of-fame QB from Northern Iowa you might have heard of) was undrafted, it is likely that they will go with Suh.
Seattle Seahawks: In some ways, Seattle’s season was more disappointing than the Rams. Many analysts considered the Cardinal’s NFC West title last year as a fluke (the same morons who called the Cardinals the "worst playoff team in NFL history"- Chris Collinsworth, we’re looking at you) and were predicting the Seahawks as this year’s division winner. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for us), they were dead wrong. Seattle was plagued with injuries all year, has an inconsistent offensive line, a coach who has never been a winner in the NFL, and no general manager. Furthermore, Matt Hasselbeck is not an elite QB anymore, first round pick Aaron Curry was productive but unimpressive, and free agent TJ Houshmandzadeh went from being one of the five best receivers in the league to an afterthought. It is hard to know where this team can now go. Many were talking about firing Jim Mora Jr. after only one year, but this seems to be unlikely. Although the team has two top 15 picks, we still don’t know who will make those picks. The offensive line is the Seahawk’s main priority. With a rebuilt line, Hasselbeck could possibly be a good QB again, while undersized but very talented running back Justin Forsett could be the full time starter. The defensive pieces are already in place, but health is a major concern (if I were running the Seahawks I would pay millions of dollars to steal the Cardinals training staff and strength and conditioning coach). If the line can be rebuilt, and the defense can stay healthy, Seattle could possibly be a threat next year. More than likely, however, is another 5-11 season.
Check back here weekly for updates on the offseason moves of our division rivals.