Final Word: NFC West

December, 25, 2009
12/25/09
3:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Nick Laham/Getty Images A poor game against the Lions will not help Alex Smith's cause as the 49ers quarterback of the future.
Closing the deal. The stakes are lower for the 49ers now that the playoffs are out, but the pressure to succeed only increases for their potential quarterback of the future. Playing poorly against the Lions would damage Alex Smith's stock more than his three-interception performance against a much tougher team, Philadelphia, when the 49ers still had something to gain last week. Coach Mike Singletary stood behind Smith following that game. Smith needs to reward him. Advice for Smith: Beware Lions safety Louis Delmas. He's a playmaker.

All bark, no bite? Aaron Rodgers' bizarre accusations against Darryl Tapp add at least some intrigue to the Seahawks-Packers game. The way Rodgers tells things, Tapp bit him during a 2008 game. Replays show Rodgers checking his upper arm as if it might be hurting. But Tapp appeared to be wearing a helmet and mouthguard at the time. The Seahawks haven't recorded a sack in their past two games. Tapp left no known bite marks on the Bucs in Week 15, despite finishing with two quarterback hits.

Seeking that 10th victory. The Cardinals haven't enjoyed a 10-win season since Don Coryell was head coach in 1976. They should have little trouble breaking through against the Rams at home, but there's a chance Arizona will have to work for it. The Cardinals needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Lions last week. The Rams nearly beat the Texans. A disinterested performance from the Cardinals isn't out of the question, particularly now that the NFC West title has been clinched.

Divisional futility. Both 2008 victories for the Rams came against teams from the NFC East. The Rams haven't won an NFC West game since posting a 13-9 victory over the 49ers in Week 11 of the 2007 season, a streak of 12 consecutive division games. They haven't beaten the Cardinals since Kurt Warner tossed three interceptions for Arizona in Week 3 of the 2006 season. I thought the Rams would win at least one division game this season. They are running out of chances.

Bridges in focus. Losing a starting left tackle to a season-ending injury in December generally creates cause for concern. The Cardinals placed Mike Gandy on injured reserve this week without much worry. Backup Jeremy Bridges played well in relief against Minnesota a few weeks ago, but the Cardinals had some issues with protection at Detroit. They need Bridges to get comfortable and play well over the final two regular-season games. Warner's health could depend on it.

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