NFC West: Injury situations that matter
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Arizona: Injuries continue to affect Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick, but the Cardinals have enough flexibility to flourish in the passing game without healthy tight ends. Even third tight end Jerame Tuman (ankle) is hurting. Stephen Spach filled in admirably as a run blocker against St. Louis. Larry Fitzgerald has a thumb injury. His hands weren't as good against the Rams in Week 9. Left tackle Mike Gandy has had ankle problems. The Cardinals can't afford injuries on the offensive line.
San Francisco: The right side of the offensive line was having problems even before injuries wiped out tackles Jonas Jennings and Barry Sims. The 49ers will have a hard time protecting quarterback Shaun Hill against the Cardinals' active front eight (counting strong safety Adrian Wilson as a potential blitzer off the edge). Tight end Delanie Walker is healthier coming out of the bye, restoring versatility to the offense. But third receiver Arnaz Battle is out, putting more pressure on rookie Josh Morgan. Time to ride Frank Gore.
Seattle: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, receiver Deion Branch and defensive end Patrick Kerney will miss the game. The Seahawks have enough depth to weather one serious injury for the short term, but it's tough to envision Seattle winning an early game at Miami with so many key players staying behind. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is expected back from a groin injury. The Seahawks need him to make more plays.
St. Louis: The situation at running back is sapping the life from the Rams' comeback hopes under coach Jim Haslett. Steven Jackson won't be full strength if he's able to play. Backup Antonio Pittman is out. Even Travis Minor is hurting. Kenneth Darby could start. The Rams' pass protection isn't particularly solid even when Jackson is running well. Quarterback Marc Bulger figures to struggle with consistency and confidence until Jackson regains form. Injuries have also chipped away at the Rams' already shaky depth at linebacker, tight end, cornerback offensive line and receiver.