Audibles: NFC West Week 10 preview
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
And they say something has to give? Not necessarily, and that's probably bad for Seattle. It's tough to envision the Seahawks winning this game without scoring points on defense.
On offense, Seattle remains an injury-depleted team that needs an identity but isn't necessarily searching for one.
Yes, injuries explain a large part of the team's struggles. A healthy Matt Hasselbeck would probably give the offense a chance to lead with the passing game, the way coach Mike Holmgren likes it. But the Seahawks don't have a healthy Hasselbeck. They haven't had one for several weeks. Time to adjust?
The Seahawks could probably do more to exploit their straight-ahead running game. Seattle ranks among the NFL leaders with nine rushing plays of at least 20 yards, but the offense appears lost when the passing game fails to lead the way.
That needs to change, but it probably won't in Week 10. The Dolphins have allowed a league-low one rushing play longer than 20 yards. They own victories over the Patriots, Chargers, Bills and Broncos. The Seahawks appear ready to join the list.
The Rams have allowed a league-high 17 pass plays covering at least 30 yards. The Rams have allowed 26 sacks, sixth-most in the league. The Jets' defense has collected 29 sacks, third-most in the league behind the Steelers and Giants.
Steven Jackson missed practice all week for the Rams. The former Pro Bowl running back will not play against the Jets. His backups, Antonio Pittman and Travis Minor, have been slowed by injuries. Pittman could play, but unknown Kenneth Darby could start after taking most of the first-team reps in practice.
A diminished running game puts too much pressure on quarterback Marc Bulger. Rookie receiver Donnie Avery does offer big-play potential, but he'll have a harder time hurting defenses, at least in theory, without a running game to keep the safeties' attention.
Keep an eye on Bulger's body language. He showed more toughness and leadership while winning in Jim Haslett's first two games as head coach. That needs to extend to the tough times as well. Bulger could get lots more practice if Jackson remains unavailable.
San Francisco 49ers (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3), Monday Night Football, 8:30 p.m. ET
Let's call this one a do-over for interim coach Mike Singletary, interim quarterback Shaun Hill and the 49ers. Firing Mike Nolan before the bye week put Singletary in tough spot. The ensuing 34-13 home defeat to the Seahawks marked the first time all season the 49ers failed to compete.
There can be no excuses in Week 10. Singletary needs to project stability and control along with the fire and brimstone that comes naturally to him. Hill should help him do that by protecting the football better than predecessor J.T. O'Sullivan did, particularly now that Singletary appears to be calling for a more conservative approach from offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
The 49ers won in Arizona last season with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, but their defense was playing much more consistently. The current defense probably won't stop Kurt Warner and friends from building a lead. That will threaten Frank Gore's role for the 49ers, at which point the Cardinals' pass rush should feast on the 49ers' struggling line.
Strange as it sounds, this is close to a must-win game for the Cardinals. They face the Seahawks (road), Giants (home) and Eagles (road) over the next three weeks. Beating inferior opponents at home is all but required as the Cardinals move closer to a rare playoff berth.