Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' season will be defined by how the team performs Sunday. Bickley: "The mood in town is certainly different from last January. A rash of injuries has muted the optimism. The saga of Anquan Boldin -- injured when he shouldn't have been on the field last week -- threatens to dog coach Ken Whisenhunt for years to come. That would be a shame." Leaving Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in the game too long put both players at unnecessary risk on a day when Whisenhunt's top priority was to avoid injuries.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says during a chat that he thinks having Ben Patrick and Dan Kreider available should help the Cardinals' ground game. Also: "My sense is the Cardinals will try to trade Anquan Boldin in the off-season." That could be easier to do now that Beanie Wells appears ready to carry more of the offensive load. I just wonder whether the team can justify taking away a primary weapon from quarterback Kurt Warner. Much could depend on what Arizona could get in return for Boldin. Would another team make it worth their while? Would another team want to give up compensation to the Cardinals and then give up big bucks for Boldin?
Also from Somers: a look at the impending matchup between Larry Fitzgerald and Charles Woodson.
More from Somers: Clark Haggans is thankful for his health after missing the Cardinals' playoff run last season. Somers: "Haggans has been a regular starter at left outside linebacker and has been among the team's more consistent defenders."
More yet from Somers: The Cardinals' injury situation in the secondary has improved, but receiver Anquan Boldin might not know his status until Sunday.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says playoff experience can be overrated, according to running back Tim Hightower.
Also from McManaman: Woodson's smarts help make him such a dynamic player. Fitzgerald: "He's a cerebral guy, crafty, a phenomenal talent, super intelligent. He's all over the field. Usually he's matched up against the top receiver, but he's still able to get after the quarterback and cause a lot of disruptions."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the team's ability to avoid back-to-back defeats in a season for the first time since 1975. I'm not sure we should count Week 17 as a normal defeat, though, since the Cardinals didn't make a legitimate effort to win the game.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times reads between the lines in determining reasons for the Seahawks' offensive struggles in 2009. O'Neil: "The Seahawks face an offseason of change, which won't be confined to the front-office addition of a new president. Something has to be done to bridge the gap between the offensive game plan and the players being trusted to run it after the offense was slow at first and then got worse."
Also from O'Neil: Giants personnel man Marc Ross is expected to interview for the Seahawks' general manager job. The Seahawks have not confirmed interest in any candidates, allowing various reports to shape perceptions at a critical time for the franchise. It's all good if the team makes the right hire.
Seahawks.com offers details on recent surgeries for defensive end Patrick Kerney and safety Deon Grant. Kerney could return in 4-6 weeks after having loose cartilage and bone fragments removed from his elbow. Grant will have surgery to reconstruct a torn ligament in his wrist. He could return after the draft. Both players could be candidates for release this offseason, depending on what the next GM thinks about keeping around older players after a rough season.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney appears relaxed and in good spirits now that the regular-season grind has given way to thoughts about the draft and free agency. Burwell: "One of the biggest decisions he'll be making over the course of the next few months is what to do about the Rams quarterbacks, and part of that process begins with what to do with veteran starter Marc Bulger. Thursday, the Post-Dispatch reported that several team sources were convinced that the embattled 33-year-old passer is considering retirement. Yet on Tuesday, R.J. Gonser, who represents Bulger with agent Tom Condon of CAA, said Bulger isn't ready to hang up his cleats just yet."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's no reason for Bulger to return. Miklasz: "All he would do is absorb more of a pounding and probably get hurt again. He is not a difference maker in a rebuilding situation, but could be an effective quarterback when surrounded by good working parts. The Rams aren’t there yet. If they bring in a new veteran QB to handle the job for a couple of years until a youngster is ready, it should be someone who is mobile, someone who can give the offense a different kind of dimension. It’s just time to move on."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with injured Rams defensive tackle Adam Carriker, who hopes to bounce back. Thomas: "Coach Steve Spagnuolo's staff may have a sense of what Carriker can do. But they've seen very little of him in person -- on the practice field or on game day. Prior to the shoulder injury, he missed three weeks of training camp and three preseason games with an ankle injury. At this point, while the coaching staff and front office sifts through their roster options for 2010, Carriker can't be sure how or even if he fits into the team's plans. But he'd like the opportunity to revive his career for the team that drafted him 13th overall in 2007."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that recently fired 49ers special-teams coach Al Everest won't be out of work long because he's very good at what he does.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat ranks the 49ers' offseason needs as offensive tackle, return specialist, cornerback, outside linebacker, guard and quarterback. Drafting a speed cornerback with return capabilities would address two of those needs in one move.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider passes along notes, including one about 49ers great Byrant Young possibly becoming a position coach at San Jose State. He also passes along this quote from Everest: "I tell my players all the time, you have to make a bad play into a good play and a good play into a great play. That's what I plan on doing."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation takes a statistical look at the 49ers' defense in 2009.