Around the NFC West: Okung's challenge

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune singles out Russell Okung's matchup with Julius Peppers as potentially pivotal for Seattle. Okung's thoughts on the matter remain unknown because the Seahawks' offensive linemen refuse to grant interviews. Guard Ben Hamilton discourages teammates on the line from speaking publicly, issuing fines when quotes appear from a lineman. NFL policy prevents such behavior, stating, "It is not permissible for any group of players to boycott the media. ... Violations of the above procedures will be considered conduct detrimental to the league and will be subject to disciplinary action by the commissioner." In 2009, the league levied a $10,000 fine against Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald for leaving a game without fulfilling media obligations. NFL policy will ultimately apply to the Seattle line, of course.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Marshawn Lynch spent part of his bye week watching his younger brother rush for 260 yards during a high school game in Sacramento.

Also from Farnsworth: Deon Butler says he doesn't need to do anything spectacular while replacing Deion Branch in the Seahawks' starting lineup.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Ben Hamilton remains the Seahawks' starting left guard, although Chester Pitts could play in a backup role Sunday. Can Pitts practice extensively two days in a row without knee trouble?

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on Seattle's matchup against Peppers. O'Neil: "In Okung's debut in St. Louis, he was beaten once by a spin move from James Hall and then failed to recognize a zone blitz that resulted in Matt Hasselbeck getting hit cleanly from behind by Rams linebacker David Vobora."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Lynch feels rejuvenated playing for a new team. Lynch: "Everybody is excited to see what I'm going to do and I'm also excited to see what I"m going to do myself. So it's a pretty intense time for me."

Also from Johns: Butler says the Seahawks' receiver meetings are quieter without Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Branch.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers a "C" grade for the Seahawks' cornerbacks through four games. The safeties get a "B" grade.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic does not expect the Cardinals to show interest in Shawne Merriman once San Diego releases the former standout pass-rusher. Somers: "The Cardinals have a need for depth at outside linebacker. While Merriman is a recognizable name, it's doubtful the Cardinals will bring someone with a injury history in to back up to 33-year-old linebackers, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' defense was more sound against New Orleans than it had been previously. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis: "I just saw us take a big step forward in playing the defense together. I'm excited as hell about the guys we have and the growth we're making. But we got off a rough start, and there are growing pains. We have to make sure we're better this week than we were this week. That's the only goal we have."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says younger players will get some extra work during Arizona's bye week.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals respond to rookie quarterback Max Hall. Running back Jason Wright: "There are certain people, when they walk into a room, they could be the newest person there, but when they speak, they speak in a certain way and they come across with a certain air, and you are going to listen, even if they are the brand-new guy. Even if they are completely dead wrong in what they are saying, you still say afterward, 'Hmm. What about that guy?' Whatever ‘it’ is, he’s got it. He’s probably like that in the rest of life too. I expect he’s been that way his whole life. That’s what guys are talking about. It’s more a personality trait than it is having really earned his stripes."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danario Alexander's emotions are running high as his first NFL game approaches. Alexander: "I'll be highly emotional. I've been through a lot throughout this whole summer, with the surgery, missing the draft. ... I want to come out and produce for this organization. I sat at home for a long time before the Rams gave me the call."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up Sam Bradford against the blitz and says he doesn't expect Alexander to play a significant role against San Diego.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Alexander expects to play some on special teams.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are treating the Chargers as a 5-0 team, not a 2-3 team, based on where San Diego ranks in major statistical categories. Thomas: "Even without disgruntled and unsigned Vincent Jackson at wide receiver, Philip Rivers is putting up epic passing numbers. Only four QBs in NFL history have thrown for more yards in the first five games of a season than Rivers (who has 1,759)."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Danny Amendola's role has grown with Mark Clayton on injured reserve. Amendola caught a career-high 12 passes Sunday.

Howard Balzer of scout.com says the Rams' blowout defeat on the road in Week 5 was nothing out of the ordinary for NFC West teams. Balzer: "Overall, the Rams have been outscored 60-20, the Cardinals 95-34, the 49ers 78-30 and the Seahawks 51-17. That’s a combined score of 284-101."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Shaun Hill is thankful to be playing for the Lions instead of for the 49ers. Hill: "It’s a mess out there (with the 49ers). I'm just very happy that I'm here right now."

Also from Maiocco: Time is running out for Mike Singletary and Alex Smith.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' run defense has faltered as opponents have put more focus on handling Patrick Willis.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Willis' tackle totals have fallen.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers think some breaks have gone against them. They hope those breaks even out. Singletary: "Sometimes the way the ball bounces makes you wonder. It's pretty crazy the way the ball bounced in these first five games."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says David Carr can relate to the booing Smith has received lately, but the biggest challenge can be for a quarterback's family members in the stands.

Also from Branch: Turnovers are piling up for the 49ers.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks 49ers president Jed York works behind the scenes to undermine the team's head coaches even while praising them publicly. Kawakami: "It’s not hard to figure any of it out. It’s your typical York intrigue–declare total support, in a bizarre, amateur way, and simultaneously plot against the coach who displeases you. That way, Jed and his courtiers think they have it both ways: If Singletary fails, they fire him and they have the national media explaining why it’s not their fault. And if Singletary rallies the 49ers to the playoffs, they can say, 'See, we knew he’d do it all along. And we said so.' "

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News looks at issues dragging down the 49ers.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Tony Dungy has advice for Singletary.