<
>

The day ahead: Sizing up NFC West issues

NEW ORLEANS -- A few NFC West thoughts before boarding the first of two flights Monday on my way back across the country:

  • This season has taught us to assume nothing. So, while it appears as though Seattle is in prime position to win the division, appearances can be deceiving. I have seen enough from Matt Hasselbeck over the past couple weeks to think the Seahawks should get to 7-5 with home victories over Kansas City and Carolina. But if Mike Williams' foot injury keeps him out, who knows?

  • The St. Louis Rams have seemingly progressed too much this season to lose their next three games, even though all are on the road. That trip to Arizona in Week 13 could prove therapeutic for one of those teams. Why not the Rams? The postgame locker rooms could add value to that game from my perspective. Could be a trip worth taking.

  • ESPN.com divisional bloggers attend Monday night games involving the teams they cover. That means I'll be heading to Arizona in Week 12, even though the Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers are both 3-7. My plan is to catch the Chiefs-Seahawks game on Sunday before heading out to Arizona.

  • One bad game shouldn't be enough for the 49ers to replace Troy Smith with Alex Smith. The 49ers should see what Troy Smith can accomplish against an Arizona defense that continues to allow big plays. The 49ers' issues Sunday went beyond the quarterback.

  • Listening to Ken Whisenhunt, it's clear the Cardinals coach is mystified by his team's poor play. In August, I emerged from Cardinals training camp thinking the team's veteran core would keep the Cardinals competitive. Whisenhunt felt the same way. Adrian Wilson, Joey Porter, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Alan Faneca brought some swagger. It's time to reassess and ask, too, whether coaches are putting players in position to succeed.

  • Despite issues throughout much of the roster, the Cardinals' handling of Matt Leinart and the quarterback situation in general will define this season for Arizona.

I've got a flight to catch. Back as time permits.