Around the NFC West: Rams lose starter

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have lost starting linebacker Na'il Diggs for the season to a torn pectoral muscle. This is a fairly significant blow to the Rams' defense. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Needless to say, we'll lose Na'il and his veteran presence. He's not real vocal, but I think the guys have a lot of respect for him because of where's he been, what's he done, what's he about and how he works. Hopefully he can get through this surgery this week and if we can just have his presence around here. I think that'd be good." A scout I spoke with Friday told me he thought the Rams' linebackers were a little underrated, and singled out Diggs in particular. Also: Quarterback Sam Bradford has ankle soreness after rolling right and taking on Adrian Wilson.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers Rams-related thoughts, including this one regarding Chris Long: "The dude is having a terrific season. And it's really impossible to relate how important he's become in the locker room. He's a stand-up guy. An intense competitor. He has high standards. He challenges himself and others. As a third-year player, he also defers to the veterans like James Hall and Fred Robbins. Whenever Long is asked a question (of a positive nature) about the Rams defense, he immediately brings up the impact of the veterans. Long understands protocol. He understands that a young player must know his place. But there's no question that CL72 is becoming a leader. He also has a sharp sense of humor and keeps the room loose. The Rams are fortunate to have this guy stalking quarterbacks and helping to set the tone at Rams Park." Miklasz has great stuff on Jason Smith and Steven Jackson in this item as well.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are growing up.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Spagnuolo's impact on the Rams. Burwell: "By careful design, Spagnuolo is crafting a very specific mindset in this young team. He won't allow them to peek over the horizon. He won't let them flip ahead a few pages to see what fascinating plot twists might lie ahead in this surprising December football adventure."

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' TV ratings Sunday were their highest since 2003. Caesar: "The Rams' average rating in 2010 is 25.7, their best through 12 games since they were at 26.1 in 2004 as the glory days were winding down."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers a comprehensive Rams injury update. Wagoner: "Chris Chamberlain’s X rays on his hand and wrist came back negative. He has no broken bones but he will likely be wearing a cast or a wrap on his hand this week."

Nate Latsch of gridirongateway.com says the Rams will miss Diggs. Latsch: "The Rams have struggled at weakside linebacker spot this season, starting four different players -- Larry Grant, Bryan Kehl, Chris Chamberlain and David Vobora -- there in the first 12 games. Now they’ll have to figure out both outside linebacker spots."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says poor quarterback play and some questionable play calling hurt the Cardinals against the Rams. Somers: "The longer quarterback Derek Anderson plays, the less effective he is. Anderson started the game well, leading to the Cardinals to field goals on their first two possessions. His interception in the second quarter was nowhere near receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This team needs superlative quarterback play to win, and it's not getting even average play. And Anderson continues to receive little help. There are too many dropped passes. Running back Beanie Wells blew a protection."

Also from Somers: UFL quarterback Richard Bartel could be an option for Arizona.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic updates the Cardinals' quarterback situation. Safety Kerry Rhodes on potential starter John Skelton: "I don't know a lot about John Skelton but he works hard with the scout team and seems to throw the ball well. But when you get in the game and those live bullets come, it can be a different story."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com describes an "even-keeled and realistic" Skelton as the rookie quarterback discusses his potential ascendancy.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals do not plan to use the final month of the season solely as an opportunity to get playing time for youngsters. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "You have to be very careful about how you do things with that. We have an obligation to our fans and to our team to put them in the best position to win."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Alex Smith is back in the lineup at quarterback for the 49ers. Maiocco: "The 49ers' coaching staff determined Alex Smith gives the 49ers the better chance to win because he knows a lot more of the team's offensive system than Troy Smith, who started the past five games. The 49ers must defeat the Seahawks on Sunday at Candlestick Park to keep their faint playoff hopes alive." Of course, Alex Smith knew the system better when the team decided to stick with Troy Smith. Knowing the system could be more important now that Frank Gore isn't available, particularly after Troy Smith completed only 40 percent of his passes Sunday while losing for the second time in three weeks.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has this to say about the 49ers' quarterback situation: "Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson has hinted in recent weeks that the offense is more restricted with Troy Smith, who only joined the 49ers on Sept. 6. ... Alex Smith also is well-versed at working out of the shotgun formation and operating a spread-like offense, which is what he ran in college and what the 49ers dabbled with last year. Johnson studied the spread during a year off from coaching in 2008. With Frank Gore out for the season with a fractured hip, the 49ers might be better suited running a more wide-open offense with replacements Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon in the backfield."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers would be best-served by losing the remainder of their games. Kawakami: "They gain nothing if they go 2-2 or 3-1 and fail to make the playoffs. I don’t think they gain much even if they make the playoffs at 7-9 in the weakest division race ever. You might be a division champion, but you’re still going nowhere."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the injury report features five starters and special-teams captain Roy Lewis. Coach Pete Carroll on receiver Mike Williams, who suffered a first-degree sprained left ankle: "We think that he’s got a chance [to play]. The doctors think by Thursday or Friday we’ll know a lot more and have a chance to see whether he can go. He’s really frustrated right now. He thought he’d made it back [from an injury to the left foot], and then this happened early. So he’ll battle through it and all that, but we won’t know for a couple of days."

Also from Farnsworth: Carroll says sticking with the running game was the difference for Seattle against Carolina. One other difference: The Panthers had allowed 152, 186, 165 and 218 yards rushing in various games before facing Seattle. Teams can afford to run the ball against Carolina because the Panthers aren't much of a threat to score.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times shares what he learned after watching the Seahawks against Carolina.

Also from O'Neil: Was the Seahawks' victory over Carolina significant?

Gerry Spratt of seattlepi.com says question marks persist at receiver for Seattle.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's personnel review from the Seahawks' game against Carolina. McIntyre: "Seattle’s starting offensive line of Russell Okung, Mike Gibson, Chris Spencer, Stacy Andrews, and Sean Locklear played all 64 snaps on Sunday. This combination now has the second-longest tenure (117 snaps) of the 10 different line combinations used this season."

Liz Mathews of 101ESPN Seattle says the Seahawks expect nose tackle Colin Cole to practice Wednesday after missing every game since suffering an ankle injury against Oakland.