Around the NFC West: Cards' challenge

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
8:37
AM ET
The first time the Baltimore Ravens lost to an AFC South team (Tennessee) this season, they defeated an NFC West team (St. Louis) by 30 points the following week.

They lost to another AFC South team (Jacksonville) Monday night. They'll be looking to get right against another NFC West team (Arizona).

This was going to be a tough enough matchup on the road for the Cardinals without giving the Ravens reason to redouble their efforts following a brutal defeat. Baltimore will be looking to avoid consecutive defeats against teams that had lost their last five games.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals will head to Baltimore amid questions over Beanie Wells' availability. Somers: "If Wells can't play on Sunday in Baltimore, Alfonso Smith is likely to start, but LaRod Stephens-Howling and Chester Taylor likely would play there, too."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals haven't been making opponents pay for their mistakes. Somers: "Of all the corrections that need to be made, the most important is fixing what's wrong with Kevin Kolb. His passing statistics Sunday weren't awful - 18 of 34 for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception - but they don't tell the entire story. Kolb badly missed two open receivers, Housler and Larry Fitzgerald, and because of the protection scheme called, it was his job to realize pressure was coming on the play that resulted in a safety. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket and has been inaccurate when he's on the move. On Monday, Whisenhunt reiterated that personnel changes are being contemplated throughout the lineup, but the coach appears more focused on fixing Kolb than replacing him." Noted: The Cardinals cannot realistically bench a quarterback they signed to a five-year, $63 million contract. They need to develop Kolb.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says offensive coordinator Mike Miller relocated to the sideline for the Pittsburgh game in an effort to improve communication with Kolb in particular.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams should hire a strong leader to run their organization, perhaps the way the Cleveland Browns have done with Mike Holmgren. Gordon: "The current leaders, Kevin Demoff, Billy Devaney and Spagnuolo, are all bright guys with varying degrees of previous success in lesser roles. They are stand-up men. They don’t make excuses or hide from their critics. They are trying to do the right things. Maybe they could all succeed if they worked for a strong leader capable of creating a new organizational culture. Or maybe each fills a role they can’t quite handle. A strong new leader could make that assessment, just as John Davidson made critical assessments as the hockey CEO with the Blues. Step by step, he turned the NHL’s worst team into a playoff contender with a bright future and solid resale value." Noted: I'd be surprised if owner Stan Kroenke didn't make some sort of structural change if the season continues on its current course.

Also from Gordon: A Rams report card with failing grades.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Jason Smith will consult a spine specialist following his injury Sunday.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers expect to have Braylon Edwards back on the practice field Tuesday. Maiocco: "Jim Harbaugh said he also hopes to see fullback Moran Norris (fibula), outside linebacker Parys Haralson (hamstring), right guard Adam Snyder (shoulder) and cornerback Tramaine Brock (hand) healthy enough to practice Tuesday." Noted: While every other NFC West team suffered a potentially significant injury to a starter in Week 7, the idle 49ers got healthier in key spots, notably wide receiver. Arizona lost Wells. Seattle lost starting corner Walter Thurmond. The Rams lost right tackle Jason Smith and possibly cornerback Justin King.

Also from Maiocco: Joe Staley and Mike Iupati are working together more efficiently.

More from Maiocco: Tarell Brown has exceeded expectations for the 49ers at cornerback.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with 49ers president Jed York, who tempers his excitement over the team's 5-1 start by noting it's still early in the season.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News explains why 49ers general manager Trent Baalke did not watch NFC West games over the weekend.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on the Seahawks' 6-3 defeat to Cleveland, contending that it's now clear Charlie Whitehurst is nothing more than a backup. O'Neil: "Remember last year when there was a camp of fans adamant Whitehurst would be an improvement on Matt Hasselbeck. Then Whitehurst started a Week 9 game against the New York Giants, a game the Seahawks lost 41-7. Remember three weeks ago when there was a camp of fans adamant Whitehurst would be an improvement over Tarvaris Jackson? Well, Whitehurst started Sunday in Cleveland, completed 12 passes, just four of them to wide receivers and only one for more than 11 yards. The Seahawks have scored a total of 26 points in his three regular-season starts." Noted: I see no evidence to dispute the contention. At the same time, are three starts enough to make such a determination? The Seahawks also scored 26 points in Matt Hasselbeck's first three starts. Hasselbeck had no touchdown passes and three interceptions in those games. Fans chanted for his backup during the second of those three starts (the first at home). I'll break out something on this separately.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com updates injuries and other developments for the Seahawks.

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