NFC West: Injury situation that matter

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
7:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Arizona: Losing tight end Stephen Spach to an ankle injury could help the passing game if the newly reinstated Ben Patrick is ready to contribute right away following a four-game suspension. Spach and fellow tight end Anthony Becht were valued mostly as blockers. Patrick isn't an elite receiver by any means, but he offers more in that regard. To what extend the Cardinals can afford to leave their tackles alone in pass protection could determine whether Patrick contributes as a receiver Sunday. Having safety Matt Ware back should help strong safety Adrian Wilson concentrate his talents where they are best utilized, near the line of scrimmage.

St. Louis: Tackle Jason Smith is working his way back from a knee injury and could start on the right side. It's important for the Rams to get him back on the field. They need Smith to develop and eventually take over the starting job on the left side. Smith took about half the reps at right tackle in practice Wednesday. The Rams gave him a few reps on the left side as well. The middle of the defense has taken injury hits recently, with defensive tackle Gary Gibson (injured reserve) and safety James Butler missing time. I wonder whether the Rams could be vulnerable to a big play up the middle. Quarterback Marc Bulger has bounced back from an injured shoulder. He's taking the reps in practice and has looked crisp, coach Steve Spagnuolo said. The Jaguars' weak pass rush should play in Bulger's favor.

Seattle: Playing a home game should give fourth-string left tackle Kyle Williams a better chance than if the Seahawks were playing in a stadium where opposing fans' crowd noise could complicate matters. Williams is the favorite to start Sunday even though the team signed veteran Damion McIntosh as insurance. Steve Vallos is working at left guard, another change. The shuffling on Seattle's line will make it tough for the team to find its way in the running game, particularly against the Cardinals' run defense (fewest rushing yards per game allowed). The Seahawks were facing an adjustment period anyway as they converted to a zone-oriented blocking system. Fullback Justin Griffith's return from injury should help. On defense, the Seahawks expect to have Patrick Kerney back. He's had success against the Cardinals at Qwest Field.

San Francisco: The 49ers entered their bye week unsure whether starting strong safety Michael Lewis or backup linebacker Jeff Ulbrich would return from concussions, or how quickly. Getting running back Frank Gore back from an ankle injury will help. The bye should also allow several offensive linemen to rest nagging injuries.

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