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Friday, October 31, 2008
Audibles: NFC West Week 9 preview

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Arizona Cardinals (4-3) at St. Louis Rams (2-5), 1 p.m. ET
The division race pretty much ends if the Cardinals win this game and the Seahawks lose at home to the Eagles. Arizona hasn't had this much at stake in a road game all season. How the Cardinals respond -- against a resurgent but probably inferior opponent -- tells us whether Arizona is ready to take the next important step in its growth.

The Rams' familiarity with Kurt Warner and the Arizona offense helps their cause, particularly if defensive end Leonard Little is healthy enough to play. Coach Jim Haslett told reporters Friday that he felt better about Little being able to fight through a hamstring injury. Little lasted not quite two quarters against New England, however, and his durability is a concern.

Warner and friends might be able to win this game for Arizona through the air, but the Cardinals will need their ground game for balance as the season progresses. The Rams have shown they can run the ball even without Steven Jackson. That's why a lower-scoring game could favor the Rams, particularly if that pass rush gets to Warner.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5), 4:15 p.m. ET
Coach Mike Holmgren says the Seahawks have decided to go down swinging. That beats the play-it-safe offensive philosophy that made Seattle so predictably boring in defeat after losing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and several receivers to injury.

And yet, the prognosis remains guarded even following a blowout victory at San Francisco in Week 8. The Eagles have the pass rush and personnel in the secondary to make life tough for Seneca Wallace and the Seahawks' remaining receivers.

Seattle might have had a hard time beating Philadelphia even with Hasselbeck, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and leading pass-rusher Patrick Kerney available. All four will miss the game, and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is hurting.

On defense, the Seahawks have allowed 14 pass plays of at least 30 yards, tied with the Lions for most in the league. The Eagles' DeSean Jackson will likely add to that total.