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Friday, December 26, 2008
Audibles: NFC West Week 17 preview

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Seattle Seahawks (4-11) at Arizona Cardinals (8-7), 4:15 p.m. ET

One strong performance can change the way the Cardinals feel about themselves and their chances in the playoffs.

That is important for a team still trying to build a winning culture.

The Cardinals' 8-8 record last season marked progress and a good start for coach Ken Whisenhunt. Winning the division this season stands as another step forward, but the step means more if the Cardinals finish with a winning record for only the second time since the 1984 season.

The Seahawks have to like their chances. They've found ways to finish games in recent weeks. Their defense is coming off its finest effort of the season.

One concern for Seattle might be whether the team peaked emotionally in Mike Holmgren's final home game as Seahawks coach.

Washington Redskins (9-7) at San Francisco 49ers (6-9), 4:15 p.m. ET

The 49ers are reportedly on the verge of naming Mike Singletary their coach beyond this season.

How might a listless performance in a blowout defeat alter their plans? It's a question the 49ers probably won't have to consider. Singletary has made them smarter and more purposeful since taking over for Mike Nolan, and the Redskins have scored more than 13 points just once in their last seven games.

A close, low-scoring game seems likely. If that is the case, keep a close eye on the 49ers' game management in the fourth quarter. That's one area where the 49ers need to improve.

St. Louis Rams (2-13) at Atlanta Falcons (10-5), 1 p.m. ET

The Falcons can improve their playoff positioning with a victory, bad news for a fragile Rams team.

Atlanta's strong running game has the potential to wear down and demoralize an opponent.

The Falcons have held three of their last four opponents to 20 points or fewer. The Rams have scored more than 20 points in a game only once all season.

It adds up to another likely Rams defeat in what could be Jim Haslett's last stand as head coach.

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