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Friday, November 6, 2009
Final Word: NFC West

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com


NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

Cardinals subplots abound. Several years ago, the Bears told free-agent quarterback Kurt Warner he could sign with the team if he agreed to start out as the third quarterback behind Rex Grossman and "some other quarterback" Warner couldn't recall during a recent interview. Warner grew up watching the Bears. He played for the Rams when current Bears coach Lovie Smith was an assistant there. But it never worked out with Chicago. Warner visits Soldier Field in Week 9 for the Cardinals' first game against the Bears since the unforgettable 2006 meltdown game that launched then-Cardinals coach Dennis Green into Coors Light commercial stardom. If the Bears were who Green thought they were, who are the current Cardinals? They're 3-0 on the road, 1-3 at home and badly needing to get their passing game back on track.
 
 Don McPeak/US Presswire
 Titans quarterback Vince Young will be facing a tough 49ers defense on Sunday.
Niners rough on quarterbacks. I'm not sure what Titans owner Bud Adams sees in Vince Young beyond an expensive investment, but I'm pretty sure I know what the 49ers see when they study Tennessee's newly restored starting quarterback: an opportunity to dominate. The 49ers have faced a steady stream of dynamic quarterbacks this season. Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, Brett Favre, Matt Schaub and Peyton Manning have combined to throw five touchdown passes in five total games against the 49ers this season. Any defense in the league would be thrilled with those results. Young's mobility presents different challenges, but the 49ers' pass defense should fare very well in this matchup.

Big-play running backs. The 49ers' Frank Gore and the Titans' Chris Johnson should combine for a couple of long runs when their teams meet at Candlestick Park. Gore is tied with Adrian Peterson for the most touchdown runs of at least 60 yards since the 2005 season. The Titans have allowed three scoring and non-scoring runs of at least 40 yards this season, tied for most in the league. They have allowed 410 yards rushing in their past two games. The 49ers have allowed zero 40-plus runs this season. They are one of nine teams to allow three or fewer total runs of 20 yards or longer. Johnson remains a threat to their defense anyway. The 49ers could miss injured cornerback Nate Clements more in the running game than against the pass. Clements is one of the NFL's elite corners in run support.

Timing right for Seattle. The Lions have lost 15 consecutive regular-season road games, making Week 9 the perfect time for Seahawks coach Jim Mora to challenge his players, as Mora did following a 38-17 defeat to the Cowboys. All signs points to Seattle responding favorably against an overmatched opponent. Losing at home to the Lions is not an option for the increasingly desperate and frustrated Seahawks. For all their struggles, the Seahawks have shown an ability to dominate bad teams at Qwest Field. They pulled away from the Rams for a 28-0 victory. They hammered the Jaguars, 41-0. The Lions lost by 18, 24, and 26 points in their previous road games this season. For Detroit, losing at home to the Rams last week had to be humiliating. Anything less than a convincing Seattle victory would be troubling for the Seahawks.

Swing game for 49ers. San Francisco has played quite well over its last six quarters, but the team has still lost three in a row. Losing at home to the Titans might prove devastating for a team that has openly talked about qualifying for the playoffs in Mike Singletary's first full season as head coach. This is a potentially dangerous game for the 49ers. Tennessee possesses three things the 49ers do not: nothing to lose, lots of players left over from a 13-3 team and momentum following a victory. The pressure is on San Francisco.