NFC West: Preston Dennard
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic explains why Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is an NFL spokesman for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. His mother, Carol, died from the condition. Boivin: "When she discovered a lump in her breast when Larry was 13, the subsequent diagnosis of cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes was upsetting, but the family, thanks to Carol, was equipped to handle the tough conversations. ... Every discussion was frank. When she shared her options for treatment, they supported her decision against a mastectomy. ... She fought hard and for several of Larry's high school years, the family believed she had won the battle. The cancer came back with a vengeance. The family was crushed."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Texans coach Gary Kubiak has high praise for Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. Kubiak: "I tell you what, Dockett's the best player I've seen on film this year. You know as a coach, every year you start studying teams and preparing for teams and he's the best individual player I've seen. I mean, he's something for us to deal with coming this weekend."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who says he can catch a football despite a broken finger. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "He hasn't been able to catch, it didn't seem like, the first couple games anyway. I mean that in a positive way. Maybe this will help him."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says it's tough to evaluate an offensive line.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals and Texans are dealing with the weight of added expectations.
Jim Moore of seattlepi.com checks in with Seahawks defensive end Lawrence Jackson, whose courteous and thoughtful nature made for an interesting interview. Jackson: "I can't get mad if a coach is yelling at me. He's not yelling at Lawrence, he's yelling at No. 95."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu will match the first $10,000 donated to tsunami relief in American Samoa. Tatupu: "My dad was born in America Samoa and I still have family there. Every donation will help provide relief to those affected by the disaster."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' season is either half full or half empty. I think it's half empty pending the outcome of the next two games.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune explores links between Seahawks running back Justin Forsett and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Williams: "The two forged a relationship when Forsett was a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley. Jones-Drew's strength and conditioning coach in high school when he attended De La Salle High in the Bay Area, Mike Blasquez, is the head strength and conditioning coach for the athletics program at Cal, so the two running backs have worked out together for the past four years during the offseason at the East Bay college."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is looking forward to facing Falcons pass-rusher John Abraham. Staley: "He's been in the league for a long time and put up really big numbers. I really like going against guys that are considered the best pass-rushers in the league. It gives me a chance to showcase what I can do."
Also from Crumpacker: Newly signed receiver Michael Crabtree worked with the scout team in practice.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat fills in blanks on MC Hammer's role in the Crabtree saga. 49ers president Jed York: "We have a mutual friend who introduced us. Hammer has a good relationship with Deion Sanders. Eugene (Parker) was his agent. And he (Hammer) has a good relationship with Eugene. And I think it was a good conduit to get everybody together."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Crabtree's refusal to sign the 49ers' previous offer was an exercise in futility. Cohn: "Crabtree refused to say the holdout was worth it because it wasn't worth it. It was worthless and he lost face big time. He said he looks at the world in a different way. He sure does. He realizes he's not the center of the universe, just another player who has to prove himself in the NFL -- he hasn't even begun to do that."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Steven Jackson is looking forward to wearing a Rams throwback jersey Sunday. If only Jackie Slater could block for him and Preston Dennard could line up at receiver.
Also from Coats: Nate Jones is the Rams' only healthy receiver.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Vikings coach Brad Childress became good friends and confidants working together under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Childress: "The thing that I know about Spags and that staff down there, and having been involved in a couple turnarounds, I know that he's going to do it the right way. He's got younger, hungry guys. I know he's going to be positive with 'em. And I think you have to be positive with 'em. He's got a tremendous, tremendous (defensive) scheme. You see him putting people in positions to make plays. All you've got to do is look at a little bit of that tape, and it'll get your attention in a hurry. Because what they're doing is extremely sound. It's just a matter of time before they get it right."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The greatest teams in NFL history exist in our memories. They certainly aren't participating in the playoffs this season.
Exhibit A, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The Eagles-Cardinals NFC Championship will be the first conference championship game in a non-strike season to feature two teams who won fewer than 10 games in the regular season.
The chart shows how teams with fewer than 10 regular-season victories fared in championship games since 1970. We excluded the 1982 strike season because teams played only nine games.
The 1979 Rams were the last NFL team to win a conference championship game after finishing a regular season with fewer than 10 victories (they were 9-7). The Cardinals or Eagles will join them. Those 1979 Rams suffered a 31-19 defeat to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV despite the efforts of Vince Ferragamo, Wendell Tyler, Cullen Bryant, Preston Dennard, Billy Waddy, Nolan Cromwell and Jack Youngblood.