Final Word: NFC West

November, 5, 2010
11/05/10
4:01
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

Home sweet home. The Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald will be making his second NFL appearance at the Metrodome, where he served as a Vikings ball boy growing up in Minnesota. Fitzgerald's only previous NFL game at the Metrodome proved memorable. He caught 11 passes for 172 yards during a 2006 defeat featuring 824 yards of total offense between the teams. For all the Cardinals' struggles this season, they did amass 396 yards against Tampa Bay in Week 8. The Vikings have zero sacks while allowing 755 yards passing over their past three games. They have six sacks all season. Fitzgerald might find there's yardage to be had against this defense.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireSeattle will be tested by Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks, who thrives in the red zone.
Whitehurst's turn. With Matt Hasselbeck ruled out against the New York Giants, Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst becomes the third quarterback since 2000 to make his first NFL regular-season start in a Seahawks uniform. Of the others, only Hasselbeck won his starting debut, holding on for a 9-6 victory against Cleveland in the 2001 opener despite no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 48.4 rating. Seneca Wallace had three TDs, two INTs and a 76.8 rating in a loss to Kansas City in 2006. Brock Huard completed 19 of 34 passes for 172 yards and a 69.7 rating in a loss to Carolina in 2000.

It's the turnovers. The Cardinals are 2-0 this season and 31-3 under coach Ken Whisenhunt when winning or even tying the turnover battle. They are 1-4 this season and 3-24 under Whisenhunt when losing the turnover battle. That's why it's so important for quarterback Derek Anderson to manage the game more efficiently. The late interception Anderson threw against Tampa Bay stands out as the classic unforced error. That type of play might be the only thing standing between the Cardinals and a third consecutive NFC West title.

Watch those DB blitzes. The Seahawks have blitzed at least one defensive back on 25 percent of opponents' pass plays, collecting 11 sacks and holding quarterbacks to a 57.3 rating on those plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Some caution could be in order against the Giants. Eli Manning has completed 13 of 25 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns and a 104.1 rating while taking only two sacks against DB blitzes.

Holding up in the red zone. Seattle's pass defense has struggled overall, but no defense in the league has held opposing quarterbacks to a lower passer rating in the red zone this season. NFL quarterbacks have a 92.7 rating in the red zone this season, but the figure is only 56.3 against Seattle, ESPN Stats & Information notes. The Giants' Hakeem Nicks has six red-zone touchdowns, which leads NFL wide receivers. Nicks has eight receptions in the red zone, which ranks tied for first among receivers. He has not dropped a red-zone pass.

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