Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it's time to trade pregame storylines for the real thing when Green Bay visits the Cardinals in the wild-card round. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I think we showed last year our potential and what we can do, but I think we've done it more consistently this year, which, to me, makes you a better football team. When you can show up and win in all facets and do it more consistently, that shows a better football team."
Also from Somers: Anquan Boldin appears likely to test his injured ankle in pregame warm-ups before the team decides whether he can play.
More from Somers: a look at key stats and variables in the Packers-Cardinals game. The Packers are plus-24 in turnovers this season. Somers: "It's an astounding number, keyed by 30 interceptions. The Packers don't commit many turnovers themselves, just eight fumbles and eight interceptions. The running backs have carried 374 times without losing a fumble. The Packers don't beat themselves much, in other words, so the Cardinals can't afford to be careless with the ball. If so, the Packers offensive will capitalize and this game could turn ugly."
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic raises questions about how long Kurt Warner will continue playing. Bickley: "As kickoff nears, Cardinals fans will become jittery, nervous. There's a lot on the line, maybe even a window of opportunity. But most will take great comfort in their quarterback and wouldn't trade him for anybody in the NFC. Warner has the experience. He has proven himself over and over in pressure situations. He has been to three Super Bowls, and delivered each time. He rates a big edge over the blossoming Aaron Rodgers, who never has participated in a playoff game."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com suggests injuries were bound to strike the Cardinals at some point.
Brian Jennings of the 49ers picks the Packers to beat the Cardinals in a game that could be a blowout, he thinks, if Green Bay can force a couple of turnovers. Jennings: "If the Cardinals can win the turnover battle, they could win this game. Another thing I can’t overlook is Ken Whisenhunt and his coaching staff. They do a great job of preparing their team for the playoffs. But in the end, I’m going to go with Green Bay. I like the Packers to win 27-23. The game is being played indoors, so I think both teams will probably be able to score a lot of points. If the Packers get a couple of turnovers, it could be a blowout. I think the Packers are really the only team out of the wild-card round that can play in the Super Bowl this year."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers and Browns talked about a potential Josh Cribbs deal before the trading deadline, but the sides could not agree on compensation. Maiocco: "Would the 49ers be interested if Cribbs hit the trade market? I'm sure they would. But at what price, I do not know. But let's not get too carried away with disgruntled Cribbs' trade demands. Heck, the trade period does not open until March."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers have spoken with Larry MacDuff about their opening for special-teams coach. MacDuff coached for the 49ers from 2003 to 2006. Bobby April could be another candidate to coach the 49ers' special teams after Al Everest's firing.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have indicated "president" is not one of the titles "in play" for Pete Carroll. O'Neil: "Carroll will not have final say over all football decisions as it relates to personnel. The Seahawks have told the Fritz Pollard Alliance that -- if Carroll is hired -- he's not the ultimate authority on draft choices and trades. Carroll is going to serve as final authority on the 53-man roster. The Seahawks specified this to the Fritz Pollard Alliance as well."
Also from O'Neil: Drew Bledsoe, Lawyer Milloy and Lawrence Jackson vouch for Carroll. Bledsoe: "I can't speak highly enough of Pete as a coach and as a person. I really would have loved to have played for the guy for a bunch of my career."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune isn't convinced Carroll would be the right person for the job in Seattle. Boling: "If a deal comes together as reported, five years for as high as $35 million, with possible dual titles of head coach and franchise president, Carroll has two immediate requisites: 1) Put together an all-star staff of assistants, most with NFL experience, and 2) hire an indefatigable GM with a track record of personnel success in the NFL."
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times says the Seahawks could promote pro personnel director Will Lewis to be their general manager.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' special teams showed progress under Tom McMahon. Thomas: "The Rams' league-wide rankings in net punting (second), punt coverage (fourth) and kickoff coverage (22nd) were the highest for the team in the decade. (That's right, a No. 22 ranking on kickoff coverage was a single-season best for the Rams from 2000 through 2009.) The Rams' ranking in kickoff returns (11th) was their second-highest ranking of the decade; gross punting (fourth) was third-best; and punt returns (eighth) was fourth-best."
Also from Thomas: Rams cornerback Ron Bartell says he knew the Rams were not going to succeed right away. Bartell: "I got into it for the long haul. So I knew it was going to take time. ... We still have the right people in place. I totally, firmly believe that. I think I made the best decision for me. I still think we can get this thing turned around."