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NFC West: Injury situations that matter

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Arizona: Getting cornerback Rod Hood back from a rib injury could represent a significant advance for the Cardinals' secondary. Opponents had success finding weak links in coverage when Hood wasn't available. The extended rest since Thanksgiving should help strong safety Adrian Wilson conquer a sprained shoulder. Shoulder injuries can affect a defensive back's willingness to tackle aggressively. That has never been an issue for Wilson, but we'll want to watch him just to make sure. Center Lyle Sendlein's sore back shouldn't prevent him from playing, but it's something to monitor because the Cardinals lack depth on the line. The have started the same five linemen all season.

San Francisco: Rookie receivers generally don't get extensive playing time during the regular season. Josh Morgan was an exception for the 49ers. That's why his groin injury represents a significant setback. Morgan has missed the last three games. He is getting work in practice this week. The sooner he gets back on the field, the better chance he has to continue developing for next season. Cornerback Nate Clements' thumb injury could prevent him from providing insurance in the return game. He might also have a harder time jamming receivers at the line or holding onto an errant Brett Favre pass. Allen Rossum's ankle injury continues to affect the 49ers' return game. He was enjoying a strong season.

St. Louis: The situation at receiver could suffer if Donnie Avery (hip) and Keenan Burton (knee) remain limited or unable to play. Steven Jackson appears closer to full strength and the Rams might give him more second-half chances against the Cardinals if the score is close or the Rams are leading. The Rams' run defense could benefit from Chris Draft's return from a broken foot. Draft will likely start at middle linebacker in place of Will Witherspoon, who has shoulder issues. Draft represents an upgrade from rookie seventh-rounder David Vobora, who started against the Dolphins in Week 13.

Seattle: The offensive line is a mess. Steve Vallos gets the start at center and will match up against the Patriots' Vince Wilfork now that Seattle has placed Chris Spencer on injured reserve. That was a losing matchup for Seattle either way. Injuries have also forced changes at both guard spots, and left tackle Walter Jones is fighting through knee trouble. The team's best linebacker this season, Leroy Hill, probably will not play after suffering a stinger injury against the Cowboys.