Around the NFC West: Cardinals' talent

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt blames missed chances more than weak talent for the team's struggles this season. Those missed chances should not fool the Cardinals into thinking their talent is OK. They're running a 3-4 defense without enough talent at linebacker. They have no starting-caliber quarterback. Some of their best young players -- Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie come to mind -- seemed to regress this season. And as Somers points out, it's difficult to envision Gerald Hayes, Joey Porter, Derek Anderson or Clark Haggans returning next season (although Haggans has been better over the last couple seasons than I would have expected).

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com reports from Darnell Dockett's annual shopping spree for kids. Dockett: "We’re not having the type of season everyone wanted us to have or even that we wanted to have ourselves. But part of being a professional athlete and a professional football player is becoming a man, so that when you get to a certain stage in your life, you have to give back to the community. You don’t coach that, you aren’t taught to give back to people, that’s in your heart."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times explains during a chat why he thinks Matt Hasselbeck remains the Seahawks' starting quarterback. O'Neil: "My opinion? You've got a chance to make the playoffs, that's more important than getting an extended regular-season look at a quarterback that you don't think is as good as the current starter. But I can see the justification for evaluating Whitehurst more. The one thing everyone needs to remember is that Seattle's coaching staff had the whole offseason and training camp to evaluate which quarterback was more capable. The fact Hasselbeck is still the starter speaks to their decision in that regard."

Also from O'Neil: Seattle's current quarterback situation resembles the situation in 1991, when Dave Krieg was in his final year as Seahawks starter. O'Neil: "It's hard to tell which is more difficult, deciding when to cut bait on an established quarterback or finding a suitable heir. That was as true for Seattle in 1991 as it is now."

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times thinks the Seahawks need to take a conservative approach on offense.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks aren't the only team with uncertainty at backup quarterback. There simply aren't enough quality quarterbacks for every team in the league to have one, let alone two.

John Morgan of Field Gulls presents statistics suggesting Seattle cannot find out anything particularly meaningful about Charlie Whitehurst at this point. Morgan: "Whitehurst could succeed for the rest of the season, and that success would tell us very little about him as a quarterback. The Seahawks brought in Whitehurst to compete, but he hasn't been given the chance, and now the Seahawks are barreling towards week 16 without any future at quarterback and any way to fix that."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shoots down complaints about Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur during his weekly chat. Thomas: "Happy holidays to you. First off, although we all make mistakes and have typos from time to time, your argument would gain credibility if you spelled the offensive coordinator's name correctly. It's Shurmur. Pat Shurmur. Secondly, last time I checked, the Eagles had Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson at wide receiver. Who would you rather have on your team? Those guys or the Rams' wide receiver corps? Thirdly, Shurmur doesn't pass block. And finally, did you ever think for a moment that the overall offensive philosophy is Spagnuolo's? Peach on earth, good will towards men."

Also from Thomas: The Rams seem to be getting worse, not better. Thomas: "The question remains, will Bradford and the offense and defense get some spark back at a time in the season when the Rams need it most? Victories over San Francisco and Seattle to close the regular season would put the Rams in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and make them NFC West champs for the first time since 2003. A loss Sunday to San Francisco reduces the Rams' postseason chances to long shot status. The young Rams must show they're ready for games of this magnitude. It almost looked like the Kansas City game was too big for them, what with all the penalties, dropped passes, missed opportunities and the inability to make plays at critical points in the game."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers are relatively healthy heading into their game against the Rams. They'll use a three-man rotation at outside linebacker after losing Travis LaBoy to a knee injury that will require 6-8 weeks of recovery time.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Mike Singletary is engaging in gamesmanship by not announcing which quarterback will start for the 49ers against the Rams. Singletary: "It's something that I don't really want to announce right now. You know, in all honesty, in terms of an advantage or whatever, I just think the only real advantage that we could have is to go there and play well. All the other stuff is the cat-and-mouse stuff."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in with running back Anthony Dixon, who is not lacking for energy.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says Troy Smith might be the best choice for the 49ers against the Rams in a game with so much on the line. Kawakami: "It is Troy Smith who is best-equipped to take advantage of St. Louis' weakness in the secondary by throwing deep. In the 23-20 overtime victory against the Rams on Nov. 14, he had eight pass plays go for 23 yards or more. It is Troy Smith who went 3-2 as the interim starter this season -- including victories in London and in Arizona, the only times the 49ers have won away from Candlestick Park. Alex Smith, on the other hand, is 2-7 as a starter this season, 0-5 on the road, and 5-15 in his career on the road."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith and Troy Smith were not available in the locker room Tuesday.