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Around the NFC West: West owns Rams

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are 4-20 against NFC West opponents and 15-25 outside the division since the start of the 2005 season. Their only victories last season came against the NFC East. Thomas: "Amazingly, only four players on the current roster have experienced a victory over Seattle wearing a Rams uniform - (Leonard) Little, (Marc) Bulger, running back Steven Jackson and long snapper Chris Massey."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers keys to the Rams' season. One of them: "Be respectable against the run: Over the past three seasons the Rams have been plundered for 6,646 yards rushing. You could line up 11 toll booths and be more effective in slowing running backs."

Also from Miklasz: He does not give Bulger a pass just because the quarterback has taken lots of sacks in recent seasons. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger has taken more. Miklasz: "I realize that Ben likes to hang onto the ball, and he likes to fight off the rushers, so a percentage of the sacks are on him. But Bulger also holds onto the ball for too long -- for the wrong reasons. He’s got to be more decisive. If you listen to the Friends of Bulger, you’d think he’s the only QB in history to get hit in the mouth. Please." Roethlisberger is also built to withstand punishment. Bulger is smaller than the average quarterback.

Post-Dispatch staffers predict a close game when the Rams visit the Seahawks.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with David Vobora prior to the linebacker's second career regular-season start.

Also from Coats: Bulger took nearly all the snaps in practice Friday and will start against Seattle.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams aren't overly worried about their thin depth at receiver because tight ends Randy McMichael and Daniel Fells are good receivers.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis provides audio from Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Bulger's availability.

Allen Rossum of the 49ers offers special-teams insights heading into the opener. Rossum: "One thing that their kicker Neil Rackers does well is that after he kicks the ball he goes down and covers. That’s a rarity in the NFL. As soon as you come through the hole, you see this guy sitting there and you’re not expecting him. Most of the time teams don’t have a blocker for the kicker. One time I hit the hole and he was standing right in front of me. That was a little different!"

Taylor Price of 49ers. com quotes linebacker Patrick Willis on the Cardinals: "It’s a new season. It’s a new start. It’s us or it’s them. That’s how we look at it. I don’t even look at them being the NFC champions. That’s what they were last year; to us they are just a team on our schedule."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider looks at Mike Singletary's decision to name Vernon Davis a team captain. Lynch: "Singletary raved about his work ethic throughout the off-season, saying Davis would catch passes for hours. Singletary said he'd get to work look out of his window and see Davis down on the practice field working on his receiving, then Singletary would go to lunch, go to a few meetings come back and Davis was still at it. At the veterans minicamp while players were struggling to go through their conditioning stations, Singletary wanted to cut the drills short, but Davis spoke up and said the team should finish what it started."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers thoughts on Davis and, separately, how the 49ers plan to deal with crowd noise in Arizona.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notices which 49ers players Singletary did not identify as captains. Barrows: "Frank Gore, the epicenter of the offense, is not on the list, nor is cornerback Nate Clements. Shaun Hill, who as quarterback is ostensibly the face of the team, also is not a captain. Singletary picked the captains himself. They were not voted on by the team."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News explains one reason Tony Pashos signed with the 49ers: "Right tackle Tony Pashos, who signed with the 49ers on Monday, did so in part because of his relationship with the Singletary. Pashos was drafted by the Ravens in 2003 when Singletary was Baltimore's inside linebackers coach. 'He had great leadership qualities,' Pashos said. 'You could tell it was a matter of time before he was a head coach.' "

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 looks at key matchups in the 49ers-Cardinals game.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains Anquan Boldin's thinking on whether to play with a hamstring injury. Boldin: "You don't want to risk getting injured and then being out four weeks. That would be stupid. It's a long season. It's only Week 1. I'd rather sit out game one as opposed to sitting out four or five other games."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have become a major-league operation, lending credibility to the region's sports scene. Bickley: "You can bet the rent that sometime over the next four months, the Cardinals will make you fling the remote control across the room, just like old times. That's OK. No matter what happens during the 2009 season, there is a new game in town. It's called the NFL, and at long last Arizonans no longer are stuck with a gut-wrenching, penny-pinching, minor-league franchise designed to lose 10 games every year."

The Arizona Republic takes a position-by-position look at the Cardinals.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com marks the eight-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by recalling what the Cardinals were doing at the time. They had been scheduled to play a road game against Washington the following week.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com predicts a 10-6 record for the Seahawks this season. Johns: "That might sound overly optimistic, but having a healthy Matt Hasselbeck back leading the charge is huge. The passing attack will be potent and I foresee big years for John Carlson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Ben Obomanu would be the Seahawks' fourth receiver if a hamstring injury sidelined Deion Branch.

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up the Seahawks' injury situation. Morgan: "Deion Branch has missed three straight practices with a hamstring injury and is 50-50 to play on Sunday. Derek Walker is likely to be deactivated, so his injury is of no concern. I doubt C.J. Wallace will play. That and the injury to Travis Fisher leaves Seattle thin in the secondary and thin at special teams. Nick Reed could be activated to bolster the special teams. If Fisher can't play, Seattle will be barred from a true Dime defense. I, for one, think Will Herring should pick up snaps in obvious passing downs."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Branch's vow to play every game this season could be in jeopardy. Also: "Marcus Trufant, who the team put on the physically unable to perform list, was in the weight room working out on Friday."