Around the NFC West: Rams and London

Rams fans in St. Louis have worried the team might move back to Los Angeles once its stadium lease voids following the 2014 season.

Hey, how about London?

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will play a 2012 home game there, something that could become an annual occurrence. Thomas: "NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in October that he had been talking to several teams about becoming regulars in London to help build an overseas following. Such a development, Goodell said then, would be "very powerful and lead us to what we ultimately would like to do -- have a franchise here in London." Noted: This three-year agreement to ship Rams games overseas is a bummer for fans in St. Louis, for the coaching staff and for the football operations staff. The Rams' game against Tom Brady and New England is the one heading across the Atlantic Ocean in 2012. That was arguably the most attractive game on the Rams' 2012 home schedule. The league benefits from this. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who already owns a sports franchise in London, gains favor with the league and fans abroad while remaining noncommittal about the team's future in St. Louis.

Also from Thomas: Steve Spagnuolo lands with the New Orleans Saints as defensive coordinator. Thomas: "The Rams were denied permission by Tennessee to interview Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson. Watterson was with the Titans/Houston Oilers throughout all of Fisher's 16 full seasons as head coach there."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects Jeff Fisher to bring a rough-and-tumble brand of football to the Rams.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com predicts a New York Giants victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Maiocco: "But I must admit, I do not have a strong feeling about this game because it’s difficult to find glaring holes that either team can exploit in the other. The Giants are coming off the most impressive victory in the NFL this season. They went on the road last week and thrashed the top-seeded Green Bay Packers. There is little doubt the Giants are peaking. Of course, the 49ers' best victory was their near-miraculous victory Saturday over the New Orleans Saints. Forget the Saints and Packers, though. The 49ers and Giants finished as the two best teams in the NFC."

Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com says there's a calm before the NFC Championship Game storm.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis rested a knee injury Thursday. Willis practiced fully Wednesday. Tough to imagine him missing the game Sunday. Delanie Walker and Dashon Goldson did get some work.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat seeks meaning in the phrases Jim Harbaugh frequently uses.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News is predicting a 49ers defeat to the Giants. Kawakami: "A lot of things point to the 49ers–the home crowd, the extra day’s rest (49ers played Saturday), the non-travel (NYGs flying across country), the NYGs’ seven losses, the offensive, defensive and overall momentum surging through the franchise and Bay Area after that New Orleans-game event horizon. Wow, that’s even more things than I originally thought. I can see why 49ers fans would not quite go with what I’m saying here. However, I still see the Giants winning this game, albeit not by more than a point or two, which means a late turnover or silly mistake could tilt this game either way, obviously. I just think the Giants are built to win these kinds of games, in hostile territory, when the pressure is at its highest. Eli Manning is a big part of my reasoning, no doubt."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' tackling must be sound in the open field.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to bring back Todd Haley to their offensive coaching staff. Bickley: "Maybe you can't go home again. But once upon a time, Haley and coach Ken Whisenhunt had a symbiotic relationship. Whisenhunt is composed, intelligent, measured, stubborn, superstitious and is devoted to detail, his friends and his system. Haley is in your face, a climber, the lava underfoot, a horse's hide to complacent players, the perfect complement to a steadfast leader. Together, the two helped steer a sorry franchise to the top of the NFL. ... Personally, I don't believe the team's erratic offense in 2011 merits special consideration for the incumbent coordinator. A heavy title is needed to empower Haley's prodding voice, and really, why else would you hire him? And that many people still are uncomfortable with Haley's abrasive personality is exactly why he's so valuable to a staff and a team."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along highlights from a conversation analyzing what the Seahawks might do with Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne. Noted: The team needs to draft linebacker help either way. I would advocate bringing back Hill, then determine what to do with Hawthorne based on the health of his knee. The Seahawks gave Hill a chance when few other teams would have done so. Seems like he would want to come back.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks finished among the NFL leaders in handling sudden-change situations.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL to defeat two of the four teams remaining in the playoffs.