Around the NFC West: Cardinals on verge

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are so close -- but so far away -- from their first Super Bowl appearance. Bickley: "This a young team full of charismatic, likeable players. The locker room is a friendly place. The jerk factor is really low. Larry Fitzgerald has jumped over Amaré Stoudemire as the best show in town. This is the kind of team that already has changed the balance of power in Arizona sports, and considering the way the Suns are playing, that's probably a good thing."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic traces the Cardinals' rise over the last two years -- and the last two weeks.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic quotes Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb as saying coach Andy Reid doesn't wear a beard very well.

The Arizona Republic samples predictions for the NFC Championship Game, but you'll have to click through this item to see find Somers' prediction (he likes the Cardinals to win, 24-21, with home-field advantage on their side).

Also from the Arizona Republic: A clearinghouse for recent stories about the NFC Championship Game.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals must appreciate the moment even though the Super Bowl promises so much more.

Don Banks of SI.com asks Falcons coach Mike Smith to break down the championship games. Smith pays tribute to the Arizona crowd. He said the Falcons were shocked at the noise levels, which exceeded anything they had experienced in other domed stadiums. Smith also pointed to Antrel Rolle's conversion to safety as a key for Arizona.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says 60 minutes of football can reverse 61 years of futility for the Cardinals.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says crowd noise and history are on the Cardinals' side.

Also from Tulumello: Arizona's offensive line faces a stiff test.