Around the NFC West: Moment near for Cards

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic looks back at the most recent Cardinals team to win a playoff game. Vince Tobin, the coach for that 1998 squad, is a Cardinals season-ticket holder. Bickley: "Ten years ago our Cardinals made the playoffs for the first time. They smothered the Cowboys in Dallas. As Jake Plummer's parents celebrated in an empty Texas bar, the team returned home to thousands of euphoric fans waiting at the airport. The Dallas Morning News sifted through the wreckage and proclaimed the Cardinals the team of the future in the NFC East."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Larry Fitzgerald and several other teammates aren't taking the Cardinals' playoff berth for granted.

Also from McManaman: He checks in with a long-suffering Cardinals fan whose excitement made sleeping difficult this week.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin has plenty to prove after suffering a few miscues during the second half of the regular season. Still, Boldin seems to be keeping a steady demeanor heading into the playoffs.

Also from Somers: Yes, the Cardinals want to run the ball, but not at the expense of their strength.

John Faherty of the Arizona Republic spoke with Cardinals fans about the team's inability to avoid a local TV blackout without multiple extensions. Wrote fan Luis Bleuze in an e-mail: "Loyal fans always figure out ways to attend games, especially playoff games. The Arizona Cardinals are on the brink of truly establishing themselves as a 'home' team to Valley fans."

Michael Silver of Yahoo.com profiles Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner heading into the playoffs. Warner doesn't pretend to thrive on the pressure that comes with carrying a one-dimensional offense.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson hopes he can properly channel his emotions before kickoff.

Also from Urban: Anquan Boldin might be the "X" factor for the Cardinals. He caught 13 passes against the Falcons last season.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals can become top dogs in the Phoenix sports scene if they beat the Falcons.

Niners pro scout Quentus Cumby is predicting a Cardinals victory over the Falcons largely because he thinks the Atlanta secondary doesn't match up well enough with the Arizona receivers. He thinks the Cardinals' secondary will also have problems. Cumby: "I think I'm going to have to go with Arizona in this one because they play tough defense and I don't think Atlanta has enough horses in the secondary to keep up with those guys."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a look at 49ers players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in late February. He thinks Billy Bajema might be getting too expensive given his role as a blocking specialist. The offensive system the 49ers install could determine the value of players such as Bajema. Moran Norris was an odd man out in 2008.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee puts Kentwan Balmer's rookie season with the 49ers in perspective by noting that other rookie defensive ends also put up underwhelming numbers.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Mike Holmgren's departure from the Seahawks makes team president Tim Ruskell fully accountable for whatever happens next. Boling also says the Seahawks wouldn't have appeared in Super Bowl XL without the players Ruskell added to the roster, notably Joe Jurevicius, Chuck Darby, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill.

William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts dives into the second installment of his positional analysis for the team. Part one here.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom as saying the team is willing to spend what it takes to hire a top coach. Rosenbloom is fighting the perception that he wants to sell the team: "I'll stick by what I've said before about the possible sale of the team. If the right offer comes along, maybe I'm interested, maybe I'm not. But we're not in a position where we have to sell the team. We're in a position where we're trying to make the team as good as possible. So it's not accurate to say we're cheap or we're trying to save money because we want to sell the team. If we were doing that, we didn't have to fire the coach (Scott Linehan), we didn't have to make changes in the front office."

Mysanantonio.com quotes Marshall Faulk as saying he has no interest in coaching the Rams or any other NFL team.