Around the NFC West: Next up for Cardinals

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic provides a checklist for the Cardinals as the team tries to sustain its current momentum.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic describes Ken Whisenhunt's conflicting emotions following a fantastic season punctuated by a painful defeat.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals felt Super Bowl XLIII was over-officiated, but Whisenhunt told players not to blame officiating for the defeat.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune wonders if the Cardinals' Super Bowl appearance marks a beginning or an end.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs a list of the Seahawks' players scheduled to become free agents. The unrestricted list features Rocky Bernard, Bobby Engram, Charlie Frye, Chris Gray (retired), Howard Green, Will Heller, Leroy Hill, D.D. Lewis, Wes Mallard, Steve McKinney, Maurice Morris, Jeff Robinson, Koren Robinson, Leonard Weaver, Ray Willis and Floyd Womack. Lance Laury is the only restricted free agent.

John Morgan of Field Gulls expects the Seahawks to have about $9 million in salary-cap room, a relatively low figure. The team had more than $20 million last week, according to an NFL source with access to salary data, but cap numbers are fluid, particularly at this time of year. I expect to provide some more definitive numbers this week.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have retained Art Valero in a new capacity while hiring Tom McMahon to coach special teams. Valero will assist offensive line coach Steve Loney, who was also retained by new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams now have 15 assistants under contract. They are nearly finished filling Spagnuolo's staff.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com wonders if Spagnuolo can deliver success to the Rams in keeping with what other first-time head coaches have delivered in Pittsburgh, Arizona and elsewhere.

Also from Gordon: A chat transcript in which he says receiver Michael Crabtree has "a lot of support" in the Rams' organization.

VanRam of Turf Show Times examines the decision to retain Loney and Valero despite the Rams' problems last season.

Gary Plummer of 49ers.com explains what makes play-action fakes effective, using a specific 49ers play against the Cowboys as an example. Even an average fake can be effective if the opposing front seven is selling out to stop the run.

Christopher Reina of realgmfootball.com recaps the 49ers' season while noting that Shaun Hill, though hardly an elite quarterback, might fit what Mike Singletary wants to do on offense. Hill had a higher passer rating than Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler.

Craig Massei of scout.com says the Cardinals' success this season should give the 49ers some hope for 2009 even though Singletary refused to call the 49ers a playoff-caliber team.