Final Word: NFC West

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s games:

Great expectations in Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston and Andre Johnson caught 377 passes for 5,050 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. All four will be at University of Phoenix Stadium for only the second game between the Cardinals and Johnson's Texans. Boldin had nearly as many yards as Fitzgerald and Johnson combined in the only previous game between the Cardinals and Texans, but there is precedent for great receivers putting up fat numbers on the same field. On Dec. 18, 1995, Jerry Rice caught 14 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns against Cris Carter's Vikings, with Carter catching 12 passes for 88 yards and two scores. The Vikings' Jake Reed added three catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, but the 49ers prevailed, 37-30, at Candlestick Park.

49ers defending the home turf. The 49ers have won their last five games at Candlestick Park, the third-longest current home winning streak in the league. Shaun Hill's home winning streak as a starter runs two games longer. He has 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 100.7 rating as a Candlestick starter. His efficient play within a conservative offense has helped the 49ers become a smarter team. They ranked last in the NFL in giveaways last season with 35. They have a league-low two so far in 2009. Keep an eye on Hill in the red zone. The 49ers have scored touchdowns five times in eight trips this season. The Falcons held the Patriots to one touchdown in five red-zone chances in Atlanta's most recent game.

Protecting Matt Hasselbeck. Though the season remains young, the Seahawks' next two games -- at home against the Jaguars and Cardinals -- could determine whether Seattle remains relevant in the NFC West race. Having Hasselbeck back in the lineup despite a broken rib gives the Seahawks a better chance to overcome shortcomings that have hurt them during their three-game losing streak. The big question is whether the Seahawks can adequately protect Hasselbeck now that both starting tackles are out. The Jaguars have managed only three sacks all season, a good sign for Seattle if Hasselbeck plays. Losing Hasselbeck to another injury and/or losing this game might prove disastrous.

Rams, NFC West need to save face. NFC West teams posted a 10-30 record outside the division last season. They are 1-6 outside the division this season, with the Cardinals' victory at Jacksonville standing as a lonely exception. Week 5 marks the second time this season NFC West teams play four games outside the division. All four lost in Week 3 even though three NFC West teams were at home. All four are home Sunday. Their opponents have a combined 10-5 record. Not looking good. As bad as NFC West teams have fared outside the division, the Rams haven't been any better within it. They've lost 10 division games in a row and 17 of 20 since 2006. It's an all-time upset if they shock the 4-0 Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome.

Tackling quickly key for Cardinals. Players catching Matt Schaub's passes have averaged 6.1 yards after the catch, the fifth-highest total in the league. That helps explain why the Texans' quarterback is averaging a healthy 8.1 yards per pass attempt, a yard more than the Cardinals' Kurt Warner is averaging. Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wasn't known for his tackling even before suffering a broken finger on his right hand in Week 3. Quickly wrapping up Johnson will be important.