INSIDE CARDINALS CAMP:
The Cardinals are talking a lot this week about finishing strong, in hopes that the victories will carry over into added confidence when they enter the 2008 season.
If they beat the Falcons and Rams, the Cardinals will finish at 8-8, no great accomplishment for most franchises.
For the Cardinals, however, it's notable. They have finished at .500 or better just twice in their previous 19 seasons. Going .500 would be a decent accomplishment, given that coach Ken Whisenhunt is in his first season and the club has dealt with number of injuries in the last half of the season.
The .500 record would be a sign of progress, but it won't provide much solace when the Cardinals look back at this season. The NFC was weak and their division, the NFC West, might have been the worst in the league. They lost twice to the lowly 49ers, games that helped them blow a playoff berth and a possible division title.
The Cardinals should play hard over the final two weeks. Players know they are continuing to audition for jobs because Whisenhunt and his staff aren't going anywhere. They had better play hard or they could be looking for work in 2008.
INSIDE FALCONS CAMP:
Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall might be having his best season in the NFL, but his on-field antics, outspokenness and playing for a wretched team cost him a third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
Hall was not named to the NFC squad, possibly because he did not receive a large base of fan votes. The last two seasons, Hall was a fan favorite, but his act has worn thin, especially with local fans, many of whom were bothered by him carrying a poster of quarterback Michael Vick on the field during introductions against New Orleans on Monday Night Football.
Tight end Alge Crumpler, who could have his lowest reception total since 2002 (36), had his string of four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances snapped. Crumpler has 37 catches, but he has been plagued by chronic knee pain and has hardly been the player he was over the past few years. He also didn't fit well into former coach Bobby Petrino's offense, in part because his sporadic availability didn't allow Petrino to incorporate him as much into the H-back role as desired.
Two upstarts, outside linebacker Michael Boley and wide receiver Roddy White, found out that you have to pay your dues -- and help your team win -- before earning enough respect to make it to the Pro Bowl. Boley is a rising star who could develop into a repeat visitor to Honolulu but he has to continue to produce like the guys who beat him out DeMarcus Ware and Julian Peterson.
White has been the one player on Atlanta's offense to produce (66 receptions, 999 yards) but playing for the lowest scoring team in the NFL did him no favors. He caught five of the team's 12 touchdown passes.
The Falcons getting snubbed is mild in comparison to the fact that the entire NFC South was shut out of the Pro Bowl.
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