NFC West QB rankings through Week 6
Hasselbeck has gone back-to-back weeks without an interception for the first time since Weeks 12 and 13 last season. He's developing a strong rapport with receiver Mike Williams, particularly on third down. Hasselbeck has completed all nine third-down attempts to Williams in the Seahawks' past two games, converting eight first downs. Seattle scored only one TD in seven red zone possessions Sunday, however, and there were times when Hasselbeck invited sacks by holding the ball too long. He faces a potentially difficult matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha and the Oakland Raiders' defense in Week 8.
Week 7 vs. Arizona (W, 22-10)
2. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. CAR
Bradford posted his highest passer rating of the season Sunday even though this wasn't his best game. Bradford appeared less accurate than usual, completing only half of his passes for 126 yards. But the offense started quickly, jumping out to a 17-3 lead in the first half. Bradford avoided throwing an interception for the second week in a row and the second time in his career (although he did lose a fumble). Turnover avoidance can be half the battle even for veteran quarterbacks. Injuries at receiver could be catching up to Bradford. Returning home to face Carolina in Week 8 should give him a chance to bounce back.
Week 7 at Tampa Bay (L, 18-17)
3. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. DEN
Smith started quickly against the Panthers, continuing a recent trend. But the offense stagnated and Smith appeared completely out of rhythm before an injured left shoulder knocked him from the game. The injury, Smith's season-long performance and the 49ers' 1-6 record are making this look like the quarterback's final season with the organization. The 49ers have not yet said how long Smith might miss while recovering from the injury, however.
Week 7 at Carolina (L, 23-20)
The Cardinals' offense perked up and drove toward its first touchdown since Sept. 26 when Anderson entered the game Sunday against Seattle. Anderson completed his first four passes for 67 yards. He then completed 4 of 13 passes for 29 yards during the rest of the game. The performance wasn't good enough for coach Ken Whisenhunt to name Anderson his starter against the Bucs in Week 8.
Week 7 at Seattle (L, 22-10)
5. DAVID CARRQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. DEN
The 49ers weren't asking for much from Carr when they put him into a 10-10 game early in the second half. They leaned heavily on Frank Gore, as expected, and happily accepted the defensive TD that gave them a 20-13 lead with 12:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. But when the 49ers needed a few passes to sustain drives, Carr was unable to deliver. The interception he threw on second-and-14 with 1:14 remaining put the Panthers in position to win the game.
Week 7 at Carolina (L, 23-20)
6. MAX HALLQuarterback | Arizona Cardinals ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. TB
Hall struggled against the Seahawks and has yet to produce a touchdown drive in two starts. Hall lacks size and it appeared as though wet conditions made it tougher for him to throw the football with accuracy. Hall has taken a pounding this season, leaving both starts with injuries. He returned against New Orleans, but not against Seattle. Whisenhunt is sticking with Hall as his starter and Hall will presumably fare better at home in Week 8.
Week 7 at Seattle (L, 22-10)
Hasselbeck remains in the top spot after becoming the first NFC West quarterback this season to lead his team to victory against a non-division opponent on the road. Hasselbeck appeared more comfortable than he has all season. This was his first game without a sack since the 2009 opener against St. Louis. He pushed the offensive tempo and threw confidently, particularly to receiver Mike Williams. Hasselbeck threw no interceptions after tossing at least one in eight consecutive games dating to last season. He had a legitimate shot at a 300-yard passing day until tight end John Carlson dropped a third-quarter pass for what would have been a big gain. This performance ended for now any thoughts about a quarterback change in Seattle. Hasselbeck looked like the man Sunday.
Week 6 at Chicago (W, 23-20)
2. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/24 at TB
Bradford went without an interception for the first time in six NFL starts, posting a season-high 87.8 rating in a victory the Rams badly needed. Bradford continues to show good toughness, durability and leadership. He has overcome significant personnel losses (Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton). Bradford might have padded his stats some if the Rams had gone with a more aggressive game plan after building a double-digit lead in the first half. Then again, he's a rookie and might have turned over the ball, too. The bottom line, though, was that Bradford played well enough early for the Rams to take control and play the second half on their terms. One other thing: Bradford is 3-3 as an NFL starter for a team that had a 3-33 record in its previous 36 games.
Week 6 vs. San Diego (W, 20-17)
3. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/24 at CAR
Let's not focus too much on the aesthetics of the 49ers' 17-9 victory over the Raiders in Week 6. Smith tossed two touchdown passes, including a 32-yarder to Michael Crabtree when the 49ers absolutely needed a play along those lines. Smith went without an interception for the first time this season. For as much as the 49ers wanted Smith and the offense to take a significant step forward this season, turnover avoidance stood as the top priority following a 0-5 start. For reference, consider that Smith tossed no interceptions in four of the 49ers' final six games last season. The team went 4-2 over that stretch. The 49ers are now 1-0 this season when Smith avoids turnovers. And with 0-5 Carolina on the schedule next week, turnover avoidance should remain the priority. Sometimes teams must learn not to lose before they learn how to win.
Week 6 vs. Oakland (W, 17-9)
4. MAX HALLQuarterback | Arizona Cardinals ... Next Game: 10/24 at SEA
Hall lost ground in the rankings during a Cardinals bye week that saw every other quarterback in the division win his game without throwing an interception. Hall faces the toughest challenge of any NFC West quarterback in Week 7 when he visits Qwest Field for the first time as a professional. At least there's a good chance receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will return from injuries.
Week 5 vs. New Orleans (W, 30-20)
The bye week made Hasselbeck the top-rated quarterback in the division by default. Seattle's veteran passer could be nearing a crossroads, however. Another performance like the one he provided during a 20-3 defeat at St. Louis before the bye seems entirely plausible heading onto the road against a 4-1 Chicago Bears team featuring Julius Peppers rushing off the edge. If that happens, no one should be surprised to see the Seahawks give Charlie Whitehurst a shot at the job. But if Marshawn Lynch and a healthier offensive line restore balance to the offense, Hasselbeck can hold onto his job and, perhaps, the top spot in these weekly rankings.
Week 4 at St. Louis (L, 20-3)
2. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/17 vs. SD
The No. 1 overall draft choice played like a rookie following a two-week stretch when he more closely resembled a seasoned veteran. He posted a season-low 46.1 rating during the Rams' 44-6 defeat at Detroit. Losing top receiver Mark Clayton barely a month after losing previous top receiver Donnie Avery puts Bradford in a tough spot. The team needs rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui to pick up where he left off before suffering a severe high-ankle sprain. At least the Rams remain reasonably healthy on their offensive line, and Steven Jackson has fought through a groin injury pretty well. The injuries at receiver will still come at a price, however. Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard must pick up the pace.
Week 5 at Detroit (L, 44-6)
3. MAX HALLQuarterback | Arizona Cardinals ... Next Game: 10/24 at SEA
The Cardinals probably put too much faith in Hall against New Orleans. They spread the field, emptied the backfield and put the ball in the rookie's hands during critical third-down situations when running the ball arguably made more sense from a time-management standpoint. Hall responded by playing aggressively and fearlessly. Maybe a little too fearlessly. But the Cardinals emerged with a victory they needed badly heading into their bye week. Teammates said they responded to Hall's confidence and energy. That and the win were enough for Hall to take the third spot in the rankings this week.
Week 5 vs. New Orleans (W, 30-20)
4. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/17 vs. OAK
Smith has sometimes been at his best very early in games and then once games appear to have slipped away in the fourth quarter. He hasn't been good enough during those moments when games swing one way or another. Take Sunday night. The 49ers trailed the Eagles, 17-10, early in the fourth quarter. A good quarterback leads his team down the field to tie the game. Not Smith. The Eagles flustered him, chased him down, forced a fumble and returned the ball for a back-breaking touchdown. Only then did Smith come alive. His team trailed by two touchdowns by then. Smith did just enough to make it look like he's on the verge of great things. There's nothing great about an 0-5 record, however.
Week 5 vs. Philadelphia (L, 27-24)
6. DAVID CARRQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/17 vs. OAK
The 49ers must have zero faith in Carr to stick with Smith exclusively to this point in the season. But if the 49ers do not beat Oakland, Carr has to get the call, right?
Week 5 vs. Philadelphia (L, 27-24)
1. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/10 at DET
Peyton Manning had three TDs, 11 INTs and a 0-4 record in his first four regular-season games. He also took 11 sacks. Bradford has six TDs, six INTs and a 2-2 record with 10 sacks. Both joined the worst teams in the league. Bradford is faring better through four games and well enough to take over the No. 1 spot in my weekly divisional rankings. The bar is not particularly high in the NFC West right now, but Bradford's poise and command are more impressive than his stats to this point. The Rams believe in him.
Week 4 vs. Seattle (W, 20-3)
Seattle's veteran quarterback has thrown more TDs than INTs in a game just once this season and twice in his past 13 games dating to last season. Coach Pete Carroll committed to Hasselbeck as his starter following the Seahawks' 20-3 defeat at St. Louis in Week 4. The bye should give Seattle a chance to get its offensive line in place and begin evolving into a more aggressive team offensively. Hasselbeck doesn't deal with uncertainty particularly well, in my opinion, and there's lots of uncertainty for him right now -- constantly changing personnel, a new offense, new coaches, Charlie Whitehurst's presence and no contract for Hasselbeck beyond this season.
Week 4 at St. Louis (L, 20-3)
3. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/10 vs. PHI
The fourth-quarter drive he led against New Orleans and the 49ers' opening TD drive against Atlanta in Week 4 let Smith hold onto the third spot despite a 0-4 starting record this season. Let's face it, though: Ranking third among quarterbacks in this division isn't good enough. The 49ers have only one legitimate TD drive to show for their losses to Seattle, Kansas City and Atlanta. Smith's job appears safe because the 49ers do not have an alternative they consider ready or viable, and the team remains only two games back in the division after playing three of its first four games on the road. Smith must improve now that the schedule becomes more favorable.
Week 4 at Atlanta (L, 16-14)
Larry Fitzgerald rode to Anderson's defense after the Cardinals benched their quarterback against San Diego. Anderson could use that kind of protection from his offensive line, too. Fitzgerald is right when he says Anderson is not solely to blame for the Cardinals' problems on offense, but it's also fair to say Anderson hasn't been part of the solution, either. He has struggled throwing to a depleted cast of receivers. His accuracy remains a weakness.
Week 4 at San Diego (L, 41-10)
5. MAX HALLQuarterback | Arizona Cardinals ... Next Game: 10/10 vs. NO
The undrafted rookie took six sacks after replacing Anderson, but at least he avoided interceptions. Whether or not Hall gets the start against New Orleans in Week 5, it's clear he's going to start at some point this season. Somewhat amazingly, that might not prevent the Cardinals from competing within the division. It could actually help if Hall develops quickly, the Cardinals get healthy at receiver and Beanie Wells emerges as expected.
Week 4 at San Diego (L, 41-10)
The Seahawks' passing game remains somewhat out of sync, especially as the team shuffles players through the skill-position spots within its base personnel. Hasselbeck still leads NFC West starters in yards per pass attempt. He's completing a healthy percentage overall. The Seahawks are giving Hasselbeck a chance with better-than-expected pass protection and game plans that move Hasselbeck away from pressure. The struggles from the base offense stand out when looking at Hasselbeck's passer ratings by down: 55.8 on first, 76.4 on second and 106.3 on third.
Week 3 vs. San Diego (W, 27-20)
2. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/3 vs. SEA
Bradford can assume the top spot on this list if he can outplay Hasselbeck and lead the Rams to victory against Seattle in Week 4. Both quarterbacks have four touchdown passes and five interceptions this season. Bradford has zero touchdowns, four interceptions and a 28.3 rating on first down. He has three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 106.8 rating on second down. Teams can be less predictable on second down, when coordinators have more flexibility with their play calling. Perhaps that accounts for the difference. Bradford appears comfortable when the Rams run a faster-paced offense. Two-minute situations seem to suit him.
Week 3 vs. Washington (W, 30-16)
Anderson has been streaky, to say the least. He's been at his best deep in the red zone, completing 3 of 4 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions from inside the opponents' 10-yard line. Still, it's fair to say the Cardinals are 2-1 in spite of their quarterback play, not because of it. Anderson shows admirable toughness. He's also tough to watch when he misses receivers. Anderson is completing 52 percent of his passes overall. Only Bruce Gradkowski, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore are completing a lower percentage among quarterbacks with at least 14 attempts per game this season.
Week 3 vs. Oakland (W, 24-23)
4. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/3 at ATL
Smith has thrown three of his five interceptions on third down. He failed to build upon the tying drive he led against New Orleans a week ago. The 49ers have problems beyond Smith right now, but it's tougher to say Smith is part of the solution after a 0-3 start and two horrid road performances. Smith probably remains the 49ers' best option after the team traded away Shaun Hill. But if NFL teams had to choose their starters for Week 4 from the current starters in the division, I don't think Smith would generate much momentum. The 49ers have converted only five times in 32 third-down chances on the road.
Week 3 at Kansas City (L, 31-10)
Hasselbeck is the only quarterback in the division with an impressive victory on his résumé this season, so he holds the top spot. But that might not last with another game like the one Hasselbeck played at Denver. This marked the third time in his last five starts (dating to last season) that Hasselbeck tossed at least three interceptions. His rating through two weeks is now lower than it was last season.
Week 2 vs. Denver (L, 31-14)
2. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 9/26 at KC
Smith is the only NFC West quarterback to lead the tying or go-ahead drive in the final two minutes of a fourth quarter this season. He played well enough late in the 49ers' 25-22 defeat Monday night to nudge past Bradford for the second spot at this point in the season. Smith scrambled effectively, stared down blitzers, found open receivers and commanded the offense effectively with the game on the line. He held up his end against a championship opponent.
Week 2 vs. New Orleans (L, 25-22)
3. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 9/26 vs. WAS
Bradford is the only quarterback in the division to keep his team close in each of the first two games of the season. He completed his first seven passes for 98 yards and a score against Oakland in Week 2. He also rallied the Rams with a 59-yard touchdown drive in the final four minutes.
Week 2 vs. Oakland (L, 16-14)
The Cardinals failed to convert even once on third down during their 41-7 defeat to the Falcons. Anderson was not entirely or even mostly to blame for the overall performance, but neither was he good enough to keep the Cardinals more competitive. Arizona must protect him better.
Week 2 at Atlanta (L, 41-7)
Let's take a break from talking about how age and injuries have derailed Hasselbeck's career. He stayed steady after an early pick and gave Seattle what the 49ers needed from their QB.
Week 1 vs. San Francisco (W, 31-6)
2. SAM BRADFORDQuarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 9/19 at OAK
His passer rating suffered from two interceptions thrown in desperation, but there was much to like about Bradford's leadership Sunday. The Cardinals' veteran defense could not make him blink. Bradford recovered a fumble and made a tackle, too.
Week 1 vs. Arizona (L, 17-13)
Gritty leadership with the game on the line helped the Cardinals hold off the Rams, but there were also quite a few inaccurate throws. Anderson targeted Larry Fitzgerald 15 times, connecting on three.
Week 1 vs. St. Louis (W, 17-13)
4. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 9/20 vs. NO
Smith could have used some help out there, particularly from receiver Michael Crabtree, but his leadership wasn't strong enough. The 49ers converted only once in 15 third-down plays and a lot of that is on the QB.
Week 1 vs. Seattle (L, 31-6)