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Saturday, August 28, 2010
Podcast: Sleepers, busts, bold predictions

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

ESPN's Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry took a run through the NFC West during their nearly 40-minute podcast Friday.

They touched on the St. Louis Rams beginning at about the 11-minute mark, debating to what degree Brandon Gibson might emerge following Donnie Avery's season-ending knee injury. Gibson's recent return from a hamstring injury does give him a chance to seize a higher profile within the offense. The Rams' situation at receiver remains undefined, however. Laurent Robinson should factor prominently as long as his health holds up. Danny Amendola should produce from the slot unless injuries force him to the perimeter.

Ravitz and Berry mentioned the Arizona Cardinals just past the 17-minute mark, with one bold prediction: Tim Hightower will outscore Beanie Wells in at least seven games. That sounds reasonable if Hightower remains a threat in goal-line situations. Both are going to play extensively, but if one back gets hot, the balance could shift.

Neither Ravitz nor Berry mentioned Ted Ginn Jr. or Josh Morgan as potential sleepers for the San Francisco 49ers (that segment began at about the 18-minute mark). They questioned Vernon Davis' ability to reach double-digit touchdowns again this season, pointing to his relatively low number of chances in the red zone last season and Michael Crabtree's increased role. Among the bold predictions for the 49ers: 12 touchdowns for Crabtree and 26 touchdown passes for Alex Smith. Crabtree caught only two touchdown passes last season.

Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, John Carlson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh drew positive mention in the segment covering the Seattle Seahawks (that one begins after the 21-minute mark). Carlson has an excellent chance to increase his production if the Seahawks use two tight ends, with Chris Baker as the primary blocker. That would free up Carlson more as a receiver. Despite perceptions that Houshmandzadeh fell off dramatically last season, he still caught 79 passes and increased his yards-per-catch total by more than 17 percent (from 9.8 to 11.5).