Wednesday, October 20, 2010
How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch
By Mike Sando
1. Preseason predictions. Those would include mine, not that anyone could have known Marshawn Lynch would revitalize Seattle's offense while the Seahawks allowed zero sacks during a road victory against the Chicago Bears. I mean, really, could anyone have seen that coming back in August? Or even two weeks ago? This was the year San Francisco appeared in position to hold off Arizona for the top spot in the NFC West, with Seattle and St. Louis trailing. Six weeks into the season, we could rank the teams in reverse order of expected finish without stretching too far. But it's a week-to-week existence in the NFC West and throughout much of the league. Fortunes change quickly.
2. Seahawks' special teams.Golden Tate muffed a Bears punt at the Seattle 7-yard line and was fortunate to recover. A penalty against the Bears wiped out a kickoff return for a touchdown. An off-target punt allowed the Bears' Devin Hester to return the ball 89 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes, forcing Seattle to sweat out a victory unnecessarily. Punter Jon Ryan was excellent to that point in the game and Seattle's special teams remain strong overall, but a couple high-profile miscues can ruin everything.
3. Arizona Cardinals. It's not their fault the rest of the NFC West went 3-0 during Arizona's bye week. It's not their fault Buffalo traded Lynch to the Seahawks shortly before the Cardinals' visit to Qwest Field. It's not their fault the Rams somehow rebounded from a 44-6 defeat in Detroit to beat a San Diego team that had blown out Arizona two weeks earlier. The reality, though, is that the Cardinals unexpectedly lost sole possession of first place in the division.
In Seattle's win over Chicago, Mike Williams went over the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time this season.
1. Mike Williams, Seahawks WR. Ten catches for 123 yards will raise the stock for just about anyone. Williams' stock has already risen significantly since his surprise signing in Seattle during the offseason. It took a sharp turn upward Sunday. Williams made key catches on third down. He made a difficult catch near the ground in tight quarters along the goal line. Through his efforts, the Seahawks didn't have to hear about Deion Branch catching nine passes for 98 yards in his first game after Seattle traded Branch to New England.
2. Ken Flajole, Rams defensive coordinator. The Rams' defense has outperformed outside expectations. Seven sacks against Philip Rivers helped the Rams hold the Chargers well below their season averages for total yards and passing yards in particular. San Diego managed only 287 yards, 102 lower than its previous worst this season. The Rams ended the Chargers' 13-game streak with at least 300 yards. Flajole doesn't get as much credit as he otherwise might because the Rams have a defense-minded head coach, but more will come his way if St. Louis keeps this up on defense.
3. Frank Gore, 49ers RB. Gore's stock generally doesn't change much, but his 64-yard run and 149-yard rushing performance against Oakland proved critical in the 49ers' first victory of the season. Gore was coming off a two-fumble performance during a 27-24 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. He also stepped out of bounds before making a reception during that game. Gore appeared primed for a rebound game, and he got one.