49ers QB Alex Smith will be watching a member of his draft class, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, from the bench.
Quarterback contrasts. The San Francisco 49ers' trip to Green Bay brings them face to face, again, with a familiar 2005 NFL draft storyline. Too many variables affected Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith for anyone to say for sure what would have happened if the 49ers had selected Rodgers. What's striking five years later: the huge gap between how much these teams rely upon their quarterbacks. Only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan have more third-down touchdown passes than Rodgers. Only Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Carson Palmer have more third-down picks. The ball is in Rodgers' hands, for better and worse. With Alex Smith on the bench, 49ers starter Troy Smith enters this game without a single touchdown or interception on third down (Alex Smith had two and four, respectively).
Turning it over. The Arizona Cardinals were plus-three in the turnover column the last time they won a game (Oct. 10). They have committed 28 turnovers this season, two off the NFL high. Their opponent Sunday, St. Louis, has committed only 13, tied for sixth-fewest in the league. The Cardinals lost a tone-setting turnover on their first offensive play last week.
First-round differential. The Seattle Seahawks' problems on the offensive line have nothing to do with rookie left tackle Russell Okung, who is playing quite well. Seattle's other rookie first-round choice, free safety Earl Thomas, has five interceptions and a touchdown return on a blocked punt. The Seahawks' Week 13 opponent, Carolina, hasn't selected a player in the first round since taking Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah in 2008. Otah is on injured reserve.
Stopping the streak. The Rams head to Arizona riding an eight-game losing streak against the Cardinals dating to the 2006 season. When is enough finally enough? This could be the week. The last time the Rams beat the Cardinals, Marc Bulger passed for 309 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions at Arizona on Sept. 24, 2006. Steven Jackson managed only 62 yards on 24 carries. The Cardinals will probably gang up on Jackson again. Rookie Sam Bradford proved last week that he can carry the offense on the road.
Feeding Fitz. The Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL in wide receiver targets with 124, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of the 50 wideouts with the most targets, however, Fitzgerald ranks 48th in percentage caught. His percentage has fallen from 63.8 last season with Kurt Warner as his primary quarterback to 47.5 percent this season. Of those 50 most-targeted wideouts this season, the five with the highest percentages of passes caught play with top quarterbacks. They are: Austin Collie (Peyton Manning), Danny Amendola (Sam Bradford), Wes Welker (Tom Brady), Marques Colston (Drew Brees) and Roddy White (Matt Ryan).