Friday, November 16, 2012
Final Word: NFC West
By Mike Sando
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:
The condition of QB Alex Smith will be a priority for the 49ers should he play on Monday night.
QBs on alert: The concussion issue takes center stage Monday night when the San Francisco 49ers host the Chicago Bears. Both starting quarterbacks, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler, are coming off head injuries suffered last week. Smith appears likely to play. Cutler has been ruled out. With an "Outside the Lines" investigation revealing potential conflicts in the NFL's position on concussions, the subject will be unavoidable during the broadcast. Quarterbacks could be at heightened risk for taking punishment in this game. Both teams field ferocious defenses. The 49ers have taken 29 sacks, fourth-most in the NFL. The Bears have taken 28, which ranks fifth.
Advantage 49ers?: Home teams have won the past 10 meetings between the 49ers and Bears, counting playoff games. The 1988 49ers were the last road team to win in the series, beating Chicago at Soldier Field in the NFC Championship Game. However, the 49ers are 1-1-1 in their past three home games. Their quarterbacks have two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, four interceptions and 13 sacks in those games, and their defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher in each.
Ground and pound: The 49ers continue to lead the NFL in rushing yards per game and per carry. Their offensive line, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers block well, and Frank Gore's low running profile makes him difficult to handle. The Bears have allowed 100-yard rushers in consecutive games, a rarity for them (first time since 2009). This is looking like a great week for the 49ers to rely on their ground game. The visiting Bears lead the NFL in interceptions with 19.
Will Cards' woes continue?: These are rough times for the Arizona Cardinals, and the schedule isn't doing them any favors. Arizona takes a five-game losing streak to Atlanta, where Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a 30-4 record as a starter. Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, meanwhile, would tie Ryan Leaf for the longest streak of games with at least one pick if he is intercepted Sunday. Leaf had a 13-game streak from 1998 to 2000.
Slim pickings: The St. Louis Rams picked off eight passes during their first four games. They have collected zero interceptions in their five subsequent games. That is the Rams' longest drought in a season since the 2009 team failed to pick off a pass in its final seven games. That team went 1-15. This team is much better and can actually pass Arizona for third in the standings with a victory over the New York Jets and a Cardinals defeat in Atlanta. The Jets have thrown at least one pick in all but two games this season. If the Rams don't get one this week, a Week 12 visit to Arizona could help.
Note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.