NFC West: Caleb Hanie

Thoughts after noting that the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick has gone from undisputed No. 2 quarterback as a rookie in 2011 to fighting for the role on equal footing with two others:
  • Going from second to third on the depth chart would look like a regression for Kaepernick, but it might not mean much for the long term. Circumstances have changed. Alex Smith outperformed expectations last season, earning a new contract and tightening his grip on the starting position. The team signed Josh Johnson, Jim Harbaugh's former quarterback at the University of San Diego. Scott Tolzien, another passer the 49ers liked coming out of college, has gained some seasoning.
  • Kaepernick was facing a significant transition from the system he ran in college. His development was going to take time. It'll be good for him to get extensive reps in the preseason, but Johnson will need playing time, too. The goal, of course, is to upgrade the quarterback position, not to make sure Kaepernick appears instantly worthy of the second-round choice San Francisco used to select him. As coach Jim Harbaugh said on the day the 49ers drafted Kaepernick: "We believe in competition. We believe in earning positions around here."
  • The 49ers ideally would have found competition for Kaepernick last offseason. A lockout-shortened signing period complicated those efforts. That cleared the way for Kaepernick to land the No. 2 job unopposed. The 49ers got away with having an inexperienced backup when Smith started all 16 games, plus two playoff games, without encountering the injury problems that sidelined him in past seasons.
  • There's no precedent for developing quarterbacks drafted in second rounds. Each situation has its own dynamics. A year ago, developing Kaepernick on a fast schedule seemed important. Those still skeptical of Smith might feel that way yet. But Johnson, with more experience than Kaepernick, might be better prepared to take over a playoff-caliber team on short notice should Smith struggle or suffer an injury. It's up to Kaepernick to prove otherwise.

As the chart shows, five of the nine second-round quarterbacks drafted from 2007 to 2011 were third-stringers or had been released heading into their second regular seasons. Chad Henne and Kevin Kolb were second string. Andy Dalton remains a starter heading into his second year. Brock Osweiler, a second-rounder in Denver this year, hasn't had a second season, obviously.

Around the NFC West: Surging Seahawks

December, 19, 2011
The Seattle Seahawks lost their leading receiver from 2010 to a serious injury Sunday without dramatically affecting their ability to win.

The broken ankle Mike Williams suffered during a 38-14 victory over the Chicago Bears would have been devastating had it happened a year ago. It should be devastating this season, too, given that projected 2011 receiver leader Sidney Rice is already out for the season.

But the way the Seahawks are winning these days, with young players emerging throughout the roster, little seems to cramp their style.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' performance at Soldier Field proves they're more than just a novelty. Brewer: "You could shrug it off and caution that the Bears were without starting quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. Or you could look more closely at the mounting evidence -- five victories in the past six games -- and acknowledge the Seahawks have learned how to win, at home and on the road." Noted: The truth probably lies somewhere in betwee. The Seahawks have learned how to win because they're playing better and they've done a good job developing young players. They've also faced some struggling teams with quarterback issues (St. Louis twice, Philadelphia, Chicago).

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Taravaris Jackson completed 15 of 19 passes in the second half. O'Neil: "For the past six weeks, Seattle has relied upon the run, while Jackson has been the bus driver whose job is just to keep the whole operation on the road. That changed in the third quarter Sunday. With the Bears playing a more aggressive coverage scheme, the Seahawks looked to push the ball downfield more aggressively. After not completing a single pass of more than 30 yards in any of his past three games, Jackson had two such completions among Seattle's first four plays of the second half. The first was a 33-yard gain to Golden Tate on third down, followed immediately by a 43-yard pass to Ben Obomanu against man-to-man coverage."

Also from O'Neil: a look at the Seahawks' diminished playoff hopes.

Clare Farnsworth of names rookie linebacker K.J. Wright the team's player of the game Sunday. Farnsworth: "The rookie strongside linebacker did a lot of the dirty work that led to a lot of the big plays, as well as making a game-high eight solo tackles. Red Bryant’s interception and 20-yard return for a touchdown to ignite the Seahawks’ 31-0 run in the second half? It was Wright who hit Bears QB Caleb Hanie to set up the pick-six."

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seattle's Pete Carroll is putting together his best coaching job. McGrath: "Through eight games, his team was 2-6 and all but eliminated from the playoff race. Beyond the bleak numbers, the Hawks were a chore to watch and difficult to appreciate, often cheap-shot artists who did nothing else remotely artistic. How does a football team manage to be dirty and dull at the same time? Carroll needed two months to clean up the slop, but clean it up he did."

710ESPN Seattle's Liz Mathews says Williams suffered a broken ankle against the Bears.

OK, so it's not quite Brady vs. Tebow

December, 17, 2011
For some reason, Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow is attracting more attention than John Skelton vs. Seneca Wallace heading into Week 15.

Skelton is getting the start for Arizona while Kevin Kolb continues his recovery from a concussion suffered against San Francisco last week. It's possible all four Week 15 games involving NFC West teams will feature at least one backup:
  • Seattle at Chicago: The Bears are without Jay Cutler. Caleb Hanie starts for him. Chicago is 0-3 and averaging 11 points per game since Hanie took over as the starter.
  • St. Louis vs. Cincinnati: Kellen Clemens is expected to start for the injured Sam Bradford behind center for the Rams. Clemens was not even on the Rams' roster until the last couple of weeks. Bradford's injured ankle had him back in a walking boot and missing practices. He's doubtful.
  • Arizona vs. Cleveland: Skelton gets the start for Kolb. NFC West alumnus Seneca Wallace starts for the Browns' injured Colt McCoy. Skelton has done a good job picking up yardage with his feet. He's big, strong and tough to take down. Wallace is fast and athletic enough to moonlight at wide receiver as needed.
  • San Francisco vs. Pittsburgh: Nothing seems to keep the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger from playing. He practiced on a limited basis Friday after resting his injured ankle previously during the week. Charlie Batch would start for Roethlisberger on Monday night, if needed.

Consider it a testament to Tarvaris Jackson's toughness and recuperative powers for his injury status to barely merit a mention. Seattle's starter suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle in Week 5 and missed only one game.

Sando's best guesses: Week 15 predictions

December, 16, 2011
Significant quarterback considerations affect every game involving NFC West teams in Week 15. That makes the picks tougher than usual.
  • Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET. The Bears should win home games in December against West Coast teams with losing records. Subtracting Jay Cutler and Matt Forte from the Bears' lineup dramatically improves the Seahawks' chances. But the Seahawks' reshuffled offensive line faces difficult matchups. Let's pick against the team with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. Sando's best guess: Seahawks 13, Bears 10.
  • St. Louis Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET. The Bengals have lost four of five, but nothing about the Rams suggests they'll win another game this season. Sam Bradford's injury status -- and his stats -- keep getting worse. Sando's best guess: Bengals 17, Rams 10.
  • Arizona Cardinals vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:15 p.m. ET. The Browns have exceeded 14 points twice in their last 10 games. Having Seneca Wallace at quarterback probably helps, but the Cardinals are playing well enough on defense to control this game. The Cardinals, for all their struggles earlier in the season, lead the NFL in touchdowns covering at least 50 yards (nine). The Browns have given up only two. Sando's best guess: Cardinals 20, Browns 13.
  • San Francisco 49ers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m. ET. This is the toughest NFC West outcome to predict. The Steelers are traveling across the country with an injured quarterback to face one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. But the 49ers' offense is struggling and, as Matt Williamson pointed out, the matchups favor Pittsburgh. The Steelers' last three opponents have combined for 19 points. The 49ers gave up 21 to Arizona. Sando's best guess: Steelers 17, 49ers 16

My record picking NFC West games stands at 28-15 after going 1-1 last week amid indecision over the 49ers-Cardinals game.

Where am I wrong this time?

49ers' Smith must handle Steelers' pressure

December, 14, 2011
A few thoughts on where quarterbacks relevant to NFC West teams in Week 15 stand in dealing with added pressure from opposing defenses:
  • Arizona's Kevin Kolb has made big plays against five or more pass-rushers, producing the highest yards-per-attempt figure in these situations. He has also taken sacks at inopportune times. That most likely accounts for the gap between his NFL passer rating (an impressive 92.5) and Total QBR (a below-average 37.9).
  • The same appears true for San Francisco's Alex Smith. The 49ers can certainly live with that 8-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. It's clear Smith has minimized turnovers by taking sacks. The 49ers would be better off if he could turn a few of those sacks into quick-strike plays to beat pressure. Smith had four touchdowns, four interceptions and eight sacks with 97 attempts against five-plus rushers last season. His passer rating has climbed about 20 points and his QBR is up from 41.1 to 47.4 in these situations.
  • St. Louis' Sam Bradford had a 9-4 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions on these throws last season. He is taking sacks on 9.2 percent of these dropbacks, up from 7.3 percent last season. His NFL passer rating against five-plus rushers has fallen from 83.1 last season to 64.5 this season. His QBR in these situations has fallen from 41.1 last season to 22.0 this season.
  • The 49ers infrequently send more than four rushers. Will they come after Ben Roethlisberger more aggressively if Roethlisberger plays on a bad ankle? The Steelers are more likely to send added pressure. They rank second in QBR allowed (17.2) and seventh in NFL passer rating allowed (74.5) when sending five or more rushers.

And now, on to the chart ...

2011 Seahawks Week 13: Five observations

December, 12, 2011
The Seattle Seahawks have not played in 11 days. That will change Monday night. In the meantime, I've taken another look at the team's most recent game, a 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13. Five observations with implications for the future:
  • No fear from Tarvaris Jackson. It's still unclear how Jackson went from struggling to play with a torn pectoral to flourishing as though healthy. He ran with the ball on the Seahawks' first drive and dove forward instead of sliding. Jackson attempted only 16 passes against the Eagles and has now had an extended period between games. He should be even better physically against St. Louis.
  • Cole-Okung undercard. The Seahawks lost left tackle Russell Okung to a season-ending pectoral injury when Eagles defensive end Trent Cole threw Okung to the ground in frustration late in the game. That incident had been building. Cole and/or defensive tackle Mike Patterson threw down Okung just 35 seconds into the game. Marshawn Lynch was finishing a run up the middle when Okung rallied to his assistance. The whistle had blown three times as one of their shoves sent Okung toppling over a pile.
  • Giacomini might have a future. The Seahawks drafted James Carpenter to play right tackle and would like to see him play there in the future. The next few games could reveal whether Carpenter's injury replacement, Breno Giacomini, might be worth keeping in that spot. Such a move would make sense only if Giacomini played well and the team felt good enough about Carpenter at guard. When Lynch broke free for his improbable 15-yard touchdown run, Giacomini was laying on two Eagles defenders in the backfield. He plays with attitude and adds toughness. Would a left-side pairing featuring Okung and Carpenter be worth investigating next season? A thought.
  • Defense feasted on bad QB play. The Seahawks picked off four passes against Vince Young. They'll be facing Sam Bradford or Tom Brandstater on Monday night, Caleb Hanie, Alex Smith and John Skelton or Kevin Kolb in their remaining games. The defense has a chance to keep the turnovers coming. The San Francisco 49ers' Smith has done a very good job avoiding them this season, but Seattle gets to face him at CenturyLink Field, an advantage for the Seahawks.
  • David Hawthorne's valiance. Hawthorne made it through the game despite continuing knee problems. His game-clinching interception return for a touchdown helped him emerge as the defensive player of the week in the NFC. His knee problems raise questions about long-term durability, however. Hawthorne has limped through the past couple games at less than full strength. I'd list linebacker among the team's needs heading into the offseason even though Hawthorne, Leroy Hill and K.J. Wright have played well at times. The team needs to restock its depth after deciding Aaron Curry wasn't a fit.

The day is only beginning. I'm heading over to CenturyLink Field shortly and will report from there. It's looking like weather should not be a problem. Temperatures are expected to be in the 30s, with no rain.

Tip of the cap to ex-Seahawk Aaron Curry

November, 30, 2011
The Seattle Seahawks paid $3.2 million to Aaron Curry just so the third-year linebacker would go away.

That was seven weeks ago.

The team, anxious to get anything in return for a failed draft choice from a previous leadership regime, paid the money to facilitate Curry's trade to the Oakland Raiders.

The Seahawks presumably have no regrets. Curry wasn't producing for them. He seemed to be getting worse. They picked up a 2012 seventh-round choice and a conditional 2013 fifth-rounder for a player no longer of value to them.

Sometimes, however, a fresh start can help a player revive his career. The plays Curry made Sunday for the Raiders during their 25-20 victory over the Chicago Bears were certainly a positive sign for him.

I did not watch the full game, but in making my rounds across the web this week, I noticed Curry's name heading a list of high-impact NFL defensive players for Week 12. Advanced NFL Stats listed Curry and teammate Kamerion Wimbley just ahead of Denver's Von Miller on a list measuring playmaking. Arizona's Sam Acho was in the top 10.

Curry defended the pass Wimbley intercepted and returned 73 yards, a key play in the game. Curry also hit Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie, affecting a pass Stanford Routt intercepted. Curry twice tackled Matt Forte for 3-yard losses, and again after a gain of only three yards. He brought down Hanie after a 1-yard gain on a scramble.

Coaches would obviously know whether Curry or any other player fulfilled his responsibilities in coverage, against the run, within the scheme overall, etc. Curry, Wimbley, Miller, Acho and the other players listed might have failed in some of those areas, but all made key plays for their teams, at the very least.

That is a change for Curry.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 22, 2011

The San Francisco 49ers have held on to the No. 2 spot for a fourth consecutive week in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 12.

Our panelists appear unsympathetic to their plight traveling across the country to Baltimore on a short week. It's looking like the 49ers will need a victory over the Ravens to maintain their status in the rankings. This is already the 49ers' highest ranking so late in a season since began archiving power rankings histories.

"If the Ravens win, I'd move them ahead of the Niners," voter Paul Kuharsky said.

Another voter, James Walker, put it this way: "It's simple: San Francisco has to beat Baltimore to stay No. 2. If the Ravens win, I'm more likely to put them at No. 2 over the 49ers. Head-to-head means a lot. That's why they play the games."

With a No. 2 ranking, there's almost nowhere for the 49ers to go but down. Almost ...

"It's possible they could actually move up with a win, because Green Bay doesn't exactly have a gimme with Detroit," Ashley Fox said, alluding to a scenario that would surely stir passionate conversation.

The top four teams remained unchanged from last week. Baltimore replaced Chicago at No. 5 after the Bears won a game but lost their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, to a thumb injury requiring surgery.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 12 ...

Rising (12): Cleveland Browns (+4), Miami Dolphins (+4), Philadelphia Eagles (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Atlanta Falcons (+2), Denver Broncos (+2), New England Patriots (+2), Oakland Raiders (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Carolina Panthers (+1), Houston Texans (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1).

Falling (12): New York Giants (-5), Arizona Cardinals (-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Buffalo Bills (-2), Chicago Bears (-2), Cincinnati Bengals (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), New York Jets (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1).

Unchanged (8): Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. Tampa Bay prevailed over San Diego at No. 20 on the third tiebreaker (which team won a game most recently). Head-to-head results and overall record did not break the tie.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Packers first, the 49ers second and the Colts last -- same as last week.

Agree to disagree: The Texans generated the largest gap between high and low votes among panelists. Quarterback injuries played a role in disparities for Houston and Chicago. Kuharsky gave both teams the benefit of the doubt pending additional evidence, but he views the teams differently.

"I have a lot more faith in Matt Leinart and what's around him than I do in Caleb Hanie and what's around him," Kuharsky said. "In both instances, I didn't want to score the teams down ahead of time. I put them where they are now, not where I think they'll be. My forecast would be that the Texans still win their division while the Bears lose out in a wild-card bid."

A look at the five teams producing disparities of at least six spots between highest and lowest votes:
  • Texans (7): Fox ranked them fifth, Walker ranked them 12th.
  • Bears (6): Kuharsky fifth, Walker 11th.
  • Lions (6): Walker seventh, Sando 13th.
  • Seahawks (6): Sando 19th, Kuharsky 25th.
  • Cardinals (6): Kuharsky 24th, Sando 30th.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: Teams from the AFC North overtook teams from the NFC North for the highest average ranking among divisions. The NFC West, 6-2 over the past two weeks, held on to the seventh spot, ahead of teams from the AFC South.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (-8), Bills (-6), Browns (+5), Dolphins (+7).
  • Clayton: Giants (-6).
  • Kuharsky: Browns (+5), Eagles (+6).
  • Walker: Bears (-7), Browns (+5), Eagles (+7).
  • Fox: Texans (-7), Bills (-6), Cardinals (-5), Jaguars (-5), Rams (-5), Falcons (+5), Dolphins (+5), Eagles (+7).
For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The file includes a "powerflaws" sheet pointing out potential flaws in voters' thinking by showing how many higher-ranked opponents each team defeated this season.

This week, No. 13 Cincinnati and last-ranked Indianapolis are the only teams with zero victories over teams ranked higher than them. Denver, ranked 17th, and Buffalo, ranked 19th, are the only teams with more than two victories over teams currently ranked higher than them.

A quick primer on the "powerflaws" sheet:
  • Column Y features team rankings.
  • Column Z shows how many times a team has defeated higher-ranked teams.
  • Change the rankings in Column Y as you see fit.
  • Re-sort Column Y in ascending order (1 to 32) using the standard Excel pull-down menu atop the column.
  • The information in Column Z, which reflects potential ranking errors, will change (with the adjusted total highlighted in yellow atop the column).
  • The lower the figure in that yellow box, the fewer conflicts.
Tai from Seattle writes: Other than the Bears and Jets, it looks like player health was the big loser during championship weekend. Players claim to care about safety, yet some openly attacked an injured player for not playing hurt, like a bunch of junior high bullies.

Mike Sando: Interesting point, and well stated. In fairness to NFL players, the renewed emphasis on safety focuses largely on concussions, and at no point did it appear as though the Bears' Jay Cutler suffered a debilitating, life-altering injury.

Most of the attacks on Cutler, at least the ones that I saw, came via Twitter. I think it's pretty clear some players view Twitter as a venue for informal chatter without realizing the impact their words can have in a broader context. It's what you say, not where you say it.

Back to your point, though. Players' emphasis on safety does not do away with the culture of toughness. It's possible to question a player's toughness in a specific moment while supporting player safety overall. It does seem as though players should get the benefit of the doubt before the facts about an injury become known. That did not happen in this case.

Jason from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Hey Mike, with Seattle's attention turning toward the draft, I was wondering if you could fill in some gaps for me. Both lines need starters and depth. What combination of size and skills should we be looking for in zone-blocking guards? How about for the "Leo" position and for some depth behind Red Bryant? Thanks as always.

Mike Sando: There was irony in Ben Hamilton's contention that "personnel disputes and butting heads" precipitated Alex Gibbs' retirement as line coach right before the 2010 regular season. Hamilton and players in his mold would have been at the center of those disputes.

Gibbs always wanted smaller guards such as Hamilton. Other proponents of zone blocking schemes have come to favor larger ones. Gibbs valued mobility, but smaller guards have a harder time holding up in those moments when size and strength prevail.

We should expect the Seahawks to favor bigger offensive linemen than the ones Gibbs usually sought. We should expect them to favor the types of offensive linemen Tom Cable prefers.

The success Bryant enjoyed suggests the Seahawks could seek other top-heavy defensive tackles for the five-technique alignment.

The "Leo" requirements are pretty simple. Seattle will be looking for players with traits associated with 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers. Coach Pete Carroll has described it as a "speed-oriented" position.

Tony from Bakersfield, Calif., writes: The Bears' Caleb Hanie played very well against the Packers for being a third-stringer and not getting much practice reps. He doesn't have much experience, but he is worth a look. Do you think the Niners might try to sign him or trade for him if Chicago re-signs him instead of trading for Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb? They would give less for Hanie. He showed promise in a playoff game under all that pressure. None of the current 49ers quarterbacks would have played that well.

Mike Sando: Hanie did impress. The moment was not too big for him. On the other hand, he was the third-stringer behind Todd Collins, and there wasn't much pressure on him at all, in my view. Hanie was the third-stringer. The Bears were losing by double digits. No one expected Hanie to succeed in that situation.

Hanie did a good job, but it wasn't enough for another team to bet very much on him. The 49ers should consider all options. They should not act in desperation. They need at least one quarterback with some experience. They probably need to draft one. And if they are going to trade for one, they might need more to go on than one-plus quarters in a losing cause.

Mike writes via Facebook: I read Sando's column on my question and can see his point [regarding Carson Palmer and the Cardinals]. Of course, if a second-rounder gets him, then I'm find with that. But my point here is that if keeping Larry Fitzgerald hinges on getting a great quarterback, is there anyone better out there than Palmer? And while I think the questions on Palmer's health are valid, are you really going to debate that at the risk of losing Fitzgerald? I think not.

With what Palmer has gone through in Cincinnati, I think he'd love a move to Arizona to start for a couple of years while grooming John Skelton or another young guy and finishing out his career as respected and loved by Arizona fans as Warner is and always will be. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Mike Sando: It is a no-brainer if the price is right. Re-watching almost any Cardinals game from the 2010 season will make Palmer or any competent quarterback seem appealing.

It's important for the Cardinals to get the quarterback situation solved for many reasons, including creating an environment that helps keep Fitzgerald in Arizona for the long term.

Mailbag: Troubling reality on QB front

January, 21, 2011
Chris from Houston writes: What free-agent quarterbacks do you expect Arizona to be looking at this offseason? I know of Marc Bulger, but who else is there for them to even consider that wouldn't require a trade? Thanks! Love the blog! Thanks for helping keep us all sane until next season.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Chris. This could be a rough offseason for signing or even acquiring quarterbacks from other teams.

One, the list of quarterbacks likely to hit the market is once against weak. Two, a lockout would prevent teams from trading for players -- even via draft-day trades involving picks. A lockout lasting past the draft would limit options further, in other words.

Peyton Manning and Michael Vick are scheduled to become free agents, but Manning is going nowhere, obviously, and the Eagles will presumably keep Vick, too. Brett Favre is retiring, it appears, so forget about him.

The next tier of quarterbacks with expiring contracts goes like this: Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington and Bulger. These are older, likely declining players -- not necessarily guys to build around. Pennington's health is a major issue. Vince Young is available.

Several highly drafted, not-yet-old quarterbacks could hit the market, but none has met expectations. That list will feature Kyle Boller, Patrick Ramsey, Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, Alex Smith and Matt Leinart. The Cardinals aren't bringing back Leinart, obviously, and the other guys on this list will not project as starters.

Tarvaris Jackson, Brodie Croyle and Matt Moore could be available, too.

Several career backups could become available: Todd Collins, Todd Bouman, Billy Volek, Bruce Gradkowski, Seneca Wallace, J.T. O'Sullivan, Chris Simms, Luke McCown, etc.

Still not sold?

The names get smaller from there. Brian St. Pierre, Jim Sorgi, Charlie Frye, Kellen Clemens, Drew Stanton, Troy Smith, Brian Brohm, Caleb Hanie, Jordan Palmer, Dennis Dixon ... we're not finding the Cardinals' next starter from that list, either.

Arizona should probably make a play for Bulger, consider drafting a quarterback and see how the trade market shakes out. The Cardinals have too many needs, in my view, to part with multiple picks of value for an unproven quarterback such as Kevin Kolb -- unless they're convinced that quarterback will become a very good player.
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks are gathering on the field near their sideline for some pregame mosh-pit action before their stretching session.

I've done a quick sleeve count to see which players have given in to the cold.

Eight Seattle players -- Mike Williams, J.P. Losman, Jordan Babineaux, Clint Gresham, William Robinson, Stacy Andrews, Jon Ryan and Olindo Mare -- are wearing long sleeves for Seattle. A couple defensive backs are wearing forearm pads.

Eight Bears players are also wearing sleeves: Brad Maynard, Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Todd Collins, Greg Olsen, Corey Graham, Devin Hester and Patrick Mannelly.

We're up to 22 degrees from 16 degrees a few hours ago.

Inactives: Bears, Seahawks healthy

January, 16, 2011
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks offered no surprises on their list of inactive players Sunday.

They are relatively healthy.

Lofa Tatupu starts at middle linebacker one week after suffering a concussion. Coach Pete Carroll said all week he expected Tatupu to play.

Inactive for Seattle: cornerback Josh Pinkard, cornerback Marcus Brown, linebacker Joe Pawelek, guard Lemuel Jeanpierre, guard Paul Fanaika, tackle Breno Giacomini and defensive tackle Amon Gordon. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

The Bears' inactive list features safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, guard Herman Johnson, guard/center Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. Caleb Hanie is the third quarterback.

Clark, who started seven games last season, has faded from prominence over the second half of the season. He was active against Seattle in Week 6, then inactive until Week 17.
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks will not have to worry about Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs in their Week 6 matchup at Soldier Field.

Briggs, slowed by an ankle injury recently, was named inactive Sunday. Also, the Bears designated veteran Todd Collins as their third quarterback, leaving Caleb Hanie as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Collins started for the Bears when a concussion sidelined Cutler last week.

Also inactive for the Bears: Major Wright, Joshua Moore, Kahlil Bell, Roberto Garza, Charles Grant and Marcus Harrison.