NFC West: Football Today

Passing along: Recent stories regarding Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin and San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis led to an appearance Wednesday on the "Football Today" podcast with Robert Flores. Our part of the podcast begins near the 11:30 mark.

We discussed what's most important regarding Harvin's injury situation, including implications for 2014, before further dismissing the idea that Davis will be playing wide receiver a meaningful amount of the time, unless you count receptions from the slot as receptions by a wide receiver.

Whatever the case, the 49ers' opponents generally aren't going to play nickel defense on early downs when Davis is on the field with two true wide receivers. Opponents did so last season 34 times in 331 of these first- and second-down plays (10.3 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Green Bay (11) and Miami (seven) accounted for 18 of the 34 plays.

Football Today: Hall of Fame snubs

July, 11, 2013
7/11/13
3:00
PM ET
ESPN's Robert Flores, Jay Soderberg and I used the latest "Football Today" podcast to consider two subjects: Hall of Fame snubs and NFL teams whose championship windows are closing.

Flores pointed to Ray Guy and asked about another former Raider, ex-coach Tom Flores. Soderberg stumped for a Canadian Football League legend. I offered thoughts from my perspective as a Hall of Fame voter.

One key point: Selectors do not vote "against" candidates. We vote for them, and some miss the cut because only five modern-era players can qualify in a given year. The very best candidates get in quickly, while others get in eventually.

The bar for enshrinement rises and falls depending upon the strength of the field. In that way, the process resembles a golf tournament. Shooting even par would have won the Masters in 2007. It would have fallen short by 19 strokes in 1997.

Still, there are some valid questions surrounding Hall of Fame candidates repeatedly considered as finalists before fading from the conversation. We discussed some of the considerations during this podcast.

The chart ranks candidates by most appearances as finalists without being enshrined to this point. Thirty-one others have been finalists up to three times, including NFC West favorites Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Roger Craig and Aeneas Williams.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Super Bowl isn't the only draw in New Orleans this week.

Pro Football Hall of Fame voting takes place Saturday. Ross Tucker and I took an insider's look at the voting process during a special edition of the Football Today podcast from New Orleans.

It was great getting together with Ross to tape the podcast from Radio Row. Thanks to Jay Soderberg for the production work.

Ross and I covered the game in detail and debated which team was most likely to win. He's leaning toward the Ravens and buying into the "team of destiny" idea. I feel as though the Ravens are the best story, but the 49ers have the better team.

We're hearing a lot about Ray Lewis, and rightfully so, but I think that's distracting us from things that matter more. The two best inside linebackers in this game play for the 49ers -- NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis -- but Lewis gets more attention than either combined. Likewise, there's much talk about how well Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is playing, and rightfully so, but Colin Kaepernick has been as good or better by important measures.

Football Today: 49ers or Falcons?

January, 19, 2013
1/19/13
10:38
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg have made their Championship Game picks as part of the latest Football Today podcast .

Their NFC Championship Game preview begins at the 4:35 mark of the above-linked podcast. Check it out.

Tucker expects the Falcons to play well after finally claiming their first postseason victory since coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan arrived in 2008. He thinks the Falcons will be well-prepared for Colin Kaepernick's running.

"Ultimately, however, I just think the 49ers have better football players, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Tucker said. "I think they are better up front on both sides of the ball, and that that is what will ultimately carry the day."

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. envisions the Falcons picking off Kaepernick once or twice, but he's leaning toward the 49ers as well. As for Soderberg? He makes his pick at about the 13:10 mark.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. Chris Mortensen and Keyshawn Johnson are taking the Falcons to beat the 49ers.

Football Today: NFC West Week 17

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
8:00
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg have made their Week 17 picks as part of the latest Football Today podcast .

I've bookmarked NFC West games for you as follows:
  • 31:12 mark: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers. No surprises here. Tucker would be "stunned" if the Cardinals win this game. This game did not invite much analysis. It's just tough to envision the Cardinals' offense doing enough to win the game, even if the defense scored on interception or fumble returns.
  • 31:58: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks. Williamson said he'd be tempted to pick the Rams if the game were in St. Louis. He thinks the game will be competitive. Tucker marvels at Seattle being a double-digit favorite. Williamson and Tucker are taking Seattle. Soderberg, a Seahawks skeptic several times earlier this season, makes Seattle his lock of the week.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 17, so check out the full podcast if you get a chance.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. San Francisco and Seattle are unanimous choices this week.

Football Today: NFC West Week 16

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
3:19
PM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg have been analyzing games and picking winners each week on their Football Today podcast. Their latest conversation covers Week 16 matchups.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested:
  • 11:04 mark: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks. Tucker thinks Justin Smith's injury is significant enough to factor in the outcome. He also thinks the 49ers are at a disadvantage playing on the road against good teams in back-to-back weeks. Williamson thinks the game means more to Seattle, and that the atmosphere will be tough for San Francisco. He expects a close game, and thinks the 49ers have the slightly better team. Soderberg is taking the 49ers.
  • 29:36: St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tucker is taking the Rams in what he calls a toss-up game, based mostly on how Tampa Bay has been playing lately. Williamson is also taking the Rams. He thinks the Bucs' pass rush and secondary will make inviting targets for Sam Bradford and the Rams' wide receivers. Williamson calls Josh Freeman's fundamentals "junk" and is picking against Tampa Bay more than he is picking for the Rams.
  • 41:55: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals. Williamson expects a close game. He says the quarterback position was "not awful" for Arizona last week, but he thinks the Bears' defensive line will help Chicago pull off a close victory. Tucker also likes the Bears to win a close one.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 16, so check out the full podcast if you get a chance.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. Seven of 12 analysts are taking the 49ers over the Seahawks. They are split on the Rams-Buccaneers game. All 12 pick the Bears over Arizona.

Football Today: NFC West Week 15

December, 15, 2012
12/15/12
9:30
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 15.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well.
  • 6:35 mark: San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots. Tucker thinks the 49ers must take advantage of the Patriots' slower linebackers. Williamson thinks the Patriots have the best team in the NFL. He called their blowout victory over Houston last week, but he expects a much tougher game for New England in this one. Williamson boils down the game to Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick.
  • 23:25: Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams. Williamson likes the Rams' defense and thinks Jeff Fisher should be coach of the year. He loves the matchup and thinks Adrian Peterson will need 175-plus yards for the Vikings to win the game. Tucker likes the Rams' defensive front seven. He also predicts a pick-six for the Rams' secondary against Christian Ponder. I feel that's a good call.
  • 30:22: Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills. Williamson expects a low-scoring game. He and Tucker are both picking the Seahawks. Tucker is down on the Bills, his former team, after home losses to Tennessee and St. Louis. Soderberg picked against Seattle heading into the Seahawks' 58-0 victory last week. He's taking them this time.
  • 32:35: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals. Tucker and Williamson are looking forward to Patrick Peterson facing Calvin Johnson. Williamson wonders whether the Cardinals might surprise this week, but he's not betting on it. Soderberg is making the Lions his lock of the week.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 15, so check out the full podcast if you can.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. Seattle and Detroit are unanimous picks this week. Seth Wickersham is the only one picking the 49ers to beat the Patriots. Picks are mixed for the Vikings-Rams game.

Football Today: NFC West Week 14

December, 8, 2012
12/08/12
9:00
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 14.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well.
  • 18:50 mark: St. Louis Rams at Buffalo Bills. Williamson struggled picking a winner in this game. He thinks the Rams have the better team, but he's not quite ready to trust St. Louis to win three in a row for the first time since the 2006 season.
  • 40:02 mark: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers. Williamson thinks the 49ers will play conservatively and the game will be close through about three quarters. Soderberg points out the Dolphins' troubles stopping quarterbacks outside the pocket.
  • 41:58 mark: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks. "Unwatchable" and "historically bad" were terms Williamson used for Arizona's offense. Tucker thinks the game will be closer than expected. Soderberg is calling an upset special. "Foolhardy" is the word Williamson uses to describe that pick. Tucker tried to get Soderberg to put money on his pick. It was suggested Soderberg should have to dress up as Little Bo Peep if Seattle wins.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 14, so check out the full podcast if you can.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. Seattle and San Francisco are unanimous picks. Most are taking the Rams as well. Roll, West.

Football Today: NFC West Week 13

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
6:30
AM ET
Good morning, NFC Westers.

I'll be heading to Illinois later Saturday for a Seattle-Chicago matchup with playoff implications for both teams. In the meantime, pull up your preferred device for a few more predictions.

Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 13.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well.
  • 19:47 mark: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears. Tucker picks the Bears somewhat reluctantly. He thinks the Seahawks' defensive line could pressure Jay Cutler into taking chances against a Seattle secondary that could capitalize. Williamson expects an "extremely low-scoring game" featuring strong play from the Seahawks' Richard Sherman against Brandon Marshall. Williamson uses the word "reluctant" when picking the Bears.
  • 27:14 mark: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams. Tucker points to the 49ers' play over the past two weeks as evidence San Francisco should beat a Rams team that has been inconsistent. Williamson uses the term "juggernaut" to describe the 49ers. He sees this game as a potential "speed bump" for San Francisco, but he thinks they'll win anyway.
  • 32:37 mark: Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets. Tucker was particularly harsh in evaluating Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley for throwing in Week 12 what he considered to be some of the worst passes he's ever seen in the NFL. He's taking the Jets by double digits. Williamson called this the toughest game of the week to predict. He thinks the Cardinals will win the game, but he cannot explain why.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 13, so check out the full podcast if you can.

Related: Check out ESPN's expert picks for the week. Chris Mortensen and Tom Jackson are taking Seattle. Keyshawn Johnson is taking Arizona. Adam Schefter is taking St. Louis.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 12

November, 24, 2012
11/24/12
10:39
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 12.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well.
  • 22:54 mark: Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins. Tucker thinks the Seahawks are improving and that will begin to show more frequently on the road. He's taking Seattle. Williamson lays out the usual disclaimers about West Coast teams playing on the East Coast, but he doesn't think Miami has the weapons to threaten Seattle's defense. Soderberg takes the Dolphins without much elaboration.
  • 30:42 mark: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints. Williamson has been a strong Colin Kaepernick supporter since the team drafted the quarterback in 2011. He thinks it is "an absolute no-brainer" to start Kaepernick after Kaepernick showed he could handle presnap responsibilities against Chicago. He thinks Kaepernick gives the 49ers' coaching staff the ability to attack the entire field. There is no consensus on which team will win this game.
  • 37:30 mark St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals. Williamson likes Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley as a prospect and thought Lindley lasted longer than anticipated in the draft. However, all three are taking the Rams to win. That was my thought initially, but not after considering how well the Cardinals can play on defense. Take away Danny Amendola from the Rams and Arizona's chances improve.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 12.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 11

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
3:00
PM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 11.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well.
  • 16:20 mark: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons. Williamson likes the Cardinals' matchup against the Falcons' offense, particularly up front. But Arizona's anticipated difficulties protecting the passer in a domed stadium on the road raises obvious concerns. Williamson and Tucker are not predicting Falcons blowouts.
  • 24:07: New York Jets at St. Louis Rams. Williamson thinks the Rams' defense can hold the Jets in the 10-point range. He also thinks Jets corner Antonio Cromartie, though outstanding, doesn't match up well with Danny Amendola. The Rams' offense impressed Tucker at San Francisco.
  • 35:13: Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers. Tucker likes the Bears for the consistency of their defense. He doesn't like the way San Francisco's defense played against the Rams. Williamson thinks the Bears' backup quarterback, Jason Campbell, can avoid turnovers. He can't wait to see the 49ers' offensive line against the Bears' defensive front, but he thinks Chicago's D-line has the quickness to give San Francisco problems.

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 11.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 10

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
2:45
PM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 10.

I've been singling out NFC West-related highlights for those interested. The full podcast is worth a listen as well. I appreciated Tucker's thoughts on players putting family before football when it comes to the births of their children. Williamson had a different take.
  • 14:45 mark: New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks. Tucker thinks the Jets could turn to Tim Tebow by halftime of this game. Williamson mocks Tucker and then says the Jets will fail to score more than 10 points. He's making this game his lock of the week. Soderberg points out some notes about the Jets containing rookie quarterbacks, but will that be enough to sway his pick?
  • 31:02: St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers. Niners fans will probably like this segment better than Rams fans will like it. Tucker, who does the Rams' preseason TV broadcasts, didn't like what he saw from the Rams in London. What does it mean for the rest of the season?

Tucker, Williamson and Soderberg pick outcomes for all games in Week 10. I'll be back with my NFC West picks in a bit.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 9

November, 3, 2012
11/03/12
8:00
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 9.
  • 18:35 mark: Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers. Tucker make this game his lock of the week and said, "If Alex Smith completed that many passes and played that well against Arizona on the road, what do you think Aaron Rodgers is going to do at home?" Not a lot of resistance from Williamson or Soderberg on this one.
  • 33:50: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks. All three pick Seattle to win at home. Williamson loves the Seahawks' defense and notes that Russell Wilson is improving rapidly. Again, not much debate.

So much unanimity invites the reminder about nothing being certain from week to week in the NFL. I did pick the Packers and Seahawks as well, however.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 8

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
7:00
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions on the latest Football Today podcast for Week 8.
  • 19:50 mark: Williamson calls the Seattle Seahawks "far superior" to the Detroit Lions this season. He thinks Seattle can do enough offensively to win the game. Soderberg notes that Russell Wilson has the 31st-ranked Total QBR on the road this season, while Matthew Stafford has been quite strong at home. Tucker is taking Seattle.
  • 24:40: St. Louis Rams receiver Chris Givens gives the team a chance to make big plays against the Patriots' pass defense. Williamson thinks Brandon Lloyd needs to step up for the Patriots. He expects a close game and favors the Patriots' experience for playing in an overseas game. Soderberg and Williamson mock Tucker for liking the Rams.
  • 34:52: Williamson expects San Francisco's pass rush to overwhelm the Cardinals, allowing the 49ers to take control in the second half Monday night. He expects a close game, but one the 49ers should win because, in his view, they're simply better.

Enjoy Week 8.

Football Today: 2012 NFC West Week 7

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
11:00
AM ET
Ross Tucker, Matt Williamson and Jay Soderberg are back with their weekly NFL predictions. This time, they've also got quite a few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 13-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.

Their Football Today podcast from Friday begins with Seahawks-49ers thoughts.
  • 10:21 mark: Williamson doesn't get much resistance when he suggests the Cardinals will continue their "slide back to Earth" following a 4-0 start to the season. All three are picking the Minnesota Vikings against Arizona, largely because of venue.
  • 26:40: The St. Louis Rams get respect from Williamson and Tucker, but does either man pick them against Green Bay? Williamson says he's making his pick reluctantly.

As usual for Fridays, Ross, Matt and Jay run through all the games. They offer injury updates and thoughts on what might happen. I've singled out time stamps for NFC West-related conversations in case you're in a hurry.

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