NFC West: Georgia Frontiere

Where NFC West franchises rank

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
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If NFL owners cared only about money and not all the other benefits that come with their standing in the sports world, most of them would sell.

That thought came to mind upon reading through Forbes' latest franchise valuations. All 32 NFL teams showed up in the listing of 50 most valuable sports franchises. The list showed eight soccer teams, six baseball teams, two racing teams and two NBA teams.

Owning any asset worth billions obviously opens doors to credit and other financial advantages. The most lucrative advantage would come from selling, however, and franchises change hands relatively infrequently.

The Rosenbloom family sold the St. Louis Rams in part to deal with estate taxes associated with inheriting the franchise from the late Georgia Frontiere. New majority owner Stan Kroenke was in better position to own and operate the franchise.

Kroenke showed up twice on the Forbes' top 50 list. His Arsenal soccer team ranked seventh with a $1.19 billion valuation. The Rams were 40th at $779 million. The combined value ($1.969 billion) left Kroenke trailing only the Glazer family ($2.89 billion) for total valuation based only on teams appearing among the 50 most valuable.

The chart above shows estimated NFL franchise values by division, based on Forbes' estimates. Stand tall, NFC East blogger Dan Graziano. Now, how about a loan?

The chart below displays estimated values for NFC West franchises. Stadium situations can be key in determining value. The five teams deemed least valuable -- Jacksonville, Oakland, Minnesota, St. Louis and Buffalo -- are playing in less favorable ones by NFL standards.
The late St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, astrologically inclined as she was, might have said the planets aligned for this blog entry.

How else to explain such freakish timing?

With ESPN.com's ongoing power rankings series focusing on helmets later Tuesday, I decided to visit the UniWatch blog to see whether those concerned with "the obsessive study of uniform aesthetics" might have anything to say on the matter.

By dumb luck, the blog was currently leading with an interview featuring helmet- and uniform-related reflections from longtime Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt. The interview, which originally appeared at helmethut.com, is a fascinating read for any Rams fan or anyone interested in football lore.

I'll break out a few highlights below, but please do check out the full transcript. Great stuff. Among the revelations:

    [+] EnlargeMerlin Olsen
    Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesMerlin Olsen and the Rams used to sport blue-and-white uniforms since they showed better on black-and-white TV.
  • The team used only Riddell helmets for years because Hewitt's father knew John Riddell. But Dennis Harrah had other ideas.
  • At one point, the Rams settled on a certain shade of yellow they liked, but then-owner Dan Reeves forced a change upon learning the color carried a sissified name -- "buttercup" yellow.
  • The Rams considered 15-20 color combinations when changing uniforms in 2000. Frontiere went with "new century gold" and "millennium blue" because the combination "made cosmic sense" entering the 21st century, even though she thought other colors looked better.
  • The team favored blue-and-white uniforms, without gold, beginning in the 1960s because the combination reproduced better on black-and-white TV.
  • Carroll Rosenbloom had an eye toward Hollywood when pushing to incorporate gold after taking over the team in 1972.
  • The team has never, ever considered removing the iconic horns from its helmets. Hewitt and his father had been the only ones to apply the helmet decals since the team went away from painted horns nearly 40 years ago. That is changing now that Hewitt no longer works for the team.
  • Former coach Ray Malavasi favored white jerseys at home because he thought they made players look bigger. Comfortable pants were a higher priority for former coach John Robinson. Mike Martz loved white uniform pants, but team exec John Shaw hated them (not that the Rams went through any front-office turmoil during those years).

I listed the Rams' helmets among the top five in the NFL in balloting for the power rankings, which ran on Bill Williamson's AFC West blog Tuesday.
Don Banks of SI.com checks in with agent Tom Condon for thoughts on Marc Bulger's future. Banks: "Ravens backup quarterback Marc Bulger is still trying to decide his best course of action in 2011, Condon said. Bulger will be a free agent this offseason after spending last year as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, and it's thought he could be a starting option this season for teams such as Arizona and possibly Tennessee. But Bulger also wants to stay close to the St. Louis area if possible, where his wife works as a doctor. Condon said Bulger still wants to play, and having what amounted to almost a year on the sideline allowed him to get completely healthy for the first time in years." Bulger can't be too picky on geography if he's interested in a starting job. The trip between Nashville and St. Louis is 270 miles by air and roughly a five-hour drive.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams gathered employees for a labor briefing Friday afternoon. Also: "League sources have told the Post-Dispatch that most, if not all, Rams assistant coaches will receive a pay cut under a work stoppage. It's not clear if new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was hired less than two months ago, is included in that group. And it's also not clear when that pay cut takes effect. Since there is still plenty for coaches to do up until the draft, the pay cuts might not take place until after the draft when the minicamps and the spring practices known as OTAs take place. No layoffs or job terminations are expected at Rams Park under a work stoppage. Any personnel changes will be changes that were already being contemplated regardless of the labor situation, according to league sources."

Also from Thomas: Longtime Rams executive Bob Wallace reflects on his tenure with the team, which ended when his contract expired this month. Wallace had been with the team for 16 years and was among the higher-ranking African-American executives in the NFL during his tenure. Wallace: "When ownership changes happen, even when the ownership changed from Georgia (Frontiere) to her children, people want to make changes. I wasn't surprised that there were changes in the organization. And at some point I'm sure Stan (Kroenke) will want to put his imprint on the organization as well."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this to say, among other things, about the labor impasse: "The 32 NFL owners -- a group that includes 12 billionaires, according to the latest Forbes survey -- apparently want to convince us that their league is fraught with financial peril and could turn into the NHL any day now. ... Next time I walk along the Delmar Loop, I'll check to see if Stan Kroenke is on the corner, playing a harmonica for tips. And the players want us to believe that they're the victims in some real-life sequel to 'Norma Rae.' That they're valiant oppressed workers, standing up to the evil barons of big business. Here's the deal, fellows: When the first NFL franchise goes out of business -- like some plant closing in rural America -- then let us know. When you have to accept a minimum wage with no health insurance to play football, then give us a call, and maybe we'll walk the picket line with you and fight the power."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Chester Pitts, the Seahawks' union rep, following the NFL Players Association's move to become a trade association. Pitts: "Financial disclosure is everything when you want to go backward. There has been a lot of sitting on the high horse, making the statement, 'The books never needed to be opened any time before. We've always done these deals and never had to open the books.' But by the same token, we've never gone backwards as a PA. The PA has never gone backward. We've always trended upwards because the league has grown and the league has made more money, and the revenues have gone up. Everything has gone up. Everything. So again, what kind of sense would it make to go backwards with no justification."

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks owner Paul Allen tweets regarding the labor situation. Allen: "NFL players bailed on deal worth billions, sacked collective bargaining & sued, which could take years to play out." I say: In fairness, any deal dividing a $9 billion pie would have been worth billions -- even a deal that wasn't fair to the players.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Nate Burleson's history as the team's punt returner, an arrangement that came about by accident. Burleson averaged better than 10 yards per return, scoring twice. Joey Galloway was the most dangerous Seahawks punt returner I can recall. He scored four times on punt returns and also averaged better than 10 yards per return. Paul Johns, Bobby Engram and Charlie Rogers were also excellent. They combined for five touchdowns on punt returns.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says Jedd Fisch, who recently left the Seahawks to become offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, has been having players study Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck and other veteran quarterbacks for tips, including how to anticipate throws. Jackson: "On Thursday, they studied Houston’s Matt Schaub to learn how to be more deceptive with play-action passes and Kurt Warner 'to show the ways he anticipates throws.' They see a lot of Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler, and a lot of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to learn how to control a game." Fisch coached Hasselbeck and Cutler.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along labor-related thoughts from kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals' union rep, and receiver Steve Breaston. Feely: "I was hopeful I could be the voice of reason and look for logical, reasonable answers. But we didn't make any progress throughout the week."

The 49ers' website offers a letter team president Jed York has aimed at fans. It reads, in part: "As you might expect, Trent Baalke and Coach Harbaugh, as well as their respective staffs, are working tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming draft. And, as in recent years, we will be inviting you to participate in the draft weekend excitement with our annual Draft Contest and Draft Day Party, which will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. In fact, to every extent possible, we will be operating with a business-as-usual attitude." That will be easier said than done. Labor issues will cloud every conceivable aspect of the upcoming season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says via Twitter that Alex Smith, Justin Smith, Joe Nedney, Chilo Rachal, Ray McDonald and Parys Haralson are among the 49ers players who have been working out regularly at the team's facility prior to the lockout.
The St. Louis Rams have announced Stan Kroenke's approval as majority owner without specifying how the arrangement complies with NFL rules on cross-ownership.

The news release reads in part, "Kroenke currently is the owner of the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), the Colorado Rapids (MLS) and the Colorado Mammoth (NLL). He is also the largest shareholder of Arsenal FC of the English Premier League."

I've requested clarification from the league. Kroenke is expected to transfer ownership of the Nuggets and Avalanche to his son, Josh, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The bottom line for Rams fans: The team now has an owner with deeper pockets and a proven record of success when controlling sports franchises. The move should excite Rams fans. The current leadership should be excited and anxious at the same time. It's unclear what Kroenke might think about general manager Billy Devaney, coach Steve Spagnuolo or executive vice president Kevin Demoff.

Kroenke has surely been watching closely as Rams minority owner. To my knowledge, though, he has had very little direct contact with the Rams' current football leadership. I would expect few changes this season because there simply isn't enough time before the opener to consider significant moves.

It's a safe bet, though, that Kroenke will put his stamp on the team during the next offseason. At the very least, the current regime needs to win a few games and provide evidence that Sam Bradford was the right choice with the first overall choice in the 2010 draft.

The Rams provided a chart showing a year-by-year accounting of their majority owners. Some of the years overlap. I divided the seasons this way when putting together won-lost records for each ownership regime: The 1937 through 1941 season records went to Homer Marshman; the 1942 through 1972 seasons went to Dan Reeves; the 1973 through 1979 seasons went to Carroll Rosenbloom; the 1980 through 2008 seasons went to Georgia Frontiere; and the past two seasons went to Chip Rosenbloom.

Around the NFC West: Carroll in charge

January, 21, 2010
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Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's no mistaking who's in charge of the Seahawks. It's new coach Pete Carroll, who appeared alongside CEO Tod Leiweke and general manager John Schneider at the news conference to introduce Schneider. Boling: "Leiweke was standing between them, so we may assume that Carroll didn’t actually have his hand up the back of Schneider’s jacket so that he could somehow operate controls to make his lips move."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says former Seahawks running back Sherman Smith could be returning to the organization as running backs coach. That would leave receivers coach as the most significant opening on the staff.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com takes a look at Carroll's first Seahawks coaching staff, offering mini-bios for known hires.

Also from Farnsworth: Carroll and Schneider hit it off right away. Leiweke: "I would say most compelling for me is the amazing energy between the man to my right and the man to my left. They connected. They saw eye-to-eye. They had a similar philosophy on how we’re going to do this. It was just fantastic to witness that, because that’s really, ultimately what we wanted to create."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Schneider was short on details when pressed for information on how the Seahawks might proceed in upgrading their roster.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times looks at the budding relationship between Carroll and Schneider. Brewer: "There's nothing like a good man crush to emphasize how much the Seahawks have changed in the past two weeks. PC and The Schneid didn't finish each other's sentences Wednesday, but they did expound on each other's thoughts. Forget the past. Feel the love. Embrace the unity. Of course, buried beneath the hype of this epic partnership was the unveiling of the Seahawks' worst-kept secret — Carroll runs the show. The franchise finally admitted it. For all the talk of collaboration, the Seahawks will be molded in Carroll's image."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Carroll and Schneider cannot work "shoulder to shoulder" if Carroll has the ultimate authority. Someone has to make the call. Carroll made it clear he would be the guy. Everything about Schneider's past says he'll have no trouble working alongside Carroll or most head coaches.

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up UCLA's Brian Price as a potential Seahawks draft choice in 2010. Morgan: "There's plenty of talent behind (Ndamukong) Suh and (Gerald) McCoy, enough that a patient front office could wait and pick someone like Geno Atkins, Earl Mitchell or Lamarr Houston and still get value, but between Suh and that final tier is a group of defensive tackles of great talent and ability. And no tackle looks half as good as Price."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic begins a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' roster with a look at the offensive line. On Levi Brown: "The expectations are high for Brown, the fifth overall pick in 2007. He hasn't lived up to that draft status. He was inconsistent in pass blocking, but coaches feel like that was a matter of bad technique rather than lack of athleticism. It was interesting that Ken Whisenhunt challenged Brown after Brown was named a Pro Bowl alternate. The Cardinals want, and need, more from him. But people in the know tell me he was the team's most consistent offensive lineman in 2009, and coaches were especially pleased with the way he improved over the final month of the season."

Also from Somers: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have withdrawn from the Pro Bowl.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams face key questions as the team's leadership gathers in Los Angeles. He poses this one to general manager Billy Devaney: "There's a concern that you're taking an overly conservative approach in building a roster. Your previous two No. 1 draft picks -- defensive end Chris Long and offensive tackle Jason Smith -- are reflective of that. Do you have it in you to make bold and daring decisions? Are you willing to take intelligent gambles? Or is this all about doing the safest thing in order to cover yourself and protect your job?"

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat provides an overview for the Rams' meetings. Balzer: "At one point, there were indications that potential buyers might be trying to low-ball (Chip) Rosenbloom and (Lucia) Rodriguez. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t an immediate urgency for them to sell the team, and there has always been the feeling that the family would like to continue the legacy begun by their parents, Carroll Rosenbloom and Georgia Frontiere, and keep the team. That might be a longshot, but not impossible if a new agreement results in what the owners hope eventually will be a decreased percentage of the revenue going to the players."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' Justin Smith would be headed to the Pro Bowl if the Vikings advanced to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore has already been promoted. Gore: "To be in the Pro Bowl, it means a lot. I felt that missing some games this season, and to still be able to make a special game like this is a great opportunity. All I can say is that it's a blessing."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a closer look at the 49ers' defensive backs. Shawntae Spencer, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown appear to form the core. Maiocco: "But there are some questions about all of the others, including veteran performers Nate Clements and Michael Lewis. Clements was demoted from the lineup for the Nov. 1 game against the Colts. Then, he sustained a broken shoulder blade that ended his season. His scheduled salary for 2010 is a whopping $6 million. Lewis has been among the 49ers' leading tacklers in each of his three seasons with the club. But three concussions last season in short period of time is a reason for concern."

Around the NFC West: Seattle GM search

December, 13, 2009
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Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune does not expect the Seahawks to name a new general manager anytime soon. Williams: "League rules mandate that the Seahawks wait until the end of the season before asking permission of another organization to contact a potential candidate under contract whom the Seahawks covet. And if that team makes a deep run into the playoffs, Seattle may have to wait until February to finish the vetting process."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with right tackle Ray Willis, a co-captain who has started every game for the Seahawks this season. Coach Jim Mora: "Ray is a strong presence in the locker room. The guys listen to him and he’s got toughness, and we’re looking for toughness."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune profiles Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne. Boling: "When he showed up, undersized and unheralded, Hawthorne made people notice him from the first practice. Whenever there was tackle that looked like a car wreck ... Hawthorne was involved. Whenever helmets flew off or the sound of contact caused heads to turn, Hawthorne was supplying the pop."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have fared better than some teams coming off Super Bowl defeats. Kurt Warner: "I just think we believe a little bit more now than we did last year. I think there was a period of time [last season] where we were kind of satisfied with where we were. I just think confidence was built after some of the things we did last year."

Also from Somers: Some Cardinals players are suffering from a respiratory ailment.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals will not celebrate too wildly if they claim the NFC West title at Candlestick Park on Monday night.

Also from McManaman: Karlos Dansby is playing with two separated shoulders. McManaman: "It was a play Karlos Dansby has made before, but this one was different. When he dropped back into coverage last Sunday and leaped to make a critical, two-handed interception of a Brett Favre pass, it hurt Dansby as much as it hurt the Minnesota Vikings. That's because the Cardinals linebacker has basically been playing with a pair of separated shoulders. The pain has been there for the better part of a month now, but it hasn't stopped Dansby, who, with 95 tackles, is in line to finish the season as the Cardinals' leading tackler for the third consecutive year."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says having Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston healthy makes a big difference for the Cardinals. Urban: "I don’t think you can measure the impact of having a healthy Boldin and Steve Breaston back in this game, compared to the first meeting. And that doesn’t include how much more effective Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells have been. I know the Cards and Niners have recently always had close games. But frankly, I don’t see the teams being that close right now. Not if the Cards play the way they can."

Also from Urban: He expects the Cardinals' offensive line to play better Monday night than it did against the 49ers in Week 1.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits the Rams' Super Bowl victory a decade ago. Thomas: "The day after the Super Bowl, Tom Nütten boarded a pickup truck in downtown St. Louis. Each truck had a bale of straw to sit on, with two Rams players per truck. It was freezing cold. Nütten heard a din in the background, but couldn't see anything." Nütten: "And then the truck turned the corner onto Washington Avenue, and what was it -- a quarter million people on the street cheering? That gave me chills over and over again."

Also from Thomas: a look at what members of that championship team are doing now. Linebacker Mike Morton is a dentist in North Carolina.

More from Thomas: Alex Barron's matchup against Kyle Vanden Bosch is a key one when the Rams and Titans play Sunday.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sound wistful looking back on that 1999 Rams season, noting that team owner Georgia Frontiere has passed away, while Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz are out of coaching and the opposing quarterback in that Super Bowl game, Steve McNair, met a horrible death. Miklasz: "Given that the 1998 Rams went 3-13, there's always hope for a turnaround. But such optimism will be difficult to muster Sunday in Nashville. Seeing the Rams and Titans will conjure up the old regrets and sorrow."

Also from Miklasz: Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson should put on a show.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree disputes some passes that might have been characterized as drops.

Also from Barrows: revisiting the curse of Terrell Owens. Owens: "Maybe to remove the curse, they have to put me back in that uniform."

More from Barrows: The 49ers' defensive backs hope an aggressive approach helps them against Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, asking how Smith deals with dropped passes. Smith: "It does no good, especially during game situations, to really worry about things like that. Do your job to the best of your ability. Go out there and try to execute it. Those things are going to happen. Dropped balls are going to happen just like errant passes are going to happen. You try to minimize them as much as possible."

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' relative success against Fitzgerald in the Nate Clements era.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' offense is seeking improvement on third down. Brown: "The problem for the 49ers: the Cardinals defense that they face on Monday night at Candlestick Park happens to specialize in stopping teams when it counts. Arizona ranks second in the NFL by holding opponents to a 33.1 percent conversion rate on third downs. Only the Cincinnati Bengals (32.9 percent) are better. And if gets to third-and-long, forget it. Arizona has allowed only 7 of 57 third-down conversions of 10 yards or more." The 49ers fared well in third-down conversions against the Cardinals in Week 1.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles 49ers assistant coach Jim Tomsula. Crumpacker: "Certainly Tomsula's career arc is anything but typical. Concurrent with coaching stateside at Catawba and Charleston Southern, Tomsula hauled wife Julie and daughters Britney, now 16, and Brooke, now 14, to Europe every spring for nine years to coach in Germany, Scotland and England."

Also from Crumpacker: Crabtree is producing.

Around the NFC West: Praise for Walsh book

September, 13, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Gregory Cowles of the New York Times Book Review offers high praise for David Harris' book on former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. "How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty" spans 385 pages.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic breaks out his Flash Player to break down the Dolphins-Cardinals game in Week 2.

Also from Somers: a look at apparent attempts to spur trade talk involving Anquan Boldin. Somers offers a big yawn.

Scott Allen of RaisingZona.com predicts a 31-21 Cardinals victory over the Dolphins.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune also brushes off the Boldin story line, relegating it to third-item status in his notebook.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com found a man who has attended each of the 200 exhibition and regular-season home games in Arizona Cardinals history.

Also from Urban: the Cardinals' emphasis on protecting the ball.

And this: Former Cardinals, Lions and Raiders linebacker Rob Fredrickson is the honorary alumni captain for Arizona's home opener. Fredrickson started 119 career games.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' Lofa Tatupu gets fluid drained from his knee to help him play in games.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says only three offensive starters return from Seattle's victory over the 49ers in Week 4 last season. They are Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Chris Spencer. WOW.

Also from Farnsworth: all hands on deck for Seattle, even though Marcus Trufant and Tatupu have only two healthy ones between them.

And this from Farnsworth: he's picking a 17-9 victory for Seattle. Take that to the training room, not the bank.

Also from Romero: Bobby Engram says the Seahawks will be fine even though injuries are testing their resolve.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee assesses the 49ers pass rushers who got away, including Julian Peterson.

Also from Barrows: Will Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren wind up with the 49ers at some point in the future?

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should pipe down about not getting enough respect. He calls out Jonathan Wade for encouraging Marc Bulger to brush off reporters.

Deb Peterson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will pay tribute to late owner Georgia Frontiere at their home opener.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Bulger is feeling the heat from all angles.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams want to get Torry Holt more inovled in the offense. One catch for 9 yards apparently isn't enough.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch assesses the impact of Leonard Little's injury. Rams rookie Chris Long will move to left end, a significant adjustment.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says injuries could make the Seahawks vulnerable against the 49ers.

David Fucillo of ninersnation.com breaks down the 49ers-Seahawks matchups with an eye toward injuries. Additional breakdowns here.

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read is still waiting for the 49ers' first interception of the season. The team didn't pick off a pass in preseason or the regular-season opener, a span of 147 pass attempts.

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