NFC West: Kevin Smith
Sure, the New Orleans Saints' opponents have averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt this season, the 29th-worst figure in the NFL, but there was an explanation.
"Those guys do a really good job against the run; I think statistics are misleading," Roman said Wednesday. "A lot of people have popped runs on them down by 30. What does that do? It inflates the stats. When they had to run, I didn't see those 30-yard runs."
Roman was correct in a sense. Indianapolis did break runs covering 42 and 24 yards when trailing the Saints by at least 30 points. Those runs were pretty much meaningless.
But the Saints' opponents also broke runs covering 42, 41, 39, 34 and 29 yards when the scoring margin was eight or fewer points either way, what we would consider to be one-score differentials. Opponents had 16 runs of 15 yards or longer in these situations.
The 49ers, by comparison, gave up no runs longer than 34 yards and only four longer than 18 yards. They were leading by 23 when Arizona broke a 34-yarder in Week 11. They were up by 13 when the Rams broke a 27-yarder in Week 17. The trailed Philadelphia by seven and led Pittsburgh by six when those teams broke runs for 24 and 21 yards, respectively.
The first chart shows all runs against the Saints by score differential. The second chart shows each run against the Saints covering 15-plus yards. There were 27 of them. The Saints led by six points on average at the time of those runs. The 49ers gave up 10 such runs by comparison. They led by three points on average during those runs.
Thanks to Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information for his assistance.
"Gore, (Michael) Crabtree, (Vernon) Davis, Josh Morgan and (Alex) Smith are all on my love list this year," Berry proclaims. "I think Davis might regress a little bit, but he'll still be an elite tight end."
Berry ranks Gore fourth overall among all NFL fantasy prospects. He likes the other San Francisco players largely in relation to where he thinks others will value them in fantasy drafts. Berry likes the Seattle Seahawks' Justin Forsett in the later rounds, but he doesn't like the team in general from a fantasy standpoint because too much remains unknown.
One thing I'm not sure about regarding the 49ers is to what degree Crabtree will get into the touchdown mix. Gore and Davis were the primary scorers for San Francisco last season. Crabtree scored only two receiving touchdowns. That number should climb, but by how much?
I'll be organizing a fantasy league on the blog again this season. It'll likely be a Gridiron Challenge league again. We'll have a hard salary cap and the ability to change rosters from week to week, with players' prices changing based on how they perform.
Back to Gore. He was a solid producer last season in terms of final numbers, but his week-to-week production was sporadic. The chart shows the top 30 touchdown scorers in the NFL -- make that the NFC -- last season. Three of the top four were in the mighty NFC West.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch gives the Cardinals respect heading into Arizona's road game against the Redskins today. That in itself is progress for Arizona.
The Washington Post carries Redskins coach Jim Zorn's comments on the Cardinals, a team he knows well. Zorn pays the highest possible compliment to Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, using the term "Largent-esque" to describe Boldin's hands.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson has embraced the role of mentor since missing time with a heel injury last season.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby has become a team leader. Dansby is a team captain.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. The last thing Fletcher wants is to let Kurt Warner get into a rhythm.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a comprehensive look at Koren Robinson's journey from the Seahawks to personal oblivion and back.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune talks Seahawks fans off the ledge by reminding them it's still early in the season and anything can happen -- good or bad.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald previews the Rams-Seahawks game, noting that Seattle hasn't lost more than one division game at home in a season since 2002.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seattle tight end John Carlson is developing a fast rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck amid injury problems at receiver.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune marks Josh Brown's return to Qwest Field as a member of the Rams.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks must fight their way out of the gutter after blowing opportunities in their first two games.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times previews the Rams-Seahawks game. Patrick Kerney has 11 sacks in his last six NFC West games.
Also from Romero: A look at Hasselbeck's killer completion percentage. Seattle's quarterback says he might need to take up baseball.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle gives Frank Gore credit for his blocking. Gore picked up a blitzing linebacker to help the 49ers complete a key 33-yard pass in overtime against the Seahawks in Week 2.
Also from FitzGerald: A few keys to the 49ers' success against the Lions today.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a Lions-49ers scouting report. He sees vast improvement from linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Also from Barrows: He answers questions, including one about Manny Lawson's role on defense.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a look at the Lions and their talented receivers. Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson do not remind him of Logan Payne and Courtney Taylor.
Tom Kowalski of mlive.com says Lions rookie running back Kevin Smith is hoping for a breakout game against the 49ers after gaining only 88 yards in the first two games.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Mike Martz declined all interview requests heading into the 49ers' game against the Lions this week. Not that playing his former team matters to him.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a look at the matchup between Rams right tackle Alex Barron and Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney.
Also from Thomas: Protecting Marc Bulger ranks among the Rams' to priorities. That was true in the first two games as well. The result: 10 sacks for a team that hoped to allow no more than 30 all season.
More from Thomas: A look at which team has the edge in key categories. He gives the Rams' pass defense the edge against Seattle's pass offense.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with one of the Rams' best weapons: punter Donnie Jones. It's come to this for the Rams and it's only Week 3.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams face a tough test in Seattle, where the Seahawks have a 34-8 record since Qwest Field opened in 2002.