NFC West Stock Watch

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
10:15
AM ET
FALLING

1. Rams' playoff hopes. Losing at home to the Minnesota Vikings a month after losing at home to the New York Jets? When the season ends, the Rams will look back on those two defeats as the ones that prevented them from shattering expectations. At 6-7-1, the Rams will need lots of help to reach the postseason. One scenario would require Week 16 victories by the Rams, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Houston, Arizona and Baltimore, followed by Week 17 victories by the Rams, Detroit, Green Bay and Philadelphia. That's too much to ask.

2. Ted Ginn Jr., 49ers returner. Ginn muffed a punt and was fortunate to recover the ball while the 49ers were protecting a 38-31 lead with five minutes left in the fourth quarter at New England. Ginn nearly muffed another one when he came dangerously close to making contact with the football. At this rate, the 49ers could again be vulnerable to losing a playoff game after forcing the other team to punt.

3. Rams' defense. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson gashed St. Louis a season-high 212 yards during a 36-22 victory in the Edward Jones Dome. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder operated at high efficiency, particularly early in the game. That combination helped the Vikings jump to a 30-7 halftime lead. We can't blame the Rams' defense for the pick-six Sam Bradford threw, but giving up 211 first-half yards was rough for St. Louis.

4. Field-goal kicking. The 49ers' David Akers missed wide to the left from 39 yards, albeit in miserable conditions. Seattle's Steven Hauschka had an extra point blocked. St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein missed from 57 yards, which is no big deal, except that "Legatron" can connect from that distance, particularly indoors. Zuerlein shanked this one. Arizona's Jay Feely is excused from this discussion. He made his only attempt, a 51-yarder.

RISING

[+] EnlargeMichael Crabtree
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMichael Crabtree left Kyle Arrington and the Patriots in his wake with a momentum-changing touchdown.
1. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB. Wilson's stock was already high, but he earned a spot atop the list with a record-setting performance during Seattle's 50-17 victory over Buffalo. Wilson became the first player in NFL history to provide three rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown in a first half. His Total QBR score for the game was 99.3, the highest qualifying single-game score in the NFL this season.

2. Michael Crabtree, 49ers WR. San Francisco's top receiver burned the Patriots for 107 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. Both touchdowns covered more than 25 yards. Crabtree split two defenders to make the first one in traffic. The second one covered 38 yards and broke a 31-31 tie in the final seven minutes. That was the game-winning score. Much of the pregame focus was on Patriots receiver Wes Welker. Carlos Rogers and the 49ers seemed to fare well against Welker. Crabtree outplayed his New England counterpart on a big stage.

3. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers QB. Kaepernick became the first 49ers player since Jeff Garcia in 2003 to toss four touchdown passes in one game. He did it under difficult weather conditions on the road against a Patriots team that had won seven consecutive games. Kaepernick was not perfect, but almost nobody was in this game.

4. Cardinals' dignity. Arizona made bouncing back from a 58-0 defeat in Seattle appear easy during its 38-10 rout of the Detroit Lions. The 86-point swing in scoring differential was the largest for one week since the 1968 Lions followed a 59-13 defeat to Dallas with a 42-0 victory over Chicago.

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