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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

By Mike Sando

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks QB. Eight interceptions in two games will drag down the stock for any quarterback. Hasselbeck appears to be forcing throws as if desperate to make something happen. Brett Favre seemed to go through something similar after Mike Holmgren departed Green Bay and the Packers went through some ups and downs. Hasselbeck held it together most of the season, fighting through various injuries and never complaining about them. Hasselbeck looks like a quarterback determined to go down swinging.

2. Jim Mora, Seahawks coach. Football isn't always fair and Mora certainly isn't solely to blame for what ails Seattle. He's playing with the players former general manager Tim Ruskell assembled and it's clearly quite a few of them aren't as good as expected. Still, quite a few other bad teams have occasionally risen up to surprise superior opponents. The Raiders, Browns and Bucs have pulled upsets from time to time. Watching the Seahawks against Green Bay, I had the feeling they wouldn't win one of a 100 games between the teams. If the Seahawks are responding to coaching, they are hiding it well.

3. Keith Null, Rams QB. Three interceptions against the Cardinals gave Null nine picks in three starts. Those struggles are understandable for a third-string rookie quarterback facing a playoff-tested defense on the road (or anywhere). And yet the performance qualified as a step backward after Null performed reasonably well during a 16-13 defeat to Houston a week earlier. Null had one touchdown, one interception and an 81.2 rating in that game against the Texans. He had one touchdown, three picks and a 50.0 rating during the 31-10 defeat at Arizona, dropping his rating for the season to 49.8.

Rising

Ken Whisenhunt
Under Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona has improved its record every season.
1. Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals coach. The Cardinals have improved their record every season under Whisenhunt. They made a three-game improvement to 8-8 in 2007, Whisenhunt's first season. The team went 9-7 in 2008 and Arizona will finish no worse than 10-6 this season after beating the Rams in Week 16. Arizona and Minnesota are the only NFL teams to improve their records in each of the last three seasons. This will be the Cardinals' first season since 1975 without back-to-back defeats.

2. Adrian Wilson, Cardinals SS. The veteran defender had a sack and interception in the fourth quarter against St. Louis. The sack made him the 10th player with at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career since sacks became an official stat. Wilson joins a list featuring Ronde Barber, LeRoy Butler, Brian Dawkins, Donnie Edwards, Rodney Harrison, Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis, Wilber Marshall and William Thomas. Wilson has a career-high five interceptions this season. He needs one interception to tie Kwamie Lassiter (24 interceptions) for sixth on the Cardinals' career list.

3. Frank Gore, 49ers RB. The switch from 14- to 16-game schedule in 1978 diminished the value of the 1,000-yard rushing season in quite a few cases. Gore stands as an exception. He has needed no more than 14 games to reach 1,000 yards in each of the last four seasons, becoming the only 49ers running back to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons. Gore worked hard for 71 yards on 28 carries against the Lions while setting a season high with 81 yards receiving. His 48-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Alex Smith showcased Gore's versatility. He is also an excellent pass protector.