NFL Nation: NFC Stock Watch 2010 Week 14

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Hunter Smith, former Washington Redskins punter/holder: This probably qualifies as dog-piling, but we should at least acknowledge Smith's time with the Skins. If the guy was leading the league in net average, maybe you stick with him after he botches the hold on an extra point attempt at the end of regulation. But that wasn't the case. Smith wasn't the only thing wrong with this team, but he still paid the price for his gaffe at the end of regulation.

2. Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys quarterback: We've praised him while he has led a resurgence under interim coach Jason Garrett, but he didn't perform well against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. Kitna appeared to feel pressure when it wasn't there and he refused to work the ball down the field. Roy Williams and Miles Austin were nonfactors in this game, in part because Kitna was unloading the ball before they even broke out of their routes. He also threw two interceptions in a tight game.

3. Eli Manning, New York Giants quarterback: I know his team won the game, but Manning threw two more interceptions. That's 19 on the season, which leads the league. And yes, I realize that Drew Brees has 18 interceptions, but he's not in our division so we're not breaking down his throws. Coach Tom Coughlin seemed to indicate Manning's second interception was the receiver's fault, but the quarterback still could've thrown the ball away. It's really surprising that he's being this careless with the football. Manning and his brother, Peyton, have combined for 34 interceptions this season. That seems like a large number with three games left on the schedule.

RISING

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelDeSean Jackson was practically unstoppable against the Cowboys.
1. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver: Someone pay the man. He averaged 52.5 yards on four catches and had a 91-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. He may be the most dangerous offensive player in the league. And we'll even look past that backward plunge into the end zone for the purposes of Stock Watch.

2. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants running back: This looks like the player we remember from 2007. Jacobs is busting through the line of scrimmage and he has been energized by his return to the starting lineup. He and his good pal Ahmad Bradshaw have breathed life into the Giants' running game. And it's a good time of year for that to happen.

3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles running back: When the Cowboys trimmed the deficit to 30-27 with more than four minutes left Sunday night, McCoy simply took over the game. We already know how elusive and quick he can be, but he showed off some power late in the game. Jackson might be the most exciting player on the team, but McCoy's the most efficient offensive player right now. He needs to touch the ball 20 times per game.

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
11:25
AM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks QB. Four INTs against San Francisco gave Hasselbeck eight picks in his last three games. The Seahawks probably wouldn't have beaten the 49ers even with a more efficient performance, but a little more regard for the football could have kept Seattle in the game. Another poor finish will not help Hasselbeck's long-term prospects, either. He has no contract for 2011.

2. Ted Ginn Jr., 49ers WR. Ginn impressed during training camp by repeatedly making catches deep downfield. It hasn't translated to the regular season. Two dropped passes during a three-play stretch against Seattle killed one 49ers drive. Ginn gained 3 yards on his only punt return.

3. Seattle's tackling. Coach Pete Carroll initially tried to blame poor footing at Candlestick Park as a factor contributing to the Seahawks' consistently horrendous tackling Sunday. That was a stretch. Lawyer Milloy bounced off Vernon Davis. Marcus Trufant missed Josh Morgan, allowing a touchdown. Earl Thomas missed Brian Westbrook, allowing a 62-yard touchdown. On and on it went.

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesAlex Smith tossed three touchdown passes in the 49ers' victory over Seattle.
RISING

1. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Three TD passes without an INT helped the 49ers cruise past the Seahawks in a game San Francisco needed to win. Coach Mike Singletary used the word "decent" to describe Smith's performance, but that was underselling one of the better performances of the quarterback's career.

2. Adrian Wilson, Cardinals SS. Arizona coaches credited Wilson with 13 tackles, putting him over 100 in a season for the third time in his career and the first time since 2005. Rookie linebacker Daryl Washington would have earned a spot on the list if he hadn't fumbled short of the end zone while celebrating an interception return.

3. Tim Hightower, Cardinals RB. The 49ers' Westbrook deserves a mention here, too, after coming through with a 62-yard scoring catch and key contributions as a pass protector. Hightower trumped him for the third and final spot on the list by finishing with 18 carries for 148 yards and two scores.

Note: Cardinals kicker Jay Feely would have been an obvious choice here. Too obvious, in fact. I decided to spread the wealth after dedicating multiple previous items to Feely's 25-point performance against Denver.

How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeChester Taylor
Jerry Lai/US PresswireChester Taylor rushed just three times for 1 yard Sunday against New England.
1. Chester Taylor, Chicago Bears tailback: I've been on board with the Bears consistently utilizing their running game this season, if for no other reason than to set up their play-action passes. But it must be noted that Taylor is on pace for one of the least productive seasons for a running back since the 1970 merger. After netting 41 yards on his past 29 carries, Taylor is now averaging 2.63 yards per carry on 94 attempts this season. According to the excellent database over on pro-football-reference.com, there have been only five instances over the past 40 years where a running back has finished a season with 100 or more carries but less than 2.64 yards per attempt. The last time was Chris Perry of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008. If you don't like the decimal distinction, keep this bigger picture in mind: There have been 51 running backs since 1970 who have had 100 or more carries in a season and less than 3.0 yards per carry. That's a little bit more than one per season.

2. Green Bay Packers' offensive line: Even before left guard Daryn Colledge departed because of injury, the Packers were getting manhandled by an active but injury-diminished Detroit Lions defensive line this past Sunday at Ford Field. The Packers allowed four sacks to three reserves and/or replacement starters, and as an offense, they managed only 66 rushing yards against a team that has given up almost twice as much on average this season. We haven't heard too much about the Packers' offensive line this season, which is usually a good thing. They are in the middle of the NFL pack in allowing sacks (29). Sunday, however, they were beaten physically by an inspired but undermanned opponent.

3. Sliding skills: Hopefully, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler saw a replay of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffering a concussion while diving for extra yardage at the end of an 18-yard scramble last Sunday. The toughness of both Rodgers and Cutler is undeniable, but Cutler has proved even less willing to slide this season than Rodgers. We all saw what happened to the Bears offense when Cutler suffered his first concussion this season; backup Todd Collins threw four interceptions in a victory over the Carolina Panthers. Extra yardage is nice, but availability is much more important.

RISING

1. Distractions in the Minnesota stadium debate: When the Metrodome roof collapsed Sunday, the popular consensus was that it would raise the urgency for state legislators to approve new stadium construction. I don't buy it. From my vantage point, only the most extreme stadium opponents believe the Metrodome is a sustainable NFL facility. Even its current landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, agrees it is nearing the end of its lifespan. The only relevant debate on this issue is who will play for a new stadium and how -- not whether one is actually needed. It doesn't matter how many roof panels fall or what other malady strikes. There won't be a replacement until someone volunteers to pay for it.

2. Detroit Lions' running game: The Lions rushed for a season-high 190 yards Sunday against the Packers, getting some lively runs from Maurice Morris (51 yards on 11 carries), more than a couple misdirection plays from kick returner/running back Stefan Logan (30 yards on five carries) and a full-game's effort from rookie Jahvid Best (38 yards on 13 carries). Some of that production can be attributed to the mobility of quarterback Drew Stanton, who gained 44 yards of his own and must be respected as a threat to run -- via scramble or by design -- on any play.

3. The urgency to find new quarterbacks in Minnesota: One three-hour span Monday night demonstrated all you need to know about the state of this position for the Vikings. Starter Brett Favre sat out because of injury and appears headed for retirement. Backup Tarvaris Jackson demonstrated once again that he is too inconsistent and injury-prone to be counted on as a long-term starter. And the Vikings thought so highly of rookie No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb that they were in the process of moving him to receiver this month before Favre's injury forced him back to quarterback. The Vikings will need multiple layers of new quarterbacks next season: Perhaps one to start and one to be developed as the future starter, unless their final record puts them in position to draft a blue-chip prospect who can be both.

How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
8:13
AM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Jeff Davidson, Panthers offensive coordinator. It's kind of tough to come up with guys whose stock is falling when three NFC South teams are coming off victories and virtually everybody with the Panthers has been used in this category at one point or another. So we're going to be creative -- in other words, something Davidson is not. I know the head coach sets the tone for what his coordinators do and there's no question John Fox has limited his offense for virtually his entire tenure. But Davidson deserves some heavy blame. I mean, at least try to come up with ways to get Steve Smith the ball. As Fox's time in Carolina comes to an end and I reflect on it, I think one of the worst moves was making Dan Henning the scapegoat for a disappointing 2006 season. Fans thought Henning lacked imagination. After four years of watching Davidson's offense, Henning's offense, in hindsight, looks like the Tampa Bay Bandits of Steve Spurrier in the United States Football League. Fox's staff will be scrambling for jobs. Davidson might have to return to his roots as an offensive line coach because his coordinator résumé isn't looking too good.

2. Geno Hayes, Buccaneers linebacker. He's doing fine on the field, but he got into trouble in the wee hours of Monday morning. If the Bucs really are a playoff team, they should be focused entirely on football at this time of year.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans' Pierre Thomas
AP Photo/Bill HaberPierre Thomas accounted for 68 yards of offense in his first action since Week 3.
3. Charter flights for the Falcons. They have to cross the country to Seattle this weekend after playing road games at Carolina and Tampa Bay. But if the Falcons keep doing what they're doing, they won't have to get on a plane again this season -- unless it's to Texas for the Super Bowl.

RISING

1. Pierre Thomas, Saints running back. Thomas, who injured his ankle in late September, returned to the playing field Sunday when the Saints defeated the Rams. He wound up probably getting even more playing time than the Saints envisioned. The logical thing to do would have been to ease Thomas back into a rotation with Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush. But that plan went out the window when Ivory started experiencing hamstring issues early in the game. Thomas ended up carrying 12 times and catching four passes. His numbers weren't overhelming (39 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards), but he held up well. Thomas' long-term future in New Orleans might not be all that bright because of Ivory's emergence. But a strong finish could help Thomas get a nice contract somewhere else.

2. Michael Turner, Falcons running back. With backup Jason Snelling banged up, the Falcons have been riding Turner even more than usual. He carried 28 times in Sunday's victory against Carolina and produced 112 yards and three touchdowns. Turner has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the past four games and five times in Atlanta's seven-game winning streak. He has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games.

3. Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers wide receiver. He was chosen in the second round of this year's draft and fellow receiver Mike Williams was picked in the fourth round. But Williams emerged instantly as the No. 1 receiver and Benn wasn't much of a factor early on. But Benn had a huge game in Sunday's victory at Washington. He had a career-high four catches for a career-high 122 yards.
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