Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Good morning/afternoon. About to get started here.
Travis M (Tucson)
Did you get a laugh out of Justin Smith saying he "got lucky" at the end of the game when he clearly made a cerebral decision?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
That is Smith. Very humble, just a no-nonsense guy and a great player.
Travis M (Tucson)
How much has Anthony Davis improved this over the last two years? It seems like in the past 2 or 3 he has really stepped up and made a difference.
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Davis does appear improved. He has been the team's best tackle at times, in my view. I'm looking forward to seeing him tangle with Darnell Dockett some this week.
Travis M (Tucson)
Hey Mike, thanks for the great NFC West coverage! Do you have a breakdown of the number of votes for the Pro Bowl? Nnamdi Asomugha should not be ahead of Carlos Rogers this year.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Charles Woodson leads the way with 298,376 votes in fan balloting through Nov. 15. Chris Houston is next with not quite 150,000. Nnamdi Asomugha is third with around 125,000. Rogers is fourth at 78,072 and Charles Tillman is close behind at 70,496. Rogers just needs to keep doing what he's been doing. A big game at Baltimore on Thanksgiving would serve notice on a national stage.
What do you think is the best route for St Louis to build a WR core for the foreseeable future? Keeping Lloyd or letting him walk? Drafting a WR in the 1st round in 2012 or getting a tackle? Look in free agency for say DeSean Jackson or Robert Meachem etc.?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
They need to start by re-signing Brandon Lloyd as long as Josh McDaniels remains the coordinator. Then they need to develop their young guys, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas, through a full offseason. Drafting a receiver could still make sense, but there is no need to use an early pick for one necessarily.
Jess C. (Los Angeles, CA)
I just want to know what's up with the Alex Smith contract situation. I read the article that says the 49ers should wait, but would it not be wise to get it done now, while they can lock him in low. That way if he's inconsistent, they could cut him and aren't obligated too pay much. Also, if he has a couple break-out games and the niners make a run that would drive his price up and the team is going to need some money to resign players like Carlos Rodgers who are on a one year deal.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Paying Alex Smith would not prevent the team from paying other players. My sense is that Smith is grateful Harbaugh gave him a chance. I think Smith would take a reasonable deal from the 49ers in good faith.
Chris (Fresno, ca)
Doesn't it seem a little scary how easily good QBs are connecting on long passes against the 49ers' defensive backs? I know they are still winning, but think about how many long passes Big Ben and Aaron Rogers would complete against the 49ers! If they can't stop the big passes, it won't matter how well they stop the run. Am I the only sane fan that realizes this!
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
This was a subject I covered heading into the game against the Giants. You're on the right track. Lots of teams have problems stopping great quarterbacks from connecting down the field, however. This is not a 49ers problem. Overall, the team has done a better job on those throws -- despite having issues against some top passers.
Keith H (Seattle)
Good morning, Mike. Is there any further word on Seahawks lineman James Carpenter's knee injury? Thanks again for all you do.
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
You're welcome. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting torn ACL for Carpenter.
Jason (Rochester, NY)
Hey Mike, I wanted your opinion on my theory that Seattle's QB will be Matt Flynn. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have repeatedly said they have a plan for the position, but they have left most of us scratching our heads with the Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson signings. Those signings seem like stopgaps and, in the meantime, they have overhauled nearly every other position on the roster. With Schneider coming from Green Bay and Flynn becoming a free agent, was their plan all along to build up the rest of the team first and then sign Flynn? Assuming they can get a pass-rusher with their Top 15 pick and sign Flynn, what else do they need?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
It's an interesting theory, but I'm not yet convinced the Seahawks' management thinks enough of Flynn to make him the starter. The point you raise is worth keeping in the back of our minds. I just think the team will be more likely to draft a quarterback with more obvious physical talent.
Matt M. (Wilmington NC)
What is going on with Laurent Robinson? As a Rams fan I am hating that they released him. Is there a reason he is having sucess in Dallas, but the Rams couldn't find a place for him?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Robinson had trouble staying healthy. He also had only 6.8 receptions per drop last season, which ranked 63rd out of 83 players with at least five receptions in 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He simply wasn't very good with the Rams.
Steve D. (Palisades Park, NJ)
Hey Mike, what do you see as being the biggest trap game left on the Niners schedule?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Let's start with this one Sunday against a Cardinals team that has won its last two games, has shown an ability to strike down the field, is getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has the ability to score on special teams. I've been wondering if the 49ers would have an off game, or a game where the other team surprises them. Has not really happened yet. Do not think it is likely to happen, but with a Thanksgiving game against Baltimore on the horizon, it's possible.
Jon (Cheyenne WY)
Hey Sando, it's often said that "defense wins championships." With that being said, why do you think the perception is that the Packers are so much better than everyone else (including the Niners)? I mean, their defense is pretty awful, while the Niners' defense is consistently above average/great. It seems to me that there are lots more examples of great defenses shutting down great offenses than vice versa. Shouldn't this be a noted more? Your thoughts, please.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Defense can be an equalizer, no doubt, but the "defense wins championships" mantra has its limitations. I think the best offenses are better than the best defenses, as a rule. And in the 49ers' case, though they have been scoring enough points, I think it's reasonable to wonder if they could do so all the way through the playoffs -- enough so to outscore some of the NFL's best offenses. I like the 49ers' chances against most teams in the NFC playoffs, but think Green Bay would have an edge.
Justin Andrew (San Juan Capistrano)
From what you remember of him, how equipped is Matt Leinart to lead the Houston Texans to the playoffs? How much can he have progressed, given his new role? [rams cards 9ers hawks]
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
The narrative out of Houston has been the same from multiple reports: Gary Kubiak knows quarterbacks, Matt Leinart is finally "serious" about his craft and putting in the time, the Texans have the running game and defense to give Leinart the support he needs to succeed. I'd say Leinart is in a good situation and the team should not collapse, but I'm skeptical about Leinart's ability to fare as well as Matt Schaub in a shootout-type game.
The 49ers most valuable player [the guy they can least afford to lose] is not Frank Gore. It's Alex Smith.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Quarterbacks are more valuable than running backs because they are harder to replace.
You taking the Seahawks or Rams this weekend? Also, something is telling me to sit Steven Jackson this week in fantasy as well, and start Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Jackson. Seems like a sound decision to me. For some reason, I don't see him going off on Seattle like he has been recently. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
I'm leaning toward taking Seattle to win this game for the following reasons: The Seahawks appear better equipped to control the other team's power runner; the Seahawks appear better equipped to exploit injury-related personnel changes in the opponent's secondary, in part because Seattle has had better depth at corner; and, mostly, I do not trust the Rams' ability to score points. Now, do I feel confident predicting a winner in this game? Not really. But I lean toward the Seahawks.
Travis M (Tucson)
What should we watch for in the Cards/49ers game this weekend? Hawks/Rams?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
The offensive tackles. I posted something on this earlier today, right before the chat.
Nick (Bellevue, WA)
Hey Mike, do you think Pete Carroll will have more aggressive play calling over the next few games, due to the upcoming schedule? Watching last Sunday's game, the 'Hawks didn't seem to "go for the throat" against the Ravens. Carroll has been more conservative in the red zone lately.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Tarvaris Jackson's health is a concern when it comes to cutting loose in the deeper passing game. Jackson made a sensational across-the-body throw against the Ravens. His injured pectoral paid a price. The team will be breaking in two new starters on the offensive line this week. Granted, those starters could be as good or better in pass protection than their predecessors, but with Marshawn Lynch coming off a strong run of games and the Rams averaging 10.25 points per game when Sam Bradford starts, I'd expect the Seahawks to test the Rams' 32nd-ranked (by total yards) run defense.
Chris (Rochester, NY)
Doesn't having the big DE (Red) opposite the LEO position lend it self to limiting Seattle's pass rush, or are the Hawks mainly looking for more production out of the pass rush on obvious third-down passing situations?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
There is some truth to that on early downs. I'd say the emphasis is on better pressure out of sub packages. I've noticed the team's defensive backs running into walls on blitzes lately.
What does Spags have to do to keep his job with Rams? Would a win against the Hawks help? Or is the pink slip coming his way in January regardless?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Tough to say what Stan Kroenke is thinking. The fact that the defense has struggled works against Spagnuolo in a big way. Had the defense met expectations, then I would say Steve Spagnuolo would be OK as long as Sam Bradford gained momentum by the end of the season, and the team won some games. The defensive collapse raises questions in my mind about whether he sticks around.
shawn (Bend Oregon)
Do you think if the Seahawks O-line had not had all these injuries this season they would have better record?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Not really. Russell Okung's injury earlier in the year was the big one. I don't now if it was the difference in losing to Pittsburgh. Perhaps it was a factor in the close defeat to Atlanta, but the Seahawks allowed no sacks in that game.
Since the 49ers no longer have Nate Clements to neutralize Larry Fitzgerald, how do you think the 49ers will attempt to account for Fitzgerald?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
There has been some debate as to how much Clements matched up with Fitzgerald. I just know Fitzgerald's production against the 49ers generally fell once the team added Clements. I would think Carlos Rogers would be a factor there, but the pass rush is the No. 1 weapon for the 49ers in this matchup. Let's see how the Cardinals' offensive tackles block Justin Smith on early downs, and Aldon Smith/Ahmad Brooks at other times.
Not sure if you read Jamison Hensley's chat yesterday but here is what he had to say. "Still not completely sold on the 49ers. Not sure how they can come back with Alex Smith if another team gets out to a big lead." Is it just me or did Alex not throw TDs to Morgan and Davis to lead them to a 20 point come from behind win IN PHILLY? What's your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Jamison must realize that every team comes back from deficits to beat the Eagles. Not every team, but how many again? Five? Six? I'd say the 49ers have people right where they want them: still questioning them in general and Alex Smith in particular. On the 49ers' victory at Philly, Smith was sensational in the third quarter. He did virtually nothing in the fourth quarter, when the ground game and key defensive play put the 49ers over the top.
5 Ring Circus (ATX)
CARDS QUESTION: Is Rod Graves on the hot seat?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Team president Michael Bidwill has indicated the organization gave the coaching staff what it wanted this season. I'd say Ken Whisenhunt's the focus of criticism. Graves has never really projected a strong leadership presence in terms of driving that car.
Shane (Robins AFB, CA)
Sando! Formerly Shane from Los Angeles here, but the Air Force has moved me to Georgia. With regards to Kolb vs Skelton, I don't think there is much doubt when Kolb is healthy the Cards will play him, but now, there really isn't any reason to "rush" Kolb given that he is injured and the Cards have won two with Skelton. How long do you think the Cards will slow roll Kolb's injury if they continue to win/be competitive?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Hi Shane. Hope Georgia is treating you well. My feeling is that the Cardinals will go with Kolb next week unless Skelton forces them to reconsider. I would only think that happens if Skelton wins the game or plays lights-out in a competitive defeat. I also think the injury is legitimate and Kolb will play when he can practice a full week, unless Skelton absolutely lights it up.
Jake (Saint Louis)
Have you every seen so many injuries to one position like the Rams have had with cornerback?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Very rarely. I think the Seahawks went through something similar at wide receiver a few years back. It's very rare on this scale.
Why did some teams off to good starts like Detroit and Buffalo get so much respect, but the 49ers seem to get very little? I still see "Are the 49ers for real" articles everywhere.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
There was skepticism on the Bills, I think. The 49ers have been second in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for a while. People wonder about Alex Smith, but increasingly I think the team is getting respect and notice. I see it in the way analysts are becoming more knowledgeable about specific players on the team. Also, there have been quite a few national reporters at team facilities this week.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. See you on the blog.