Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, we'll have ESPN.com NFL Insider 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 Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (2:36 PM)
Greetings. Sorry for the delay. Here we go.
Steve (salt lake city, ut)
i think denver is being extremely underrated for this weekend's game. is it possible that Manning's season is being overlooked? they are going to be hungry and that Chargers defense is not going up against Andy Dalton or Chase Daniels this week.
Mike Sando (2:38 PM)
The Broncos are favored by 9+ points against a team they defeated by eight point and lost to by seven points. With San Diego, it's all about style of play. They have shown they can control the ball and limit possessions. They have a good formula for defeating the Broncos. That doesn't mean they will defeat the Broncos or should be favored to beat the Broncos. I do think they have a shot. Denver is 2-3 this season when scoring less than 34 points. That includes 1-2 against John and/or Chuck Pagano. Throw in a veteran QB in Philip Rivers and a head coach with direct knowledge of Denver/Peyton and this game is intriguing, at least.
If you were starting a franchise tomorrow would you rather have Kaepernick or Newton?
Mike Sando (2:40 PM)
That is a great question and I do not feel strongly about one over the other. The context of what is around them has been key for both. Kaepernick intrigues me a little more because there is less known about him.
How worried should the Seahawks be with defending Graham since 6-4 Wright is out and 6 foot Malcom Smith will be covering him?
Mike Sando (2:41 PM)
More concerned than they were last time, but Seattle plays great team defense and generally has not been dependent on individual matchups.
Matt (Kansas City)
How big of an impact is Crabtree going to be in this game? Only WR weapon really for either team, this game is going to be a grinder
Mike Sando (2:43 PM)
Anquan Boldin is also a factor. I think having a fuller range of weapons -- Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Boldin -- all at once makes the 49ers much more comfortable and capable than they were when they faced the Panthers last time. However, the Panthers' front seven and pass-rush still have the ability to make life difficult for Kaepernick. I feel like the 49ers are the better team right now, but this game in in Carolina and the 49ers are coming off another road game.
Bad Idea Bob (Roche HQ)
I know injuries happen but imagine how much better the Pats defense would be for a playoff run with all of the following.... Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Mayo and now Spikes.
Mike Sando (2:45 PM)
Yeah, I really feel like the Patriots' best friend right now is a flawed AFC. This could be a season where just getting to the Super Bowl would represent a fantastic achievement for the Patriots -- a hugely successful season even if they lost the Super Bowl. That sounds odd because the Patriots have been measured by championships, but I feel like their ability to win so many close games this season has been pretty unusual and remarkable, allowing them to post a very good record without being as good as some of the New England teams that finished similarly in the standings. To answer your question directly, the defense is now a potential liability, whereas it once had the potential to be a strength.
Seems like the Niners have been extraordinary healthy during the last 3 year stretch? Do you think it's just some kind of random event or are they doing somethings different than everyone else?
Mike Sando (2:47 PM)
They were built by Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan initially on the belief that bigger players hold up better. They are a big, physical team and I would think that has helped them stay healthier. I remember years ago in the NFC West, Patrick Willis and Lofa Tatupu were two of the top inside linebackers. Both were going to Pro Bowls. Willis was much bigger and more physical. Willis lasted. Tatupu broke down physically and had a shorter career.
Is Tom Brady not getting enough credit for what he's done this season? This is the least amount of talent he's had around him in years, due to people leaving and injuries
Mike Sando (2:49 PM)
That isn't an issue in the league. There are people who really respect what Bill Belichick has done but also think Tom Brady has been the most important variable there in New England. I know the team won without him that one season, but as I recall, the schedule cooperated and it wasn't something that felt particularly sustainable. Brady has helped to sustain that team. There was improvement as the season progressed and he got more comfortable with some of the receivers around him.
Aaron Carroll (Brandon)
I have used this chat all season and it has won me a title.....now I need your help for the playoffs.......Would you start Julius Thomas or Jimmy Graham at TE?
Mike Sando (2:51 PM)
I have a hard time believing that to be the case but I'd probably lean toward Jimmy Graham even though the Seahawks' defense is tough. Seattle is without KJ Wright, the linebacker who covered Graham well last time. Also, with Denver, there are so many other weapons capable of having a big day. Yeah, Thomas could be the guy in a given week, but that can be tough to predict.
If you were starting a team right now who would be your QB?
Mike Sando (2:52 PM)
I think Andrew Luck would be the choice for his size, smarts, ability and versatility. He'd be an easy guy to build around, without any real limitations.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
Is Marvin Lewis so special a coach, he can be the only head coach to be 0-5 in the playoffs with the same team?
Mike Sando (2:55 PM)
I'm going to divide Lewis' tenure into a couple of categories. Before 2011 and from 2011 forward. The organization has changed. He's really into the Andy Dalton era now, and 0-3 in the playoffs during that time. Matt Ryan was 0-3. Peyton Manning was 0-3. We'll see if Dalton can progress and the team can break through this coming season. In the NFL, you're sometimes a blown coverage (2012 Broncos) or a lost fumble (2013 Bengals, arguably) from winning or losing a playoff game. There is no best-of-seven series.
Satch Carbo (The Ville)
will the lack of fire power on the pats offense lead to their demise either this week or next?
Mike Sando (2:57 PM)
Yeah, I tend to think that will be the case, before they reach the Super Bowl, but the AFC is open enough for them to beat the odds. This team played 11 games decided by seven or fewer points. This team went 6-1 in games decided by three or fewer points. It's been a grind and you'd think it would catch up to New England, but in one-game situations, the Patriots still have Tom Brady. They have a chance.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
You just made a compelling argument against drafting Manziel early in May's draft. How can he stay healthy in the NFL?
Mike Sando (2:59 PM)
Manziel might need to adjust his style of play some. A lot could depend on the type of team and coach he played under. I think it's a consideration but with the right team and coach, maybe those concerns aren't as strong.
James Chiariello (Complaining)
realistically, what are the Seahawks expecting from Harvin?
Mike Sando (3:00 PM)
I think they are expecting him to make game-changing plays and log lots of snaps. That is just my feel. I don't think there are restrictions on him at this point. To me, Harvin is the key variable needed for Seattle to be a championship team. Now, we'll see if he can meet expectations. That offense has badly needed another weapon at WR down the stretch.
if you were a betting man, would you take SD and the points?
Mike Sando (3:02 PM)
Yeah, that is how I would lean, just figuring the teams have played two close games already, and San Diego has a good formula for minimizing possessions. Denver always makes you nervous because that offense could score enough to win by 10 or 20 points. But I think we've seen enough to feel good about the Chargers' chances to make a game of it and compete.
Seems like commentators are overlooking seattle's 0-line, especially the guard / center play. In terms of overall weakness, wouldn't you put that above their WR's, etc
Mike Sando (3:04 PM)
WR is not a weakness if Percy Harvin is available. Also, Jermaine Kearse is returning, which helps the depth. And Golden Tate is a good player. I do think the OL is the area I would most want to address if I were the Seahawks. I've felt that way for a couple years. They love some of their young depth that is not yet starting. Sometimes you notice coaches favoring veteran players and I think that has happened with Tom Cable when it comes to this line -- for better and sometimes worse. Max Unger is a good center. Russell Okung can be a good left tackle when healthy. Elsewhere, I have some questions.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Do you think that Harvin will be used that much against the Saints? Didn't they get him primarily for the 49ers?
Mike Sando (3:05 PM)
They got him for every game. They need him.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
What do you think of Spielman's strategy in coming up with a head coach?
Mike Sando (3:08 PM)
You don't have to be first in making a hire. You need to get the right guy for your team. Arizona was an example last season. The Cardinals were initially rumored to be the destination for Andy Reid. Then Reid went to Kansas City. The Cardinals took their time. It looked like they were missing out on guys. But in the end, they hired Bruce Arians, who seems to have done a great job for Arizona this past season. The Vikings are fine as long as they like multiple candidates out there. I don't have a problem with the search.
do you see Seahawks being more successful by land or air tomorrow? and will weather hurt Brees or Wilson more
Mike Sando (3:11 PM)
The forecast is calling for winds at 20+ mph. That could diminish the passing games. I still think that is where Seattle will do more damage, figuring the Saints will load up against Marshawn Lynch.
Dikembe (Shadow Lurking)
Kuechly vs Bowman/Willis....what a game of LB's.
Mike Sando (3:12 PM)
Yeah, and do not forget about Thomas Davis. Someone asked me to rank the linebackers in that 49ers-Panthers game. Cannot do it. Great players. Patrick Willis has been my favorite to watch over the years, but there is some debate as to whether he is even the best linebacker on his own team. The 49ers had four All-Pro linebackers last season, by the way. Three first-teamers. Incredible. Remember, Ahmad Brooks has had a big year at OLB as well.
Dikembe (Shadow Lurking)
if you could only watch 1 game this weekend, youd go with Car/SF right?
Mike Sando (3:13 PM)
Yeah, I would. Really interested in seeing which offense can get it going, if any.
Would you take Luck over Rodgers only because of age?
Mike Sando (3:13 PM)
Yeah, just for building a team longer term.
Steve (Charlotte, NC)
Do you think Cam will fail in his 1st playoff game?
Mike Sando (3:16 PM)
I hear very good things about Cam Newton from people in that organization. One of the thoughts this season is that he has taken a step forward. I wrote about it early in the season and thought it was true. But when you step back and look at the Panthers from a production standpoint, the defense is really what is different. Newton's production has seemed pretty flat. The Panthers seem less reliant on him. So, the question is, what happens if they really need him to carry the team? He has risen up to lead some critical scoring drives this season, but what if he had to lead that team from behind over multiple quarters? I wonder if they would have the weapons to support him, particularly with Steve Smith possibly limited. I think that could be a situation where Newton "fails" and it might not be disproportionately his doing.
Why are all the experts picking SF on road? Packers were very physical, so considering how physical the Panthers will be playing, shouldn't take a toll (along with the long flights and early start time) towards them winning?
Mike Sando (3:18 PM)
I hear what you are saying. I think people see Michael Crabtree returning and Vernon Davis healthy. They see Steve Smith hurting. They see two teams with tough defenses, and one team (49ers) with superior weapons on offense right now. I assume you meant the Packers were not very physical (relatively speaking). This should be a tougher fight for the 49ers.
With Peyton always getting killed this time of year about playoff records and ect why was Favre never talked about? He also had some great teams around him and "only" managed one SB. Only diff is it was HIS fault they lost a few times vs Peyton has had to deal with bad D's, Brady, and ect.
Mike Sando (3:20 PM)
Has Peyton Manning had great teams around him, though? I would say more often than not, he has had to carry weaker teams. Even these Broncos, while talented at the skill positions, have issues elsewhere on the roster. The stuff about winning championships matters, but look at it this way: If you took every Super Bowl winner in history and replaced their QBs with Peyton, would those teams have been more or less likely to have won it all that year? I'd say more likely most of the time. He is great.
What % do you think each of the eight remaining teams has of getting to the Super Bowl? Is Seattle a bigger favorite than San Francisco?
Mike Sando (3:24 PM)
I do think Seattle is the big favorite in the NFC based on the strength of the Seahawks' roster AND the home-field edge. But we really need to see how the offense fares, particularly with Percy Harvin returning, because the team dropped off in that area late in the season. A shaky performance by the offense on Saturday could change my mind. I do see the 49ers as the biggest threat because I think they are tougher to defend than the Panthers would be right now. But if the 49ers and Seahawks win this week, they will have played at Green Bay, then on the East Coast, then back on the West Coast in the toughest venue -- all in a short period of time. That would be rough.
I agree with you about Peyton. That is why I am asking why Favre's playoff record is/was never mentioned? I don't think you could say the same about Favre winning if he is the QB of all the SB teams.
Mike Sando (3:28 PM)
Brett Favre played with some very good defenses on his side. I feel as though the Holmgren-era Packers should have won at least one additional title. Favre was 4-6 in his final 10 playoff starts, throwing 19 TDs with 18 INTs and an 80.1 passer rating that ranks 16th out of the 20 QBs with at least five playoff starts over that time. Peyton Manning has gone 9-9 over the same period, but he has 31 TDs with 21 INTs and a 90.3 rating in those games. The stats aren't everything, of course. Passer rating has some limitations (Mark Sanchez has a really good one while going 4-2 in the playoffs over the same period). But I think there is merit in the comparisons when it comes to putting Manning in perspective.
Thanks for answering the question, Mike! I actually meant how physical Lacy was on the D. Just a quick follow-up question. Do think Kap has improved on his ability to read D's? Seems like before he was a one read and scramble player. I'm not sure how effective that will be against the Panther's D
Mike Sando (3:31 PM)
Ah, I gotcha. You're right, Eddie Lacy took two hard shots from Donte Whitner and I'd say he won those collisions, or at least did not lose them. The 49ers seem to be more of a "designed shots" type passing team than a 1-2-3 rhythm team. I suppose that bears watching now that the 49ers are healthier at the skill positions. I know Kaepernick seemed pretty lost against the Panthers last time. Was it mostly a weapons thing? I tend to think it was a combination of weapons and playing a defense that can pressure with four. Gotta give the defensive guys credit.
Which defensive injury will hurt their team the most in the SEA/NO game - KJ Wright or Kenny Vaccaro?
Mike Sando (3:32 PM)
I lean toward Kenny Vaccaro because I think the Seahawks are strong enough on defense overall to make up for the loss of a single player in most cases. But let's see how this game goes. If the winds are 25 mph, then what does it mean for passing?
Matt (Kansas City)
I don't understand why everyone is on the SD bandwagon, they beat DEN on thursday night, where everyone plays bad. They needed a shank against KC's back ups to even get into the playoffs. Why would ANYONE doubt Peyton at home with the season he had and week of rest?
Mike Sando (3:35 PM)
So, are you betting the mortgage on the outcome or just the car?
Mike Sando (3:36 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. My pleasure as always. Enjoy the divisional round.