The midseason standings force teams to set new goals. The San Francisco 49ers can think about playoff positioning. The Seattle Seahawks can focus on continuing to improve their ground game. The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals can try to get their quarterbacks heading in the right direction.
The latest NFC West chat illustrated how much expectations have changed.
Mike Sando: First, let's pause for a moment and consider this: A 49ers fan is now worried about Alex Smith's ability to reach the Super Bowl. We've gone from wondering whether Smith should re-sign with the team to wondering if Smith could beat out Colin Kaepernick to wondering how long before Kaepernick would take the job to wondering if Smith can be a Super Bowl quarterback. I'd say the season is already a success. Jim Harbaugh values quarterbacks, but I do not see the 49ers mortgaging everything for a shot at the top pick. Harbaugh strikes me as the type who thinks he can win without an all-time great behind center.
Jesse from Sacramento asks where Sam Bradford ranks in the NFL this season. He sees three touchdown psses, three interceptions and four fumbles, three of them returned for scores. He thinks Bradford should rank below Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Curtis Painter and Blaine Gabbert.
Mike Sando: I'd put Bradford in the bottom five of the league this season even though I think some of the struggles are directly related to: Steven Jackson missing time, the team running out of talent at receiver, a tough schedule, an underachieving offensive line and Bradford getting injured just as the team was finally upgrading with Brandon Lloyd at receiver. I think Bradford needs to demonstrate more than once over the remaining eight games that he can be a difference maker.
Jake in Taghaz, Afghanistan sees Matt Hasselbeck playing well for Tennessee and asks whether he would have put up similar numbers for Seattle.
Mike Sando: Hasselbeck would have been more vulnerable to injuries in Seattle because the protection was not good early in the season. I think he would be putting up better numbers than he did last season and better numbers than his replacements are putting up, but he would not be producing the way he is in Tennessee, where the protection has been better. I would counter that only by saying Seattle has better weapons at receiver than Hasselbeck enjoys in Tennessee, so that is a consideration. Overall, I think Seattle would have a chance to win more games if Hasselbeck were the quarterback. But part of me also thinks keeping Hasselbeck for this season would have risked a higher choice in the draft. This team needs its next quarterback. Finding that next quarterback would have been tougher had Hasselbeck stayed.
cards_need_heart from Arizona asks what steps the Cardinals can take to help their offensive line. He thinks the line is similar to the one Kurt Warner played behind, but he sees quarterbacks taking longer to throw the ball. He doesn't want to team to draft for need, as it did in landing Levi Brown, but wants a quick fix.
Mike Sando: There is no quick fix. The Cardinals haven't drafted young prospects on their offensive line. They have patched with veterans. They have even replaced veterans with veterans. They need to use the draft to upgrade at outside linebacker and offensive tackle.
Enjoy your Thursday evening. I'm going to check out the Oakland-San Diego game for a bit.