Dan Bickley, Mike Jurecki and I spent part of Friday afternoon previewing NFC West matchups for Week 8.
The San Francisco-Arizona matchup favors the 49ers on multiple fronts, but the Cardinals' defense should have advantages, too. Its ability to shut down Alex Smith and the 49ers in the red zone proved key during Arizona's 21-19 victory over the 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 14 last season.
In taking a closer look at that game, I noticed Smith completed none of his four attempts in goal-to-go situations. This was a problem area for NFC West teams last season. The 49ers finished strong, scoring touchdowns on five of their final seven goal-to-go possessions. Smith's overall numbers were poor, however.
The chart compares 2011 goal-to-go passing stats to those for NFC West teams this season. Smith, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Tarvaris Jackson, Russell Wilson and Sam Bradford are the quarterbacks listed.
The Total QBR scores are at the bottom. Those scores can lag because QBR expects teams to score in goal-to-go situations. That means there are fewer expected points for a quarterback to realize than if he completed a scoring pass from further away. However, eight quarterbacks have goal-to-go scores in the 90s and these quarterbacks are mostly the ones we would expect to see leading the league. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III are among them.
Seattle's Wilson ranks last in QBR for goal-to-go passing. Rodgers leads the NFL at 98.8. He has completed 8 of 9 passes with seven touchdowns in these situations. Smith ranks ninth at 77.9. His third-quarter touchdown pass to Vernon Davis on third-and-goal from the 4 staked the 49ers to a 23-7 lead at Green Bay in Week 1, one of the game's most pivotal plays.