How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando



1. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals WR. The Pro Bowl wideout nearly overshadowed the Cardinals' victory Sunday by essentially calling out his head coach for not being "man enough" to tell him about his deactivation in person. On the field, Boldin is as manly as any wide receiver to play the game. In this instance, Boldin should have been man enough after the game to take his case directly to Ken Whisenhunt instead of reporters crowding around him in the locker room at Soldier Field. Don't get me wrong: I've got nothing against players popping off after games. It's good blog fodder. It's also bad form, particularly for a player with Boldin's credentials. The Cardinals had just improved to 4-0 on the road while taking a two-game lead in the NFC West. Their offense had just played its best game. That wasn't the time for an inactive player to hog the spotlight.


2. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Let the record show that Smith played a good game against the Titans. That was the word from coach Mike Singletary, anyway. The bottom line, of course, is that the 49ers lost another game with Smith as their starter, and the other team caught three of Smith's passes. The 49ers have lost both of his starts this season and seven of his last nine. When they needed Smith to rally them in the fourth quarter Sunday, Smith locked onto receiver Josh Morgan without enough regard for safety Chris Hope, who picked off the pass. Smith needs a victory over the Bears on Thursday night for Singletary's words of support to resonate with fans.


3. Jim Mora, Seahawks coach. Seattle's performance in falling behind the Lions by 17 points at home suggested Mora's harsh words for the team failed to gain traction following a blowout defeat at Dallas a week earlier. That seems like a bad sign. Yes, Seattle is learning new systems on both sides of the ball. Yes, the team has dealt with significant injuries this season. That's life in the NFL. The Lions are also learning new systems. They are even breaking in a rookie quarterback (the Lions probably would have won that game if Daunte Culpepper had been the quarterback). The Seahawks were as healthy for this game as they've been all season. Falling behind 17-0 at home to the laughable Lions is simply inexcusable. Perhaps this is the week Seattle responds to Mora's challenges.



1. Kurt Warner, Cardinals QB. With five touchdown passes against the Bears, Warner passed Ken Stabler, Steve DeBerg, Joe Ferguson, Bobby Layne, Norm Snead and Ken Anderson on the all-time list. He needs two more to reach 200 touchdown passes for his NFL career. Warner's fifth and final scoring pass against the Bears killed any chances for a Chicago comeback. Whisenhunt had prematurely handed over the offense to Matt Leinart, whose interception helped fuel a Bears rally. The Cardinals were on their heels when Whisenhunt sent Warner back into the game. Warner immediately connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 13-yard gain. A penalty for leg whipping against left tackle Mike Gandy negated the play, but Warner had nonetheless proved his head remained in the game.


2. David Hawthorne, Seahawks LB. Lofa Tatupu's legacy as a middle linebacker remains secure in Seattle. He was a three-time Pro Bowl choice and the key addition to a defense that helped the Seahawks reach Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season. Hawthorne has somehow outperformed Tatupu when given chances this season. That's a tremendous credit to Hawthorne. With Tatupu on injured reserve, Hawthorne picked off two passes against the Lions. He had two sacks against Dallas the previous week. He had a 16-tackle game against the Bears earlier in the season. The Seahawks will need to find a place for Hawthorne beyond this season if he builds on what is already an impressive start to his career.

3. Cardinals tight ends. You know the Cardinals' offense is functioning at a high level when tight ends Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick are catching touchdown passes in the same game. The Arizona passing game goes through Fitzgerald and the other wide receivers, but the tight ends could get more chances as the Cardinals embrace two-tight end personnel groups. The Cardinals averaged 6.3 yards per rushing attempt against the Bears when playing with one back and two tight ends. Similar groupings could become more common in the longer-term future if Boldin talks his way out of Arizona -- particularly if the tight ends show they can catch the ball.