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!
Ken (San Francisco)
Hello again, Sando!!! Obviously I am a 49ers homer and Alex Smith backer, but I could not help but notice how the last-second touchdown pass overshadowed his very shaky day overall. Do you see Alex Smith regressing or was it just a tough matchup?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Well, he took a step backward from the previous week, but he was off-the-charts good against Tampa Bay. The truth is in the middle. He's not going to have games like the one against the Bucs very often. He's not going to be as bad as he was for most of the Lions game very often. My feeling is that the 49ers will continue to do what they can to put Smith is favorable situations, and that his limitations will show up if they lean on him too frequently, but he'll manage games well most of the time.
Mike, I loved your, 'What, me sweating 2011 predictions?' shtick you did yesterday. It's been seven weeks and now analysts are starting to discuss a possible Aaron Rogers vs. Alex Smith NFC Championship game. If the 49ers exit Baltimore with a win on Thanksgiving, the media buzz is going to become deafening. It is exciting stuff, but for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in a decade, doesn't it seem highly premature and media overhyped? Just focus on the winning the NFC West, right -- or is it possible that a special season is happening here?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Glad you liked the video, Lotharun. It was fun putting together. I actually did work out before the video, so it was real sweat. A colleague asked if I used a spray bottle Hollywood style. I haven't heard any buzz over Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers. The buzz I've heard is about the 49ers and their 5-1 start. Jim Harbaugh himself said he feels something special brewing. That's all it is right now, though: brewing. I think the 49ers realize this.
Could you see the Seahawks as a playoff team? They have been improving at a pretty rapid pace as a very young team and their remaining schedule is very favorable. Plus I still don't buy the 49ers with Alex Smith leading them.
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
The Seahawks would have to go 6-5 the rest of the way to get to 8-8. That could happen, but the 49ers need to go only 4-6 to reach 9-7. Let's say you're right and the 49ers aren't that good. Let's say they go 5-5 the rest of the way. That puts them at 10-6. Seattle would ahve to go 8-3 the rest of the way, with a victory over the 49ers, just to tie for first place in the division. That's a lot to ask.
Odds the Rams can turn things around with the new receivers and the easier half of their schedule coming up?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
There's a decent chance that will happen. Sam Bradford's ankle injury clouds the picture a little bit. He could be dealing with that all season. I saw improvement from the Rams at Green Bay and think they're closer to breaking through. They'll win some games in the second half of the season.
Travis M (Tucson)
In 3 years, will we look back at this as the season that changed the landscape of the NFC West? The 49ers seem to have struck gold with Harbaugh, the Seahawks are killing their chances at Luck, the Cards are getting dangerously close to firing their head coach and being stuck with an elephant of a contract and the Rams may be doing irreparable damage to Sam Bradford's spine.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Every season affects the landscape. Kurt Warner retired one year. Matt Hasselbeck left the next year. Sam Bradford arrived. Jim Harbaugh. Pete Carroll. I wouldn't go overboard after six games.
Tevin Broner (NLR)
How big of a boost to the Rams offense will Mark Clayton and Brandon Lloyd bring the Rams
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Big boost because the Rams' receivers will not drop the ball so frequently. The Rams have 15 drops through Week 6, despite having a bye already. The Seahawks have three drops. Big, big difference.
Mike, with the Rams now having a legit No. 1 receiver, how much does Brandon Lloyd help Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson and Steven Jackson for the rest of the season?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Less playing time for Danario Alexander, which probably helps Alexander's knee. Less playing time for Gibson. The impact on Jackson could be interesting. Jackson hasn't had much room to operate after catching passes out of the backfield. I'll be interested in seeing if that changes.
Great job, as always, on the blog, Mike! Do you think the Cards have a shot at home against the Steelers this week? They have had their own offensive line issues this season.
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Yeah, they have a shot. I'd probably pick them to win had they not played so poorly at Minnesota. This team hasn't shown an ability to win close games. They've shown a pattern of losing close games. I'll go with the Steelers based on their ability to rally against a suspect defense even if the Cardinals play well. One thing I'm looking at: How Kevin Kolb has performed against 3-4 defenses. He's done better lately, including against the Redskins this season. I also addressed Kolb in the NFC411 video published Thursday. This is a big game for him.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Mike, how would you assess the Seahawks' QB situation? Do you think Tarvaris Jackson might start most of the rest of their games this season, health permitting? (Vikings fan here who still has a Jackson Vikings jersey in my closet. Also added Jackson to my fantasy roster yesterday, replacing Rex Grossman!)
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I've thought both Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst would get multiple starts before season's end as the team evaluates them. This injury to Jackson gives the team an invitation to look at Whitehurst without bailing on Jackson, in my view. I do think Jackson will likely start more games than Whitehurst, however.
Ed (Saginaw, MI)
What can you tell me about Seahawk saftey Earl Thomas? Is he having a good sophomore year after his impressive rookie campaign?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Very good second season from Earl Thomas. He's becoming one of the better safeties in the league and should be Pro Bowl-caliber for years to come.
Quinn (Elizabethtown PA)
Mike, with the continuity of the Seahawks offensive line finally present, and improved defensive play, do you believe that they will be able to make a strong push in the second half of the season to potentially upset the 49ers and win the division crown. Their schedule isn't too hard to end this season. With the potential to add 7-8 wins.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Well, that continuity is a work in progress. Center Max Unger has had a boot on his foot. Robert Gallery is returning to the lineup at left guard. We could still see a couple more line combinations from Seattle this season. Overall, though, I do see the Seahawks improving. They haven't suffered devastating injuries to this point. They've been able to fill in pretty nicely with depth at linebacker (K.J. Wright), cornerback (Marcus Trufant) and receiver (Doug Baldwin). I'm going to break out a post on this. It stands in contrast to the Rams' situation, where they too frequently have not had enough good players in reserve.
Mike, the niners have four winnable games coming up. What chances do you give them to be 9-1 going into the thanksgiving Harbaugh bowl? Also, it seems like a fourth for Lloyd would have been a good pickup with the depth at WR being what it is. Were the Niners even in the discussion for Brandon?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
^&*(anlljkasd. Sorry about that. A bit distracted while watching your horse slam into the back of your cart like that. You make a good point, though. Home for Cleveland, at Washington, home for the Giants, home for Arizona. I see at least two wins for the 49ers there and probably three. I'll take 8-2 as my projection for them. 9-1 is not out of the realm, but even good teams lose from time to time. On Brandon Lloyd, the Rams got him for a sixth-rounder that can become a fifth. The 49ers probably realized Lloyd would be learning a new system and might not fit as naturally with Braylon Edwards returning. The 49ers use two tight ends a lot, limiting the available spots for wide receivers on the field.
Bradley (Dublin, CA)
Hi MikeThe early reviews on the 9ers draft were less than glowing. Mel Kiper criticized them because their first two pick were 'projects'. In retrospect, it looks like their draft could be one of the strongest in the NFL. Aldon Smith is obviously no project. Chris Culliver is a solid corner. Kendall Hunter is a great change of pace to Frank Gore. Bruce Miller is pitching in as well. With Alex Smith playing well enough, the 49ers can afford to take things slowly with Colin Kaepernick and he has a huge upside. I think Mel's C Grade for them should be more along the lines of an A or A-. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Kiper downgraded the 49ers because he thought Kaepernick was a reach. He said the draft would live or die with Kaepernick. He did not doubt Aldon Smith at all. In fact, Mel wrote this along with his grade on the 49ers: "You'll hear Smith called the first big reach of Round 1, but he wouldn't have lasted long at all past the No. 7 slot where the Niners nabbed him. And beyond the obvious question at quarterback, an outside linebacker who can rush the quarterback was the biggest position of need for this team, and if Smith continues on his developmental path, he could be a star."
To your knowledge, did Seattle ever officially offer anything for Carson Palmer? I will say this, I would have been livid if they gave up what Oakland did in order to get him. Ridiculous.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
To my knowledge, the conversations Seattle had regarding Palmer took place before the season. I know of no offer Seattle made at this time. There's no way the Seahawks would have given up what the Raiders gave up. Different situations.
Travis M (Tucson)
Is Justin Smith the least renowned great player in the league? The guy is phenomenal!
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Probably so. That could change if the 49ers enjoy team success. Smith qualifies for beast status.
Do you feel that the 49ers could use an upgrade at CB through the draft next year?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
I feel less that way after seeing Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver in this defense.
Ben (Seattle, WA)
Hey Mike, hope your having a good time with some NFC West teams actually making some noise in the NFL. Has it been nice to get that monkey off you back in regards to your colleagues? Another question, since the Hawks probably wont be bad enough to get Luck, what other QB's might they pursue in the draft? Somebody althletically gifted or somebody with football smarts?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I've had a lot of fun with the whole worth-by-association thing on the divisions. We have fun with it as a group. Kevin Seifert and I in particular go at it with good-natured razzing. He's been on the winning end most of the time. People ask me who I root for, and here is the truth: I would love to have the NFC West teams sitting one through four in our power rankings. It would be great for the division, great for the blog, a lot of fun for every one of us following these teams. On the draft, I'm not going to pretend to know this early. I should check in with our Scouts Inc. guys on that front.
slappy (san diego)
Since last year all I heard from delusional niner fans every chat was how it was still possible for them to make the playoffs only to fall short, for the 9th year in a row. This year, all we are going to hear is how great they are. Again, these delusional fans are off. Their defense is solid but their offense is awful. The Niners have a good record but haven't won any of the games convincingly, outside of a couple of late punt return touchdowns in the first week. They are not a good team. Let the collapse begin.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
A 48-3 victory over the previously 3-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers was convincing.
Kurt Warner lists Alex Smith as one of his top five quarterbacks. Would you agree?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Warner knows just a little bit more about quarterbacking. I'd say this: Alex Smith is doing a great job executing what the 49ers are asking him to execute. He is doing his job. I happen to think other teams ask more from their quarterbacks, and I would rate those quarterbacks' performances more highly without criticizing Smith.
Mike, is there a reason the 49ers did not sign another WR to replace Josh Morgan or are they just wating for a healthy Braylon Edwards to return after the bye week.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yeah, I think the 49ers felt OK with Edwards returning. They can play two backs and/or two tight ends, so they do not need to go three-wide all the time.
Mike, great job. Your blog is must-see reading for me daily. Suppose the unthinkable happens and the Cards earn the first pick in the draft, do they just pick Luck and give up on Kolb? Furthermore, does that mean their defense stays as bad as it has been for the past three years?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Thanks, Marc. I hope you don't mind me adding those first two sentences to your question. As for the question, let me first acknowledge that the undying optimism of Cardinals fans inspires. If the Cardinals wound up with the first pick, they would likely have a new coaching staff, in my view. And I could see that new staff drafting Luck, who would cost less than No. 1 overall quarterbacks cost under the previous labor agreement. But we are wildly speculating here. Too many variables to know for sure. And for those wondering, I didn't really add those first two sentences to Marc's questions. We have editors for that.
How is Sidney Rice's health (shoulder) now that he has played a few games?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Rice is doing well and he has taken quite a few hits here and there. Seems to be doing well.
Ben G (Montana)
Mike, the 49ers lead the league with 55 passes defended according to NFL.com. This is indicative to me of a secondary and linebacker group that does a great job defending against the pass at all levels of the defence. Yet they have a pass defense ranked 21st in yards allowed per game. What gives?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Philadelphia racked up a ton of yards against the 49ers, but San Francisco did a good job in the red zone, and good job with turnovers. Dallas also capitalized on 49ers coverage breakdowns late in that Week 2 game. Overall, I'd say the pass defense has been improving and the ranking should improve. The 49ers rank tied for 10th in Total QBR allowed. Top teams are Baltimore, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Detroit, the Jets, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and the Giants.
Aside from the QB position, what are the next biggest holes you think Seattle needs to address in the offseason? Im thinking a DB would be real nice to go with Thomas and Kam in the secondary. Maybe an outside LB who can rush the passer. O-line always good. Maybe a young RB?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
They need another pass-rusher to help out Chris Clemons. That would be my No. 1 priority for the Seahawks on defense this coming offseason. They've fortified the run defense. Now they can help out Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in that secondary by improving the pass rush. They have a hard time getting pressure with only four rushers. After pass-rusher, I'd say they could use another corner to develop. You figure Marcus Trufant is done or close to done. Walter Thurmond is on the rise. Brandon Browner is still finding his way.
Deezel (San Diego)
What's it going to take for P Willis to FINALLY be recognized as the best ILB in the NFL? I think it will be Thanksgiving Day when the nation (stuffed full of Turkey) see the truth. Also, what are the chances that Bowman starts alongside Willis in this year's Pro Bowl?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
ESPN.com named him the best pure linebacker (not outside rusher in a 3-4) before the season. He is pretty universally regarded as the best inside linebacker in the game. Bowman should get some consideration but will have a hard time breaking out of Willis' shadow nationally, but Lance Briggs was able to do that alongside Brian Urlacher.
Chex Norris (San diego CA)
What's your take on the former 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd hot potato-ing around the league?? Why don't teams seem to want to keep him around? I remember him making some pretty spectacular catches even when the Niners were horrible.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Early in his career, Lloyd's inconsistency frustrated teams. More recently, he had a great season with Josh McDaniels. There's no doubt Lloyd would have remained in Denver had McDaniels remained there. Lloyd has landed in some unstable places: San Francisco from 2003-05, Washington from 2006-07, Denver more recently. You are right about spectacular catches. I remember one in the rain during his 49ers days where the ball went past him along the sideline and he reached out with one hand to snatch it. Impossible play.
The Cards want a scary 3-4 defense but obviously, they don't have the linebackers for this to work. Do you think they're personnel suits them better off using a 3-4 / 4-3 hybrid?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Yes, the Cardinals' personnel does not fit the pure 3-4. But they need to have some sort of identity. They need to evolve to a 3-4 by changing their personnel over time. All good coaches adjust their scheme to their personnel.
Do you think Harbaugh should send Schwartz a Frederick P. Soft doll?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
On that note, I'm going to untuck my shirt and move toward the middle of the field for the post-chat handshake. Got an item about quarterbacks I'm itching to finish and get posted.