Chat wtih 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!
Who do the Cardinals take if the draft were today, Patrick Peterson or Aldon Smith?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
I would generally value front seven over corner, but with Peterson emerging as a potential all-time great in the return game, and with the Cardinals getting some production from their young OLBs, they might still go with Peterson. Tough to go wrong either way. I am also sure the 49ers would stick with Smith.
Matt Davis (michigan, but washingtonian at heart)
Sando, been a fan since you wrote for TNT. Do you think the Seahawks offense will show up on the road this weekend? I think they have been turning a corner on the road with Carroll at the helm, but its hard to think they can win road games when you lose 6-3 at cleveland. Lastly, Bears or Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Thanks, Matt. Throw out the Cleveland game. Charlie Whitehurst started that one and played poorly. The Bears will likely be my pick this week. This is where I think the Russell Okung injury absence will start to hurt the Seahawks. The Bears have their own injury issues, and big ones. I give Seattle a chance, but think it could be a tough game offensively. Bears are the choice.
Clint (Scottsdale, AZ)
It's unlikely, but possible to have SF, SEA, and AZ all in the playoffs. Going into week 15 with even a chance of that scenario should get the NFC Worst comments off our back. How many other divisions have such a chance?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
The AFC South is the worst division. The NFC North has three teams in play for a postseason berth. The AFC West and AFC North do as well. I see the NFC West making strides over the second half of the season, except for the Rams.
B (Glendale, AZ)
How much credence do you give the Cleveland-Arizona tilt as a possible letdown for the Cardinals? After all, Dockett said last week's game against the 49ers was 'their Superbowl'. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
It was easier getting "up" for the 49ers than it will be doing the same for the Browns. The game is in Arizona, though. That would seemingly help. The only seeming letdown game I've seen from the Cardinals was the debacle at Minnesota coming off a hard-fought defeat to the Giants.
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando, on the power rankings this week both Seattle and Arizona dropped a spot despite being on winning streaks... I know that you don't have control over the other voters but what can you come up with for this discrepancy, the team that put both of them down the ladder was San Diego, considering all 3 teams have the same record and both Seattle and Arizona have better quality wins over better teams than San Diego does... is this anything more than Bias? I just don't see it, I would put money on either AZ or SEA to beat SD hands down.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
This was a fluke, really. Paul Kuharsky had knocked down the Chargers too far, by his own estimation. He had covered that Monday night game between San Diego and Jacksonville. For a while, it looked like the Jaguars might win. He naturally had a negative read on the Chargers while formulating his rankings during that game (while participating in a chat, writing a column and doing whatever else he needed to do during that game). Anyway, with San Diego following that comeback win at Jacksonville with a blowout over Buffalo, Paul felt he needed to make a big adjustment on the Chargers. He had them only 27th previously. And so he pushed them up 11 spots, more than he would usually adjust a team. And that made it tough for the Cardinals or Seahawks to keep pace.
Julian (Bay Area)
Mike - I've seen that the 49ers reacted differently in this last loss than previous ones. It seems as though they might have been ok with losing to the Ravens and even an OT loss to Dallas. Kinda like, those things are supposed to happen at some time to your team. This last week however there was hardly any media chat, only a small percentage of players show up on Monday(a day off but still a lot of players have been showing up), and even Harbaugh being rather frustrated in his Monday Presser. I know that adversity was a key word used and perhaps some would ask what about the other 2 games, well this was a game we expected to win hands down no questions asked. Do you think this will truly be a test of the 49ers adversity this week?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
The 49ers are a good team still. I do think a home defeat to Pittsburgh would be damaging for them, however. They would then be facing a trip to Seattle on a short week. Teams are gunning for the 49ers a little more. They need a strong performance. I do not think they have played that consistently over the last three or so weeks.
Can the 9ers turn around their offensive woes before the playoffs? Do they need to or can they just continue to lean on their defense?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
They will have to lean on their defense quite a bit. That will not necessarily prevent them from winning a specific game, but it could complicate efforts to win multiple playoff games.
Kevn (Silverdale Wa)
Can we jump to Week 16 real quick? With the way the 9ers are playing right now, who do you take in the 49ers vs Seahawks at Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Lean toward the Seahawks at home, but expect a close game and think the 49ers have a good chance too.
Let's say, regardless of effort, the Rams don't win another game this year. I don't see any way things within the coaching staff don't get a huge make over this offseason. Stan is going to review the season and see horrible mistakes by the coaches in almost every single game -- bad challenges or non challenges, bad clock management, and lack of in game adjustments. Very rarely do you see them change up a game plan at halftime. If these last few games prove to be the same as the previous 13 games, would you agree that there will be significant change this offseason?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Changes are likely. Is there enough evidence for Stan Kroenke to know for sure he has the right head coach and general manager? I doubt it. If Steve Spagnuolo were watching the current Rams as an assistant for another team, he would be right if he thought, "Hey, I realize they've had some bad breaks, but it's been three years. The record is what it is. Give someone else a try." And it would be very hard to argue with that thinking.
Julian (Bay Area)
Mike - Just wondering how you feel about Alex Smith playing too close to the playbook and the primary receiver on pass plays. Is this due to his undecidedness to put the team on his shoulders, leaving it the coach's team?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Alex Smith is playing to avoid making mistakes. He is playing not to lose. That is a good strategy to a point. But to take the next step, he needs to take Steve Young's advice and get a little more creative. He has done it at times. I seem to recall it happening on a deep pass he threw against Tampa Bay.
9er Fan East (Jersey)
If the 49ers do not do well in the playoffs, do you see them letting Alex Smith go and looking to bring up Kaepernick? They were able to turn Alex into a QB without an offseason and CK has more physical tools.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
I see Alex Smith returning. He should return. He fits well with the team and would, at the very least, serve as a good bridge quarterback. I've been thinking about how quickly perceptions change. The 49ers have lost two of three. If they were to lose a couple more and then lose in the wild-card round with Smith playing poorly, then it's pretty easy for the team to consider other options at the position. But all parties must know San Francisco is the best fit for Alex Smith, whether or not Smith projects as a starter.
Ben (Springfield, MO)
Is there any way you see the Rams being able to sign some free agents and draft some young pieces to try and compete for a playoff spot in the next year or two?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
This season stands as a big step backward in the development of the team because the offensive line has come apart at the seams. Jacob Bell took a pay cut. Jason Brown got benched. Jason Smith got hurt again and will not return at his current price. Rodger Saffold regressed and had injury issues. So, right there, you're talking about a rebuild up front. The older defensive linemen, James Hall and especially Fred Robbins, might be near the end. Outside linebacker is an obvious area of need. The corners are coming off major injuries. Brandon Lloyd might not be back. Steven Jackson is getting older and the team has no young replacement in the wings. That team suddenly needs a lot of work, I'd say.
Lenxo (Soledad, CA)
What do you think the regression in red zone efficiency for the 49ers is to blame? Alex Smith was great in the red zone before this season. So why are they afraid to go for risks in the RZ if he's proven he can be very capable there?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
I am not 100 percent sure of the answer here. He had a 9-0 TD-INT ratio in the red zone last season. The ratio is 7-1 this season. But his completion percentage is down from 70.5 to 40.8. That is just a huge drop in completion rate. One big difference: one sack in the red zone last season, eight sacks in the red zone this season.
Babylon (Phx, AZ)
Do you think Ryan Williams will be the same type of player he was coming out college last year after the injury?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
We have no way of knowing that. However, he's very young, so that helps.
Mike: As a Pittsburgh fan it is evident that the Steelers do not get nearly as much pressure on the qb as in the past; particularly when Harrison and/or Woodley are out of action? Do you think they can get to Alex Smith on Monday night?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
The Steelers actually went undefeated and got 13 sacks during the four-game stretch James Harrison missed earlier this season. They have not had more sacks during any other four-game stretch. Their blitzes should give the 49ers problems, yes.
Sando - Okung being out hurts, but the Bears can't put up points. Can't you see them running more multiple TE sets to protect Jackson and beating a truly anemic Bears offense? So what if you can only score 13 if the other team will have a tough time putting up 3.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yes, I could see that happening. But I could see it happening both ways.
Tim Tebow (Denver)
Are Tom Brady and the Patriots about to bring me back to earth?
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando, in response to your Bears pick earlier in this chat, what is it that makes you think the Bears will beat the Hawks? Hanie hasn't won a game for the Bears yet and though the Hawks O-line won't do great against the Bears pass rush, honestly, What else is new? The Hawks have had to overcome issues with the Line all year. I think the Bears are in a bad spot offensively and i think it's a game the Hawks will have the advantage in.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
I would expect a Seahawks fan to be very hopeful and pick Seattle in this matchup. That result would not surprise me. My initial thought is that this could be a tough game offensively. I still cannot figure out how the Seahawks lost at home to the Redskins.
I think the only positive sign we see from the Cardinals is their defense stepping up. Regardless of how the team finishes the season, playoffs or not, the QB position hasn't been solved yet. What's your thought?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Beanie Wells made strides. Daryn Colledge was a good pickup. The run blocking was pretty good overall. Those would be some positive things to take away from this season. I'm with you on the QB front. They probably have to pay the $7 million bonus to Kolb in March, get him up to speed during the offseason and give him the best possible chance to succeed in 2012. They do not know enough right now, most likely.
Cards question: With Kevin Kolb basically not being able to prove himself as a starter this yeah, what is his contract structured like for next year? Do they have to decide this off-season whether he's the answer, or can they cut him to get off the hook for the remaining 40+ million?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The contract calls for a $7 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the new league year (March). The bonus is guaranteed for injury, but not for skill. This means the team must pay the money to keep Kolb under contract, and Kolb gets the money no matter what if he's injured. That is my understanding of the deal after speaking with NFL team executives familiar with the contract. At this point, I would expect the Cardinals to bring back Kolb.
In the next draft, are the Rams likely to take a "best player available" approach over a drafting for specific needs? Aside from a few positions (DE, QB) they could use as much young talent as they can get.
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Who will be their head coach? Their GM? These are the key questions.
Hi Mike, looks like the Rams are done for the season due to a disastrous injury plagued season. Will Spags pay the price for it and what about the failure of their new OC? Will he be gone?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
We do not know. I expect change. It's harder to blame injuries when the team struggled so badly even when its offensive line and defensive front seven were pretty much intact. What evidence do we have that things are headed in the right direction if the Rams just stay the course?
One of the things I keep hearing about the Seahawks is that outside of QB, we need to draft a DE. I agree that we could use another pass-rusher, but a DE would either take Red Bryant out of the game, or the pass-rusher would be mostly used on third-down situations, which would be a waste. What I think would be better is a pass-rushing outside linebacker and have him start over Leroy Hill. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I remember when Leroy Hill was going to be a pass-rush force at one point. Going young on defense seemed to make it tougher for the Seahawks to dial up some of the DB pressures that worked well with Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux around. Seattle needs to improve in that area. Red Bryant has played about 65 percent of the snaps. I think this team could justify using a high pick on a pass-rushing defensive end type. They would have insurance for Chris Clemons and a possible replacement for him, plus someone to pair with him on passing downs.
hey Mike, I know it's kinda early, but which QB do you think the Seahawks should take in the draft? Should they trade up for Andrew Luck? Or do you think we'd be fine with Tarvaris Jackson another year?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Tarvaris Jackson comes back either way. I don't think Seattle will be able to move up into the top spot, so forget about Luck. The team would have some flexibility to move around a little in the first round if it meant getting a quarterback they had rated highly. Jackson is under contract for backup money and will be back unless he's injured, in my view. Expect the team to draft a QB as well.
If you're the 'Hawks GM, are you secretly hoping they lose their final three games for a chance to draft a franchise QB?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Secretly? No. Openly? Yes. Haha. I don't see how a GM could root for defeats, but yes, I would want a higher draft choice than the one the Seahawks are going to get.
Michael (Los Angeles)
The auto updated doesn't seem to want to go on. I have to reload all of the time. What am I doing wrong?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
That could be my bad there. I did not have the "auto-update" feature enabled on my end. Not sure if that affects your experience. Sorry if it does. I'll remember next time.
Which NFC West fans are most annoying?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
How likely is it that the Cardinals are a team of destiny and make the playoffs?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
I give them a halfway decent shot and a better shot than Seattle from a scheduling standpoint. The Cardinals have already beaten the 49ers, and they get two of their final three at home against teams currently with losing records (though Seattle is one of those teams, and the Seahawks have been winning lately).
Justin (Sonora (CA))
Hi Mike, what are the chances the Hawks keep Trufant as a starter next season? Or maybe I should ask, what are the chances Tru is still on the team at all after back to back so-so seasons. I like what Tru could bring as a 3rd or 4th CB in a rotation, but do you think a guy with his price tag could remain with the Seahawks as a nickel or dime CB?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
I see the team getting younger and healthier in its secondary, most likely.
Mike (Tracy, CA)
I have been upset with the 49ers this week because they lost a game they shouldn't have. However, I have not lost hope because the Saints, Ravens, and Patriots all lost to bad teams too. If the 49ers beat the Steelers this week, should everybody forget about one bad loss?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Yes, I believe that would fix things pretty well. And I think the 49ers can win this game. In fact, if Roethlisberger misses the game, the 49ers would have to be favored. I might pick them anyway.
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Looking forward to Week 15.