Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, we'll have ESPN.com NFL Insider 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 Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Greetings. We'll get going atop the hour. I see some thoughts/questions in here already. I'll start off by looking at the Redskins' play calling in the final going last night. They basically made Robert Griffin III into a pocket passer there. Guessing the Vikings' coaches were OK with that. They blitzed hard. It would have been interesting to see the results if the Redskins had moved RGIII to the perimeter and given him a run-pass option. Does anyone catch him on a race to the pylon?
ted (cape cod)
Greeting Mike, how do you see Cam Newton faring against San Fran's defense this weekend?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Great test on the road. I think he's going to have a good game. He was pretty good against the Seahawks even though he did not have great traditional stats. A lost fumble (not by Newton) swung that game. I don't know if the Panthers will win, but I think Newton will show up and give them a chance.
Lorax (Valley of Sin)
55 points vs. the Steelers was impressive. Do the Patriots have a legit chance of advancing to the AFC champ or the superbowl?
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
I'd say they have a chance, but I do wonder how they are going to hold up defensively down the stretch without so many key players. I just don't know if they can play defense well enough when it matters against the top teams -- especially on the road. But I do think there have been some signs of improvement in the passing game -- not just last week, either.
Linda (Chiariello, NY)
9 games in. Jets are 5-4. Have you seen enough from Geno Smith to think that he is the LONG TERM answer?
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
I'm seeing enough to want to see more. You have to figure most rookie QBs are going to be very up and down. Smith has been that. He's had some very good games and some very bad ones. I've seen some signs of good instincts, such as when he ran for it down near the goal line at a critical moment.
What would your reaction be if someone came up to you and said NaVorro Bowman was the best LB in the NFL?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
I'd say it's impossible to know that, but that Bowman should be right up there.
Why do people insist on dissecting the offensive playcalling for the Redskins when defensive ineptitude decided that game? The Skins offense has such little margin for error in these games.
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
Because the Redskins had first down near the goal line in the closing minutes. Focusing on that is natural. It doesn't mean people are ignoring what happened on defense. To me, it is a given that this is an RG III-driven team, for better or worse. They need him functioning at a high level to make up for weaknesses elsewhere, especially on defense. The Vikings' defense never had to worry about Griffin's running ability on the final drive. I would say the Vikings' coaches must have been pretty relieved about that.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
How do the Jets play so poorly @ Cinci and then beat the Saints? Should I assume the Jets will lose @ Buffalo after the bye and follow their win-loss-win trend or will they put together what is known as a winning streak.........it has been done before
Mike Sando (2:10 PM)
The Jets, like the Bengals, are young in a lot of areas. The Jets are especially young at QB. I think that can sometimes contribute to wild swings.
Marshawn Lynch - Is he coming back next year? If not, is Christine Michael for real?
Mike Sando (2:11 PM)
I would think Lynch would return for 2014, and then they would reassess after that. His running style is important to the Seahawks. While they do have some young backs in waiting, I think Lynch offers too much value to just move on because of the salary (at least while he is producing like this). He really is a beast as a runner. Even when he first came to Seattle and wasn't putting up good stats, the way he ran helped the team. Very, very few backs provide that edge.
harry (Babylon, NY)
Mike - are we beginning to see the new blueprint for success is having a team that plays a physical game on both sides of the ball with a couple of gamebreaking players sprinkled in on O & D (Sea, SF, Cin for instance)
Mike Sando (2:13 PM)
The "X" factor I'm noticing is how many ways the quarterback can beat you in a close game. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson can turn really bad plays into huge positives. I think that's critical for their teams. Whereas most QBs are doing well if they can turn a negative play into a less negative play by throwing away the ball or just avoiding disaster. Having the defense that can keep you in games and get the ball back to the offense always has value, of course.
I think its funny how an NFL team can lose a close game, like Dallas losing to Detroit, and the reaction the morning after is "Dallas has to find a way to win those games, thats what seperates them from the NFL's elite teams", but when Seattle finds a way to win those games (see St. Louis and Tampa Bay), the reaction the morning after is that Seattle has issues and is now a question mark in terms of being elite. Why is this?
Mike Sando (2:15 PM)
I don't see relationship between the subjects. Dallas has a history of losing games in spectacular, improbable fashion. That frames the reaction when it happens again (and again). Seattle has a great record (8-1) despite not playing all that well for long stretches of recent games, so it's natural to take a "yeah, but" approach when analyzing them. Yeah, they're 8-1, but did you see how many times Russell Wilson got clobbered?
But that's a double standard, because the narrative would have then shifted to how many shots RG3 takes, and was it really necessary to put his body at risk to tie that game? Can't have it both ways.
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
It's not having it both ways when you're talking about a play to win the game. It's fair to say, "Man, maybe they shouldn't put RG III at risk play after play over the course of a game. Perhaps they should save his body a little bit for when they really need him -- with games on the line."
Are you surprised how competitive the Raiders have been save 2 games (DEN, PHI) with the lack of overall talent on their roster?
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
Yes, I am. I think it speaks well to their coaching. Look at the QB. He is not a particularly accurate passer, or is not really known for that. But he has had games with very high completion percentages.
Case Keenum, who saw this coming? And is he the future in Houston?
Mike Sando (2:18 PM)
I'd say it speaks well of Keenum and also solidifies perceptions of Gary Kubiak and staff having a QB friendly system.
Richard (McInnes, WI)
Can we stop it with Seneca Wallace being the short term answer. He is 6-15 career as a starting QB. Time to claim Matt Flynn off waivers. Right Sando!?
Mike Sando (2:20 PM)
Wallace appeared unprepared Monday night, and that is understandable. He has not been there long. He has not gotten meaningful practice reps. Heck, Aaron Rodgers didn't look all that good throwing to Boykin right after the injuries struck in that Baltimore game a while back. The 6-15 record for Wallace was not all on Wallace, either. Look at the QBs with the worst starting records in recent seasons. Three of them played for Cleveland. I wouldn't have a problem with seeing how Wallace might fare when better prepared, and when playing within the framework of a plan designed with him in mind. Flynn is a natural fallback given his knowledge of the system.
Nick Brean (Crystal, Perkins)
it looks like Aaron Doboson has surpassed Kenbrell Thompkins as Brady's favorite young receiver..... I expect a lot from him down the stretch.
Mike Sando (2:23 PM)
I've been tracking the Patriots' deep-ball connections all season. The deep ball Dobson caught against the Steelers was his first in 13 chances on passes traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. A sign of things to come? Patriots have to hope so. Dobson made some errors of inexperience earlier in the season. He should only improve.
Tonga Kid (Troposphere)
The Miami thing reminds me of the Lord of the Flies. Players play, managers manage. We are seeing how things would be if players were responsible for management and HR. They don't have the training and it's not their job. But having said that, every profession has different sets of rules and values, but NFL players are not members of a profession per the classic definition. They are highly skilled at a violent game, with that violent game is at a tipping point on dealing with long-term health issues vs continued warrior mentality. Add this episode to the reasons the game will change.
Mike Sando (2:25 PM)
It's like a forced modernization of the game and conditions through occasional exposure to the unpleasant side of a brutal game.
Hi Mike, Shady McCoy's numbers have significantly lagged over the past few weeks - do you see the trend continuing ? is it blocking, is it play calling, is he hurt/dinged or is it defenses are scheming to stop him as top priority - thanks
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
Those are great questions and I cannot offer definitive answers. Game situations tend to matter. They have had QB upheaval. That affects everyone. I was also looking at how many snaps the Eagles have run while leading, but not sure that provides a clearer picture.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is Wrong with the Giants why are they so bad this year?
Mike Sando (2:31 PM)
How many times has Eli Manning been really good without a strong defense on the other side? I think that is a question worth exploring. Also, I think their reliance on veterans along the offensive line hasn't worked out so well this year, whereas it did in the past. We're seeing on the Giants and elsewhere just where the QB breaking points lie.
Candy (Slippery Rock)
Mike, what is wrong with the Ravens in particular Ray Rice?
Mike Sando (2:32 PM)
My educated guess is that personnel-related and scheme-related changes in the running game are the primary causes. I don't think it's necessarily a Ray Rice talent thing because Bernard Pierce has also seen his yards per carry plummet.
Kono (Brantford Ont.)
Which dome team QB is most adversely affected by playing outdoors in cold wet weather ?
Mike Sando (2:37 PM)
Interesting question. I just dialed up QB won-lost records with stats for quarterbacks playing on the road outdoors when temperatures were no higher than 40 degrees. The guys at the top of the Total QBR rankings are the guys you'd expect to be there regardless of conditions: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford are in the top 10. My perception is that Brees wouldn't like those conditions, but the reality is, he probably wouldn't like those conditions while also playing against really good teams. When we filter just for playoffs, we still see Brees with a decent QBR score, though. He is 0-1 since 2008 in playoff games meeting our criteria. But he completed 39-60 passes for 404 yards with two touchdowns, no picks, a 95.4 passer rating and 74.5 QBR score with just one sack.
Hi Mike, do you think Ireland and Philbin will have jobs at the end of the year?
Mike Sando (2:39 PM)
I'm not optimistic about the remainder of the Dolphins' season based on some of the OL issues and off-field issues. My feel is that they will probably miss the playoffs and then people will have to be accountable for their free-agent spending and off-field stuff.
Michael (Cologne, Germany)
Mike, at the beginning of the chat you said you didn't know whether the Patriots defense could hold up against top teams. I'm guessing you didn't mean teams with such mediocre offenses as the Chiefs, Seahawks or 49ers? ;)
Mike Sando (2:41 PM)
I was thinking more about Denver's offense, but hey, lots of teams would worry about facing that offense. And we have to credit the Patriots for finding a way against the Saints (in Foxboro, but still, nice showing there). I do think the Patriots have a legitimate shot but they don't feel like a favorite or quite as trustworthy based on those injury variables creating challenges.
Vitaly P. (Kiev UK)
which big name player is likely to switch teams in the offseason....ie Vick, AP, Fitzy?
Mike Sando (2:42 PM)
Michael Vick is in a different category because he has no contract for 2014 and isn't on the level of Adrian Peterson or Larry Fitzgerald. Jay Cutler is the one I'm interested in watching. What will the Bears do if Cutler doesn't make the decision easy for them? Remember, a new staff inherited Cutler.
Hi Mike, any observations on why Lynch has not put up stats more befitting his talent - is it blocking (missing two O-lineman), scheme, play-calling or defenses taking away the run and making hawks win via air
Mike Sando (2:46 PM)
Lynch has 923 yards rushing through nine games. This is the second-highest nine-game total for his career, narrowly trailing his 991 yards from last season. His seven touchdowns are a career high through nine games. His 4.35-yard average per carry is his second-best through nine games. He actually has more receptions this season (19) than he had through nine games last season (13). His 123 fantasy points through nine games are a career high through nine games (he had 116 at this point last season and 122 through nine games as a rookie). That is by standard scoring. And his 142 points on a PPR basis also represent a career high through nine games.
Darren Bragg (Sox, Legend)
Eddie Lacy. Wow is he a special player. Considering he is pretty big for a RB...is it too crazy to think he could have a Steven Jackson-like career?
Mike Sando (2:49 PM)
Lacy should aim higher because he has a HOF-caliber quarterback, which Jackson never had in St. Louis. Jackson was a really good receiver at one point, which is another consideration. But just in running style, I actually see some Marshawn Lynch in the way Lacy runs. That is something an offense can feed off. Lacy has outperformed the expectations I had for him coming in. It seemed like people had questions about him and that was why Lacy was not a first-round pick. But the backs who can really punish do have value beyond even the yards they gain (as long as they gain a baseline amount).
Sando, The Rams seem like they have found there RB with Zac Stacy, but I'm worried it some what of an illusion because he has done most of it in heavy run personal. Do you think his production will taper off or do you think he is the answer at RB?
Mike Sando (2:51 PM)
Hi Aron. Good hearing from you again. I don't see a big problem in Stacy's production translating across personnel groups. Right now, the Rams don't have the QB situation (and possibly do not have the WR situation) to spread the ball around the way they wanted to early in the season. They are going with heavier personnel because it makes sense strategically. But if you look at Stacy's stats on early downs (1st/2nd) with three or more wide receivers on the field, they are not bad. He has 13 carries for 83 yards (6.4 per carry) with a long run of 32 yards, and one TD. Not bad.
Rabbi Greer (Charlotte, NC)
why is no one talking about my panthers and the resurgence this year that has been CAM NEWTON!
Mike Sando (2:53 PM)
Totally fair point. One reason is because they've been beating up on bad teams. Carolina is the only team in the league with zero games against teams that had winning records at kickoff (not entirely fair because Carolina played 0-0 Seattle in the opener, and hung tough). Also, you could say the Panthers have played two good defenses this season, and they managed 13 total points while going 0-2 (lost narrowly to Seattle and in blowout fashion to Arizona). I think there is a sense from people that Carolina needs to beat someone, if that makes any sense.
Scott Fuzzy (Milliston Commons)
simple Q....are the chiefs for real?
Mike Sando (2:55 PM)
I don't think there is a "for real" meter out there. The Chiefs are a team with a very good defense and a somewhat limited passing game. They play the games conservatively because they can. This is playing to their strengths. They are 9-0, so you cannot really say they are not for real. But it is fair to note their limitations, just as we have done for other teams when they have won unconventionally or through methods that might not be as sustainable. We've been saying that about Seattle the last couple weeks as well, although in the Seahawks' case, Russell Wilson gives them a more dynamic player at QB -- a big plus.
Dikembe (Mutombo, Africa)
Has Tavon Austin been considered a disappointment so far?
Mike Sando (2:58 PM)
I think so. He hasn't made dynamic plays and it's been nine games. It doesn't mean he won't come around, but I had a coach tell me before the season that he thought Austin looked too small to be an effective wide receiver consistently. He said that during preseason and has been in told-you-so mode to this point in the regular season. We will see if that winds up being true. I don't like to write off players after nine games, but there is no way we can say it's OK for the 8th overall choice to have a 6.7-yard average per reception on 31 catches. I mean, Alfred Morris is averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 159 rushes.
Mike Sando (2:58 PM)