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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Greetings. We'll get going at the top of the hour. Thanks for all the questions and comments.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Mike, stuffing the run, and making Russell Wilson beat them with his arm, appears to be the right strategy for the Niners. But can the secondary hold up and execute this game plan?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Yeah, I think the 49ers' secondary is good enough because Seattle probably will not have Percy Harvin for this game. The question I have is whether the Seahawks will be a little more aggressive offensively in the passing game. They have shown they'll do this if they need to do it, but more recently, they have really taken a play-not-to-lose approach on offense, letting their defense carry the day. It worked against the Saints. It should have worked against the Cardinals, but the offense could not convert on three first-half interceptions. That performance raised concerns from a Seattle standpoint. I like how this one sets up from the standpoint of the 49ers' defense. Just not sure what the approach will be from Seattle.
Keith Powers (Medway, MA)
I've been impressed with the Patriots ability lately to put effective players into their secondary. I think for the first time since maybe 2003, the Patriots have a respectable lineup in the secondary. With McCourty/Gregory at safety, then Talib, Dennard, Ryan and Arrington you got guys out there that play good pass defense across the board.
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
The last three games have been very good from that standpoint. Baltimore, Buffalo and Indy combined for three TD passes and seven INTs (with 11 sacks and a combined completion percentage not much higher than 50. That was a nice departure from the previous two weeks when Cleveland and Miami combined for six TDs and no picks. The challenge is a lot greater this week. I think the big key is controlling the ball offensively and limiting possessions for Denver. The Patriots could be in pretty good position to do that as well.
Law Magner (Norfolk, VA)
As a Redskins fan I am not impressed with the Jay Gruden hire. I think that he was a average to above average coordinator. Shanahan is a proven commodity, as he has proven coaching pedigree. To me it looks like the Rams totally poached the Redskins in the RG 3 trade, and I feel like it's going to be a long time before my Skins are relevant again.
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
Part of the appeal with Gruden is that he is not Shanahan, the idea being that the situation had become untenable for whatever reason. There was toxic mold growing there, and now it is gone. That does not mean pretty flowers are going to sprout up, but at least there is a chance. Gruden has a reputation for getting along with people. That was probably a big part of the equation. The Rams did come out very well on that trade, but if Griffin did not get hurt last season, the Redskins might be in a very different situation. It's just really unfortunate things deteriorated the way they did. Also, the Redskins need a lot of help on defense, and hiring Gruden isn't going to suddenly fix their personnel there.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Mike - how does Denver prepare for the Pats O - they have emphasized the run so much these past 2 games but Brady can be so lethal if he sees mismatches in coverage?
Mike Sando (2:11 PM)
I think both of these offenses will look to control the ball more than we ever would have thought coming into the season. New England obviously lost a ton of weaponry and is playing to its strengths. I think Denver showed against San Diego (and late in the season) that it valued the ground game as a bigger part of the equation. It makes me wonder whether this could be a little more methodical game than we're used to seeing. Football people I know think the Chris Harris injury is going to really hurt the Broncos. Let's see if the Patriots can capitalize on it.
Hey Mike:Can you see Jets GM John Idzik raiding his former organization by signing Walter Thurmond and Golden Tate in free agency?
Mike Sando (2:13 PM)
Thurmond would make some sense, and the price could be right after his suspension. Tate is an interesting one because I think he'll have more value to Seattle than he would have to another team. A general manager I spoke with recently said he thought teams around the league would value Tate as a slot receiver -- the type of guy they can find without paying top dollar. The rapport Tate has with Russell Wilson appears good enough to justify Seattle re-signing him proactively. I wonder if they can get it done for $4-5 million a year.
Have Kaep's QBR's in the post season (against winning teams) changed your opinion of the QB debate?
Mike Sando (2:15 PM)
I don't think my opinion has changed a great deal in light of how Kaepernick fared against winning teams (poorly for a while, better lately). I think he is like a lot of QBs in that the weapons around him matter a great deal. We have seen that be the case with QB after QB this season. I think Kaepernick is good and will get better. This game at Seattle is a great opportunity for him, but also a great challenge.
Nick Schifone (Little Rock. Arkansas)
With the ongoing Harvin drama, do you think the Seahawks would have been better served saving their draft pick and 60 million dollars and maybe going after a guy like Patterson in the draft who has shown promise as a WR and return guy? It just seems like the Harvin experiment to this point has been a total failure.
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
Yes, I have had that thought. Now, I don't think the hip surgery storyline was something anyone saw coming, but there were injury/reliability concerns with Harvin, and Seattle has so far lost the gamble it took along those lines. In retrospect, I think they would be better off having saved the money and drafted Patterson. But I also think there is still a chance for Harvin to become a major factor for this team -- if not in these playoffs, then next season. It was a long-term investment that has so far returned far less than anticipated.
Imre (Missoula, MT)
How much can Michael Bennett get in FA? Think he'll return to SEA? Also, think his brother Marty could recruit him to CHI?
Mike Sando (2:19 PM)
I don't think he's going to break the bank in free agency. He hit the market last offseason and didn't find much, despite having had nine sacks. Cliff Avril was in a similar situation. The market for veteran pass-rushers just was not there. John Abraham was another guy who didn't get much. I'll be very interested in seeing whether the markets for pass-rushers and cornerbacks spike this offseason. Both were disappointing from the players' viewpoint last offseason. I do think Bennett has some injury considerations as well. He had a shoulder condition that at one point was going to require surgery -- not in the short term, but at some point.
Ted Hoffman (Bells, Indiana)
Sando you wrote an article last week pretty much saying you expected the Colts to win against the Patriots and be playing this weekend in Denver. Since hindsight is 20/20, where would you say you went wrong in this prediction?
Mike Sando (2:22 PM)
The piece I wrote said the Colts would have a pretty good shot against the Broncos if those two teams met in the AFC title game. I wrote the piece before Cincy lost at home to the sixth-seeded Chargers, altering the matchups. My thinking was that the Pagano brothers had done a pretty good job against the Broncos, and that Andrew Luck's presence might give the Colts a good shot. The vulnerability in that line of thinking was that Denver has done a better job running the ball lately, and that was an area where the Colts could be vulnerable defensively. To be clear, I did not predict a Colts victory against Denver, but I thought the matchup could be decent for them. We never saw the matchup, though.
Hi Mike.. were you surprised with the year chip Kelly had with the Eagles? Most didn't think he'd be able to scheme his game plan and tailor it upon the talent of his players. Do you see his progression in his second year being as successful as his first now that the league has a sniff of what he's about?
Mike Sando (2:24 PM)
The fact that Nick Foles had 27 touchdown passes with two interceptions surprised me a great deal. That production was critical to the Eagles' success, so you could say, yes, it was surprising to see Philadelphia have such a good season. But I was never one of those people who was evaluating Kelly on a week-to-week basis based on single-game results. That happened a lot during the season. You just can't judge a coach on a couple game outcomes in the short term. I think the success Kelly enjoyed this season should be very encouraging for the organization.
with Denver at home, are the patriots dead if they get down by 2 or 3 scores early?
Mike Sando (2:27 PM)
Since 2008 and counting playoffs, NFL teams are 65-474 (.121) after falling behind by 14-21 points in the first halves of games. So, yes, the Patriots would probably be in real trouble if they fell behind by that much. However, New England has an NFL-best winning percentage (.444, 4-5) in those games over that span, and one of those victories was by a 34-31 margin against the Broncos this season.
WMR (Club Pinz)
Sando, how about giving your predictions....i'm going with both road teams.
Mike Sando (2:29 PM)
I think there's a very good chance one of the road teams wins. Very logical cases can be made for them in both cases. I would not bet on either game but if forced to choose, I think the odds favor the home teams.
Who are your picks for the SB and who were your pre-season picks to make it to the SB? Thanks!
Mike Sando (2:32 PM)
The Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos were 1-2-3 in my power rankings heading into the season. I had the Patriots eighth at that time. When asked to predict for the Super Bowl, I went with Seattle and Houston. The Texans were a what-the-heck changeup pick going against the grain, and obviously that worked out really well. Their total collapse surprised me, but really, that was a longer-shot pick. I'll go with Seattle and Denver now, and that is consistent with what my rankings said before the season, even if my actual SB prediction missed the mark in the AFC.
Do you think the Broncos will be more aggressive with their deep passing game against the pats this time? Since Manning started wearing the glove it seems he's been a much better deep passer.
Mike Sando (2:37 PM)
The general consensus is that Manning doesn't throw the ball very well. Now, that is ridiculous on the surface. He set the NFL record for TD passes in a season. But the thinking is that he really doesn't have a great arm or throw a great longer ball at this stage of his career. But when you look at pass attempts by distance, you'll see Peyton Manning up near the top in productivity on longer throws. Against the Pats in Week 12, Manning went 0-1 on passes longer than 20 yards downfield. Weather was an issue, and also, the Broncos took a big lead early in that game. Manning went 1-4 on these throws against the Chargers. He had definitely done well on them from Weeks 13-17, completing 12 of 21 for 493 yards (23.5 per attempt) with five touchdowns, one interception and a 125.5 passer rating. Andrew Luck went 4-8 on these throws for 159 yards, two TDs and one INT against the Patriots last week. I could see Denver trying a couple more of those.
Nikki (St Cyr, OH)
why does no one want the Browns head coaching job?
Mike Sando (2:38 PM)
That is an easy shot to take and perhaps it is well-earned by the Browns, but with these coaching hires, the key is getting the right guy for your team, not striking early.
John Kendall (Medfield, MA)
Would you say the Seahawks struggles on offense of late are a function of teams just clamping down on the mediocre options Seattle has in the passing game? It seems to me when players like Golden Tate aren't feasting on the likes of Janoris Jenkins that he has trouble getting open. I know they've also played some good defenses of late, but to beat good defenses you need good players.
Mike Sando (2:40 PM)
I think the Cardinals did that. They took away Golden Tate. Patrick Peterson helped them do that. There were other factors in some of the other games. Weather was a factor against the Saints. Also, Pete Carroll has taken the air out of the ball in some of the other games when Seattle was leading or just content relying on its defense. Carroll knows he has a great defense. Instead of using that defense as insurance against whatever mistakes an aggressive offense might be prone to make, he has decided to play it safe offensively. Seattle was not able to make the timely plays against Arizona. However, against the Saints, Wilson did find Doug Baldwin for that 20+ gain on the fade route on third-and-3.
Browns Fan (Depression)
Does anyone even have a clue what the Browns are doing? Do the Browns even know? I could run a better team with a beverage or two and a couple of darts.
Mike Sando (2:42 PM)
Again, I understand the criticism and think it is warranted. This leadership group remains unproven since coming to Cleveland. Firing the head coach after just one season did not look good. If you are going to fire a coach so quickly, you'd generally better have an upgrade in mind. The time the Browns are taking makes it look like they did not have a plan. However, that might not be the case. I'll withhold judgment til they hire someone.
It's true that Wilson doesn't have great WR options but that's been the case all year. It seems to me Wilson has just been struggling these last few weeks. He had two or three bad passes on 3rd down to open guys on slants last week that would have been easy 1st downs.
Mike Sando (2:42 PM)
I also think he has missed throws that he was not missing previously.
Mike (MN) [via mobile]
Love to hear your thoughts on Mike Zimmer and his hire by the Vikings.
Mike Sando (2:45 PM)
I like the hire because Zimmer has been preparing for this moment, and he has a great pedigree. He will sink or swim ultimately based on what they do at the quarterback position. Part of me thinks an offensive-minded head coach might be better suited for solving the quarterback situation, but that isn't necessarily the case. They just need to find the right QB.
What do you think that the Seahawks have to do in order to gain some respect nationally? Reading all of the reviews and predicitons, it seems like the consensus is..."Seattle is overrated" and SF is incredible. It strikes me as odd that the Seahawks scored 23 points agasint the Saints and are in offensive peril. Yet the 49ers scored 23 against the Panthers and are labeled as the best offensise ever. Whats up?
Mike Sando (2:49 PM)
I think there is some justification to what you are saying, but the 49ers have won eight in a row. If you look at offensive performance from each team's 13th game forward, the 49ers' offense has produced 8.4 expected points added per game, compared to minus-2.0 EPA per game for the Seahawks. Now, on the other hand, Seattle's defense has added 9.8 expected points per game over that span, while the 49ers have actually been in the negative. Take from that what you wish, but when you figure Seattle is 3-2 in its last five games and the offense hasn't been producing, perceptions are going to be what they have become.
Sando, which team do you root for?
Mike Sando (2:52 PM)
ESPN. Seriously, though, I grew up a Rams fan when I was very young (think 1970s) and then became a Raiders fan, but when I started covering the NFL in 1998, my entire viewpoint changed and I never had an opportunity to be a fan again. I have not watched an NFL game socially since then. Think how things would change for you if you never watched a game socially, and instead were only concerned with whatever analysis or insights you could happen upon. It's a complete shift in thinking.
Casey Major (Parts Unknown)
It was nice to see Robert Quinn take him the PFW DPOY award. You wrote a convincing piece afew weeks ago also nominated him for the AP award. Moving forward, I think if the Rams can get into the playoff mix next year with him continuing to play at a high level he should reel in at least one DPOY award.
Mike Sando (2:53 PM)
I thought it was great to see Quinn win the Pro Football Writers of America Award, and possibly a good sign that he might win the Associated Press version as well. And I do think he will win the award in the future. Great player on the rise. Now the Rams have the second overall pick. Just think if they added another player with Quinn's talent. Great opportunity for the organization.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Mike - how would you rank the coaches this weekend - Belichick, Manning, Harbaugh, Carroll?
Mike Sando (2:56 PM)
That's a funny way of looking at it, subbing Peyton Manning for John Fox. But it hits at a larger point. The most successful coaches tend to have great quarterbacks. I do think the success New England has enjoyed and the manner in which it was achieved sets apart Belichick. That team has won with different defensive schemes, different types of offenses. Brady is the constant and an important one, but they've let other key players go and still been excellent consistency. Impressive. Then I think Jim Harbaugh deserves credit for winning with two different QBs. I know the 49ers had good talent already, and that is a big key. But changing QBs in the middle of last season and reaching the Super Bowl was outstanding. Carroll has done a great job of team building. He inherited much, much less than Harbaugh inherited, and yet he has caught up to the 49ers pretty quickly.
Sissy K (Boston, MA)
if Brady wins another ring this year....who is the GOAT....Manning or TB12?
Mike Sando (2:57 PM)
I don't base it on who wins the Super Bowl this year. I think if the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, it's a fantastic achievement regardless of the outcome of the game. This team lost the two tight ends around which it built its passing game. It lost two of the players most critical to its defense in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Great job by the Patriots whether or not they win the Super Bowl. Brady's legacy is enhanced in my view, either way.
If the games were played on neutral fields this weekend, who would you expect to reach the Super Bowl?
Mike Sando (2:58 PM)
I don't know that it would hugely change my opinion on the AFC side. I would probably pick the 49ers on a neutral field, but am taking Seattle at home.
What are your thoughts on the future of the AFC? I see Indy being a yearly contender over the next decade, but do you see a rival to them emerging when Manning and Brady retire?
Mike Sando (2:59 PM)
I like some of the things I see from Miami and wonder if that might be a team to watch. Cincinnati suffered some coaching losses, but the roster is put together nicely.
If the 49ers lose on Sunday, will people start to question whether or not Harbaugh can "win the big one"? It would be a devastating loss for the Niners to reach the final four three straight years and not come away with a Super Bowl ring.
Mike Sando (3:00 PM)
That would be an unfortunate line of thinking. I don't buy into it.
Chilly (Wasted, Po)
Snando! Last one from me - I had frequently found fault with Harbaugh's game/clock management in his first two years (still irked by pass to DW in Rams tie), but it has been impeccable over the last 5-6 games, including several drives perfectly timed to end halves/games - could be a factor as Carroll had issues in playoffs last year (first half falcons)
Mike Sando (3:00 PM)
Yeah, it could. I don't think Pete Carroll has been consistently good in that area.
Mike Sando (3:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by. I've got a couple radio things to do here and must step away. Have a great weekend.