Mailbag: Questioning Cardinals' chances

Mahmoud from Chicago writes: Love your blog, Mike. I read it every day to get my Niners and NFC West fix. This my first time commenting and it's because I'm shocked at your belief that the Arizona Cardinals will win the division.

They are 3-5 and you could easily make a case for them deserving to be 0-8 (Steve Breaston game-saving forced fumble, Sebastian Janikowski missing a gimme field goal, Saints choke job).

Plus, they have one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, no run game and a very average defense. Their special teams are the only part of the team performing well. I'd like to hear how they could possibly win another game, let alone the division.

Mike Sando: Take a look a their schedule and you'll see how they could possibly win several more games. I've never said which team will win the division. I've focused more on which teams should win the division.

Before the season, I thought the 49ers should win the division. Little we've seen from the 49ers this season suggests that will happen. But if the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams in Week 10, they could be within one game of the NFC West lead. They would also be 3-1 since team president Jed York guaranteed they would win the division.

On Arizona, I do not trust the Cardinals' quarterbacks, either. Largely because of the quarterback situation, the Cardinals are a five- or six-win team that could get to 8-8 thanks to the easiest remaining schedule in the league. Give the Cardinals a good quarterback and they could easily become a 10-win team again. Finding that QB has to be the top offseason priority.

Mark from Littleton, Colo., writes: Sando, I'd love for you to revisit the debate you had over whether the worst team in the AFC West could win the NFC West now that we have had half the season to see the inter-conference play. I think you still win out since the Raiders and Broncos provided two wins to the 49ers.

Mike Sando: Bill Williamson and I have taken turns looking smart and foolish on this one.

Williamson's side of the debate -- that the Raiders would win the NFC West if they played in the division this season -- is looking better now that Oakland has won three in a row.

It's a long season, though, and the Raiders have some tough opponents ahead (Pittsburgh, San Diego and Kansas City on the road, with Indianapolis at home). At this point, the Raiders would have a better shot than I would have anticipated. I thought the 49ers would be better and the Cardinals' quarterback situation would be a little more stable.

Tudor from Tiburon, Calif., writes: You sure are measuring your words about Mike Singletary. Don't you think that if he just took his grubby mitts off the offensive scheme, the entire team would respond very positively? I know I'm leading you, but having grown up through the Bill Walsh, Joe Cool and Steve Young years, I understand that offensive aggression.

Mike Sando: An aggressive approach would definitely make sense with Bill Walsh calling plays for Joe Montana and Steve Young. Instead, the 49ers have first-time coordinator Mike Johnson calling plays for Alex Smith and Troy Smith, with big-picture direction from a first-time head coach with a defensive background and zero experience as a coordinator.

Mark from Seattle writes: Hi, like your blog! Just an odd Seahawks stat. If Mike Williams makes that 17-yard catch for a touchdown instead of muffing it for an interception, that makes Charlie Whitehurst 13 of 23 for 130 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and an 83.6 rating -- not too shabby and better than Matt Hasselbeck's season rating of 70.3.

However, I prefer an accurate veteran over an inexperienced quarterback's arm-strength right now. Charlie's poise and demeanor looked good, but I'm glad Matt's starting again.

Mike Sando: Whitehurst did throw that pass on the money even though he almost fell down while retreating from center on the play. I thought the cornerback, Terrell Thomas, made a terrific play, too. Seattle was a little unlucky when the ball bounced off Williams' helmet, giving Thomas time to pick off that pass. The play that stands out to me was the one when Whitehurst missed a wide-open Chris Baker on that third-and-1 trick play.

Ken from Bellevue, Wash., writes: The Seahawks' quarterback situation doesn't look good right now. I was wondering your thoughts on the Seahawks going after Kevin Kolb? Do you think the Eagles would deal him? And would he be a good fit in Seattle? I know previously the Eagles wouldn't trade him, but he was the obviously starter then. With Vick now starting, I was thinking that the Eagles might be more willing to trade. I think Kolb would be a big upgrade over Seattle's current quarterbacks.

Mike Sando: The trading deadline has passed for this season. Kolb remains under contract to the Eagles through the 2011 season. Vick's deal expires after this season. I could see the Eagles trading one of them after the season. Vick looks so good making the downfield throws. He would be the most intriguing prospect in my view.

Ben from Ohio writes: Hi, Mike. I'm real fan of your blog, but I have one question. You said that because of St. Louis' away record, they have a bad chance at winning the division. But if you look at the first game of the season you'll see that the Rams were pretty close, and you could say that Sam Bradford had to get use to playing in the pros. Also, against Tampa Bay, that came down to the wire. So my question is do you think that Bradford has enough experience that they should really start to win on the road, knowing that Bradford now has experienced and the Rams have been close in two of three away games this year?

Mike Sando: I'm waiting to see how the Rams handle their game against the 49ers. There is a sense that this team is due to break through on the road, and that it's inevitable at some point given Bradford's development.

Mario from Las Vegas writes: The Cowboys just fired Wade Phillips with a record of 1-7. He had two previous seasons of success. With the Cardinals at 3-5, and only being a lucky break (Rams), and missed field-goal attempt (Raiders) away from being 1-7, how long does Whisenhunt get? Or will he be pressed to make changes on his staff prior to any discussions on his job?

Mike Sando: Ken Whisenhunt is signed through the 2013 season. He has never had a losing season. He might still get to 8-8 this season. He has a 4-2 record in the playoffs. He is a success story. Phillips has a 1-5 career playoff record. His Pro Bowl quarterback did not retire before the season. He had not taken the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. These are vastly different situations.

Jon from New Jersey writes: Love your Excel file for the power rankings. I don't know there is an easy way to perform it, but on the power flaws tab you have "higher-ranked teams beaten". I think another stong number here is the oppsoite, lower-ranked teams lost to. Just a suggestion.

Mike Sando: Good idea, Jon. I could definitely play around with a formula and come up with something. I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the idea. I did come up with some schedule-related breakdowns off the power rankings. Those could become a regular part of the file, too.

Brent from Montana writes: What's going on in the NFL? A lot of the teams we all thought were the most talented are losing miserably while the teams stocked with average players and good coaches are shining. Is this telling how big a coach can be? We have always looked at this league as a players' league, but it's clear now that just because a team has loads of talented players don't mean squat. Are coaches taking over this game? Is it more of a coaches' league nowadays? Teams like the Cowboys, Vikings, Bengals, 49ers, and San Diego even. Its been a crazy year. Seems to me the 49ers have all the talent in the world, but what does that matter when their coaching is bad.

Mike Sando: Quarterback talent remains important, obviously, but the teams you mentioned all have coaching issues, in my view. Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, Marvin Lewis, Mike Singletary and Norv Turner would not rank among the best head coaches in the league. I think coaching and quarterbacking are the two most important elements for a team. One without the other might not be enough. The 49ers haven't been strong in either area, but I still thought they would be good enough to compete for the NFC West title and probably win it.