How I see it: NFC West Stock Watch

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
11:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Seahawks run defense. The only thing worse than allowing a 79-yard touchdown run against the 49ers was allowing an 80-yarder later in the game. The Seahawks put eight defenders in the box and still couldn't get the job done. Injuries at defensive tackle and linebacker played a role, for sure, but that's no excuse. Wasn't depth on the defensive line a tremendous strength? From defensive tackle Red Bryant to safety Jordan Babineaux and the linebackers in between, Seattle fell shockingly short. Inexcusable.

Avery
2. Donnie Avery, WR, Rams. Fumbles, dropped passes and no big plays. That's a rough combination for a wide receiver and one reason the Rams couldn't break through against the Redskins in Week 2. Avery caught 53 passes as a rookie, including four of at least 40 yards, and the Rams are counting on him to be their No. 1 threat. Laurent Robinson has filled that role instead.

Avery has been headed in the wrong direction for the first two weeks after returning from a broken foot ahead of schedule. He and Marc Bulger haven't worked together enough in this offense after both missed extended stretches of the exhibition season.

Hasselbeck
3. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks. A gutsy scramble against the 49ers had the potential to give Seattle momentum heading into halftime against the 49ers. Patrick Willis altered the game, Hasselbeck's season and the Seahawks' overall outlook with a hit that left the quarterback with a broken rib.

Injuries were the one thing Hasselbeck needed to avoid as he sought to regain Pro Bowl form. He lasted less than six quarters of the regular season before suffering a significant one. Seattle hasn't ruled out Hasselbeck for Week 3, but upcoming games against the Bears and Colts appear ominous for Hasselbeck and Seattle.

Rising

Warner
1. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals. Warner needs his top receivers healthy if he's going to get the ball out quickly and give his offensive line a chance. Getting Steve Breaston back from injury and Anquan Boldin closer to full strength made the difference for Warner in Week 2.

Warner completed 24 of 26 passes against the Jaguars -- 92.3 percent -- to set an NFL single-game record among quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts. And even though Warner was apparently hurting after suffering a stinger injury in Week 1, he made his 33rd consecutive start, counting playoffs, to tie Jake Plummer for the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. He has started more games consecutively than the other NFC West quarterbacks combined.

Gore
2. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. Frustration lingering from a rough Week 1 showing at Arizona led Gore to place a concerned 2 a.m. phone call to offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye last week. Gore should have no trouble sleeping this week after carrying 16 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle.

Gore can be particularly dangerous when he breaks into the secondary because he's an excellent one-cut runner. He can make the final defender miss. Seattle can attest to that.

Jackson
3. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. His 58-yard run against the Redskins gave the Rams -- and Jackson -- a needed boost after their shutout defeat in Week 1. The 17-carry, 104-yard performance was impressive because the Rams continued to struggle making big plays in the passing game, allowing the Redskins to focus on stopping the run.

The challenge for Jackson grows in Week 3 after linemen Alex Barron, Jason Brown and Jason Smith suffered injuries at Washington. Smith is doubtful this week. The others should play, but will they be effective?

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