NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly column featured on TJRsports.com. Allen and The Ace are big time NFL junkies and are Falcon and Packer fans, respectively. Each week the guys will ask questions and discuss the previous week’s games along with picking the Top 5 Games of the Week!

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18

Ace: Week 12 is upon us and this is the final week of the season, where teams will have byes. After this week we will have five weeks of all thirty-two teams fighting for playoff positioning or draft positioning. The NFC field is a little clearer than the AFC field. There are seven teams that are one game out of a Wild Card spot in the AFC, while two teams share the same record (6-4) with current sixth seed San Francisco and there are two teams one game back. We’re approaching my two favorite holidays of the year and one of them has three football games on it. I’m hopeful my quarterback will be back and hopeful that my team will be above .500 going into that game.

Allen: St. Patrick’s Day and Independence Day are sadly not happening for a while when it comes to holidays, but I digress. This was an odd week featuring a lot of silly turnovers and terrible calls by referees in high profile games. I’m absolutely outraged at how quarterbacks continue to get the diva treatment. Ahmad Brooks should have been rewarded with a sack and have to pay zero money for his hit on Drew Brees. San Francisco could have very well won that game as well. Speaking of being rewarded, where was the pass interference or at least illegal contact call on Luke Kuchley hugging Rob Gronkowski? Kuchley has done that repeatedly this season and continues to get away with it. Have I been asleep and the NFL changed their rules in allowing defensive players the opportunity to hug their opponents 20 yards downfield? San Francisco and New England were robbed and it sickens me how the refs made a mistake at obvious moments.

Ace: Currently the New York Jets are 5-5, tied with the Dolphins for the final Wild Card in the AFC. The Titans, Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Ravens, Browns and Bills are at 4 wins.

Who is your favorite to land the spot? The Jets or Dolphins or one of the 4 win teams?

Allen: I’m still picking the Jets as the favorite, despite their dismal performance against Buffalo. It does concern me that they looked that bad, after having two weeks to prepare and rest for a mediocre team such as Buffalo. I’m not sure if they just struggle on the road or were the turnovers by Geno Smith too much to overcome. Still they have a favorable schedule and still seem to be the most stable team out of the bunch. The front seven remains to be stingy and Chris Ivory is finally being allowed to carry the load.

Pittsburgh and Miami are two teams that will come close. Similar to Chicago, it’s really odd watching Pittsburgh and realizing how their defense allows so many big plays on a consistent basis. They are a franchise built on having an outstanding defense, yet they have been bad all season long. Miami will continue to be scrappy, but their offensive line and lack of receiving options will be too much to overcome.

Cleveland, Oakland, Buffalo, Tennessee will all falter due to their quarterback issues. Baltimore can’t run the ball and Joe Flacco isn’t capable of putting the team on his back. Not to mention, the offensive line has allowed 33 sacks already and hasn’t given Ray Rice much room to operate. San Diego still has to play Kansas City twice, along with Denver one more time. This is truly the best of the worst and the Jets are that team. I’m not sure if Rex Ryan deserves to be coach of the year like I said he should be a few weeks ago. I’d like to see more consistency from his team. A 9-7 record would be good enough for me.

NFL Story of the Week

The San Francisco 49ers have lost two close games recently against top competition. Are their major concerns in San Francisco or has the media overblown the close losses?

Allen: The media always manage to overblow stories and have apparently made a 6-4 team to be on the demise, when they have lost their last two games by a combined four points to two playoff teams. It’s laughable to me that people actually believe San Francisco should be heavily concerned. They have some concerns, especially with star guard Mike Iupati spraining his MCL and possibly could miss a few weeks. Obviously the passing game is staggering, but is anyone really surprised by this? San Francisco didn’t make any upgrades at wide receiver after Michael Crabtree was injured. It was pretty clear to me that they would have some issues, before he was able to come back.

Colin Kaepernick relied on Crabtree last season and we finally got to see Crabtree live up to expectations. He will eventually come back in a few weeks and that’s when will see Kaepernick start to be productive again. Right now, he has to lean on Frank Gore who is having another terrific season. Anquan Boldin is solid, but he has trouble creating separation against man coverage. Just because he had three great games in the playoffs doesn’t make him a number one receiver. At this point, Vernon Davis might be quicker and more athletic than him.

I’d still consider San Francisco to be the third best team in the NFC. With a favorable schedule coming up, they should end the season 5-1 at minimum. A Week 14 showdown against Seattle is the only game that they could possibly lose. If Vernon Davis doesn’t get injured against Carolina and Ahmad Brooks doesn’t get called for that ridiculous penalty, they could be 8-2 right now and everyone will be praising them. Once Crabtree comes back and Aldon Smith can get back into game shape, this team will be the dark horse in the NFC.

Ace: I do believe there is a sense of concern in San Francisco right now. This team is 6-4 with six games left to play. Looking at the teams that are in the wild card hunt in the NFC, you have Arizona (6-4), Chicago (6-4), Green Bay (5-5) and Dallas (5-5) and they are all threat to overtake either San Francisco or Carolina in the Wild Card standings.

San Francisco has a very solid defense, but injuries on both sides of the ball have really limited them, especially in the pass game which ranks dead last in the NFL. I called a regression of Kaepernick, along with the entire offense and I was correct.

San Francisco’s remaining schedule shapes up like this, at Washington, vs. St. Louis, vs. Seattle, at Tampa Bay, vs. Atlanta and at Arizona. It is very possible that this team could drop anywhere between one and three games. If that’s the case, I would be very worried if I were a 49ers fan.

One final thing that I’ve analyzed about the 49ers is to whom their wins and losses have come to. They’ve defeated GB, STL, HOU, AZ, TEN and JAX. Their combined record is 22-39 and the 49ers outscored them 208 to 89. Their losses have come to SEA, IND, CAR, and NO who have a combined record of 32-9 and have been outscored 89 to 39. San Francisco is a Wild Card favorite, but another loss or two might drop them from the standings.

Allen: Was Jim Schwartz right in benching Reggie Bush after two fumbles?

Do you think it’s fair to bench even star players after two fumbles or is it too harsh? 

Ace: I don’t really put a lot of stock into what Jim Schwartz or the Lions do, but yes, I do feel that if a player, even a star player isn’t performing they need to be sat down. You can’t expect a player to perform at the top of his level when he’s making mistakes. This was a game that Detroit needed to win to separate them from the pack in the NFC North and they still only hold a one game lead.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have Reggie Bush on my fantasy team and I want to personally hold him responsible for my loss this week. I would think that the only time you would not sit a star player would be in the playoffs. The Vikings rode with Adrian Peterson and his five fumbles in the 2009 NFC Championship game, because despite the mistakes, he or the star player still gives you the best chance at winning.

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

I nailed all 5 of my picks last week and you were correct on 3. We are now tied at 33-21 through Week 11. I will take my lead next week! Let’s make our picks!

The Ace’s Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-6)

This should be a solid defensive game. Both teams are very much in the wild card hunt and the Cleveland Browns are favored against the Steelers for the first time since 2003. With that being said, Big Ben is coming off of a huge game against Detroit and they have a ton of momentum.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Carolina Panthers (7-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-5)

It’s hard to tell which Miami team will show up. I know which Carolina defense will show up, so I think that’s all I need to know.

Winner: Carolina Panthers

Indianapolis Colts (7-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)

The Colts have been far too inconsistent the last few weeks for me to take them, while Arizona’s only loss at home was to Seattle. They were also the last team to beat Carolina back in Week 5. I’ll take the Cardinals to make the wild card positioning even more chaotic.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys (5-5) vs. New York Giants (4-6)

I was right about Dallas being a mediocre team. They are, they will continue to be the most overrated team in the NFL. Eli and company continues their second half surge.

Winner: New York Giants

Denver Broncos (9-1) vs. New England Patriots (7-3)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are pissed off and they do not lose two in a row. That’s all I need to say.

Winner: New England Patriots

Allen’s Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-6)

I’m really impressed by Cleveland and how they continue to compete this year. They have had so many obstacles happen to them this season from injuries and trades, along with finding new personnel to fill voids. It’s hard to trust Jason Campbell though, even against a weak Pittsburgh defense. Roethlisberger isn’t going to light up the scoreboard against Joe Haden and the Browns secondary, but he’ll do just enough to keep Pittsburgh on track

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Carolina Panthers (6-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-5)

This has mismatch written all over it. Don’t expect a Carolina hangover, even though I still don’t find them as a major threat in the NFC. Miami has one of the worst offensive lines in the league, while Carolina’s defensive line has been harassing quarterbacks all season long. You can expect Miami’s defense to put up a valiant effort, but the offense will once again be the reason why they lose another close game.

Winner: Carolina Panthers

Indianapolis Colts (7-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)

We have another major mismatch with Arizona’s defensive line against Indianapolis’ shaky offensive line. Andrew Luck will have to make quick decisions and get the ball in TY Hilton’s hands as much as possible. This is a really tough pick, but I’m going to stick with Indianapolis. Arizona has played above expectations this year and has made strides, especially defensively. The offense is still a major issue and Robert Mathis is going to be in the backfield all game long.

Winner: Indianapolis Colts

Dallas Cowboys (5-5) vs. New York Giants (4-6)

Ace is still struggling to understand what the word overrated means it seems like. How can Dallas be overrated, when people have stopped rating Dallas in terms of being a contender two years ago? The defense is too banged up, especially their front seven with Sean Lee being the latest star out for a few weeks. Still I’m not buying into the Giants’ rejuvenated team at all. They beat four teams that didn’t have an NFL starting caliber quarterback playing. Tony Romo is rested and I’m sure they will look to get Dez Bryant involved early. They are going to figure out plays to help him break the bracket coverage that the Giants shut him down with in week one.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos (9-1) vs. New England Patriots (7-3)

New England would be the ideal pick here, but I’m not sure how are they going to stop Denver’s passing attack. The pass rush was mostly non-existent against Carolina and now starting cornerback Alonzo Dennard out this week due to a knee injury. Their shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib is also dealing with a hip issue. How are they going to stop Thomas, Welker, and Decker? They won’t and Denver will continue to hold on to that number one seed.

Winner: Denver Broncos

Ace: There are some fun matchups coming up this weekend. I’m usually pretty amped up for Packers/Vikings week but it’s hard to get amped up with Scott Tolzien facing Christian Ponder. I desperately hope the Packers win because I don’t want Viking fans to have joy. If they want to win, that’s fine, go ahead and get a lower draft pick to screw up. Check out Tuesday’s Macho Men Radio as C-Mac and I looked ahead to the NFC’s final six weeks of the season. I brought up the topic that if the Packers lose on Sunday and Rodgers can’t go on Thanksgiving, and they lose that game, should the Packers shut him down the rest of the season? We get to the bottom of that question. Enjoy Week 12!

Allen: I’m trying to ignore that my favorite team is going to get embarrassed on national television tonight. The joy of seeing Brady against Manning will cure the pain of the embarrassment. Some people are sick of seeing Denver on primetime this season. My question to the critics is do you want to see mediocre games like the Giants versus Redskins on Sunday night? The flex schedule gives us the best matchups and Denver is the best team in the NFL.

If they were playing against a great team, I’d love to see that on Sunday night. Sunday night is where the best teams play or in week seventeen, it’s used as a play in game for the playoffs. If your team isn’t in an appealing matchup, then don’t complain about the flex schedule that week. People want to see appealing matchups and Denver has brought that last week and now this week.

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18

You can hear The Ace on Macho Men Radio with C-Mac every Tuesday night on BlogTalkRadio at blogtalkradio.com/machomenradio