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: Welcome to one of my favorite weeks of the year! No, it’s not just because I’ve got a five and half day weekend away from work, it’s because two of my favorite things are encouraged this week/weekend: Feasting and Football. My favorite football club is playing the early game on Thanksgiving and I was dreading this game, but now I’m looking forward to it because no one really wants to win the NFC North this year. We’ll talk about that soon. There are some great games on tap Sunday and Monday as well. Most fantasy football leagues are entering their final regular season week and as of right now, all five of my money leagues are playoff bound. One of them is teetering on the edge, but I will have a chance of raking in the money in all my leagues. How are you this week buddy?

Allen: I can’t complain. I’m having an excellent year in fantasy football as well. I have to give Evan Silva some credit with his weekly articles on Rotoworld for that. He’s one of the best football writers/analysts in the business. Anyway back to real football, it was a wacky week. Some strange finishes involving a dropped touchdown by Mike Wallace and Tony Carter not getting out of the way on a punt. It’s mind boggling how Carolina has caught a break for three straight weeks now. They will eventually crack right? Anyway let’s get into it.

Ace: A few weeks ago, we thought once Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler went down for the Packers and Bears that it was the Lions division to lose. Right now Detroit and Chicago sit at 6-5 with Green Bay sitting at 5-5-1. Matt Flynn will likely be the starting quarterback for Green Bay on Thanksgiving against Detroit. The Bears and Lions defense have both been exposed in recent weeks as well as Green Bay’s.

Who is your NFC North Champion and why?

Allen: I’m still going with Detroit to win the division. The schedule still benefits them, along with their defense having the most talent. All three defenses are shaky, but Detroit has one thing that neither Chicago nor Green Bay has which is a talented defensive line. Even though the defense only has 20 sacks this year, Ndamukong Suh and Ezekiel Ansah are playing at a high level. If Ansah didn’t miss two games due to injury, those numbers would be higher. Also Detroit is fourth in the league in run defense. Green Bay and Chicago are in bottom 12 at stopping the run.

How I break down teams that are close in the standings is by consistency and having enough playmakers on both sides of the ball. Other than Julius Peppers, there is nobody healthy on Chicago’s defense that you have to game plan for. Then offensively, Jay Cutler’s health is still a major question mark. Chicago seems to be on a free fall right now and will miss the playoffs once again. My concern with Green Bay is similar, although I’m shocked by their decline. The defense continues to allow big plays on a weekly basis. Without Aaron Rodgers, they can’t win shootouts against good teams. They can’t even beat bad teams in high scoring games apparently. B.J Raji and Tramon Williams play have incredibly fallen off, after their outstanding performances during Green Bay’s Super Bowl run in 2010-2011.

Detroit is on a rough skid, but I’m confident they’ll bounce back. They need to get Reggie Bush the ball more, so Matthew Stafford can make safer throws and not be forced to throw 40 times a game. If they use Bush like they did earlier in the season, then Detroit will be more efficient offensively. On defense, the secondary is still a major issue. Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis might be the worst cornerback duo in the league. If the defensive line can continue to create pressure and Ansah can stay healthy, they should be able to do just enough to win defensively. They are in too good of a position with both Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler dealing with serious injuries to lose first place.

NFL Story of the Week

The Arizona Cardinals have been quietly one of the better teams in the NFL. Currently they are 7-4 after blowing out the Indianapolis Colts 40-11. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL and before they wrap the season up at Seattle and at home versus San Francisco, they travel to Philadelphia, come home to face St. Louis and travel to Tennessee. Are the Cardinals a threat to prevent the 49ers from reaching the playoffs or what do they need to do to reach that next level?

Allen: I’m going to have to eat my words, after saying Arizona could be the worst team in the NFC in August. I’ve always said the defense was going to keep them in games, but the offense would be their downfall. The offense will still be their downfall, when it comes to playing San Francisco and Seattle in December. I’d be foolish not to give them credit for exceeding expectations though. Most people had them winning five or six games at most this season. They are already at seven wins beating the likes of Detroit and Indianapolis.

The front seven has been the main anchor for them this season. The pass rush is always brought up when people talk about their success, but the linebacker core deserves some publicity. Daryl Washington has given them a major boost, since coming back from suspension. Karlos Dansby looks rejuvenated in Arizona and continues to make plays from sideline to sideline. They are second in the league at stopping the run, which is a collective effort by the front seven. Obviously Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell have both been causing havoc in the backfield all season long.

It’s a collective effort though and hopefully they start to get publicity for it, especially Campbell. He’s been under appreciated for far too long. Patrick Peterson and John Abraham are the popular names on the defense, but Campbell is their second most valuable player for what he does as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

What will determine Arizona’s playoff fate has to be their offense. Can Carson Palmer continue to protect the ball and keep completing downfield throws? He’s had eight touchdowns and two interceptions in the past four games, which has given Arizona fans a boost of confidence. The quality of defenses he’s gone up against has been pretty weak though in recent weeks. With the competition getting stiff, you’ll see the offense start to crack. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are becoming one of the better duos in the league, but they can’t help the offensive line woes. The offensive line is still among the worst in the league and the running game is still non-existent for most games. Arizona will remain competitive and should get at least eight wins, but they’ll fall just short. This team still has a great future and their fan base should be proud of what they’ve accomplished this season.

Ace: It’s time to take these birds seriously. My only concern right now is that they can’t win within their division. They’ve lost to the Rams by three, while they lost to the 49ers and Seahawks by 12. They get to play all three again. My biggest concern with this team is their ground game. They haven’t been able to string together a consistent set of running games and without that; it’s pretty easy to expose their offensive flaws. Enough of the negative.

Defensively they are as good as it gets. I don’t think there’s a better division in the NFL when it comes to elite defenses, but all four teams are near the top of the NFL in defense. Arizona has players like Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett that I’ve always considered very underrated talents. Then they added Patrick Peterson, Yeramiah Bell, and Tyrann Matheiu to their secondary, damn man, that’s scary.

The most dangerous part of the Cardinals, in my opinion, isn’t an offensive weapon, and I mean no disrespect to Larry Fitzgerald. Their biggest weapon is return man Patrick Peterson. He’s very dangerous on punt return and I love seeing him play. Is Carson Palmer the right guy to lead the offense? He’s definitely not the long-term solution, but right now he might be the proverbial Band-Aid that the Cardinals need.

Looking ahead to the final five weeks of the season, Arizona has what it takes to reach 10 victories and possibly 11. San Francisco is going to finish in that same boat too. Arizona hosts the 49ers in the final game of the season and that could very well decide who the other wild card team in the NFC might be. I wouldn’t bet against Arizona, they’re legit.

Allen: The Indianapolis Colts will still make the playoffs due to a weak division. Still, they haven’t looked very good in recent weeks and their secondary is starting to get exposed each week.

Do you see the Colts as a one and done playoff team?

Ace: The Colts are the favorite in the AFC South, but don’t count out Tennessee, the team that Indianapolis faces this coming weekend. They’re pretty darn good on defense and looking at their schedules, there’s a strong possibility that both teams could end up at 9-7 and that’s being generous to both sides. Tennessee leads all the tiebreakers for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, so they control their own destiny.

Are they a one and done playoff team? I would say it depends. We’ve seen them get exposed on defense two out of the last weeks in blowout losses, while narrowly escaping Tennessee by three. If the Colts finish as the third Seed in the AFC, I would say they have a very strong possibility of advancing to the Divisional Playoff Round. Here are their potential opponents, in order of their playoff tiebreakers: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Diego, NY Jets, Miami (all 5-6). If they finish with the fourth Seed they will face Kansas City.

It just depends on what Indianapolis Colts team shows up for the playoffs. Will it be the Colts team that have beaten San Francisco, Seattle and Denver or will it be the Colts team that have been destroyed by St. Louis and Arizona?

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

I’ve continued to comeback after trailing in the picks. I was correct on four picks and you were correct on three. I hold a 1 game lead at 37-22 over your 36-23 record. We are now tied at 33-21 through Week 11. There will be some fun games this week. We pick a Thanksgiving game, three Sunday games and Monday Night Football!

The Ace’s Picks

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) vs. Detroit Lions (6-5)

Green Bay has won 15 of the last 16 games against Detroit. The only loss was at Detroit in 2010 when Aaron Rodgers got knocked out. Detroit won 7-3. The guy who came in: Matt Flynn. Flynn should be the starter seeing as the Packers moved the ball against the Vikings with Flynn vs. Tolzien. Green Bay has had Detroit’s number and Detroit has had a few weeks to pull ahead of the Packers. They haven’t and they finally lose ground…with Aaron Rodgers waiting to make his return.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Arizona Cardinals (7-4) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

This is a tough game to pick. Arizona is solid on defense and Philadelphia has really started to play consistent football as of late. Both teams know that they need wins to stay in the playoff races. I don’t think Arizona will be able to do enough on offense to win this game at the Link.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

St. Louis Rams (5-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

Is Kellen Clemens the answer in St. Louis? Who knows! San Francisco has been a little too wishy-washy for me this season. St. Louis is playing great football the last couple weeks after blowing out Indianapolis and Chicago. I think they get to .500 and people start to worry in San Francisco.

Winner: St. Louis Rams

Denver Broncos (9-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

The wheels are starting to come off of the once undefeated 9-0 Chiefs. They will lose to Peyton Manning twice in 3 weeks and they’ll fall to 9-3.

Winner: Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints (9-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (10-1)

I’m excited for this matchup. We have a powerhouse offense vs. powerhouse defense. I would imagine that this game won’t be over until the fourth quarter, but I can’t imagine New Orleans putting up 30 points on this defense. It’ll be low scoring but I just can’t bet against Seattle at home.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Allen’s Picks

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) vs. Detroit Lions (6-5)

The Ace brings up history of the Packers-Lions yet failing to realize that the Lions have been a terrible team for many years. This is a new team that didn’t have Calvin Johnson, when they met earlier in the season. Without Aaron Rodgers, this team can’t win in a shootout. The offensive line is still a weakness and the secondary has been allowing big plays on a consistent basis. Johnson will have a big game, while Flynn will be forced to throw too much after the Lions run defense shuts down Eddie Lacy. These two teams are entirely different from past teams; history is irrelevant for this matchup.

Winner: Detroit Lions

Arizona Cardinals (7-4) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

Arizona never plays well on the east coast, while Philadelphia is coming off the bye. That being said, I’m still not buying into Nick Foles. He hasn’t played well against above average defenses. This Arizona defense is a top seven unit at minimum. Patrick Peterson will shadow DeSean Jackson all game long, while LeSean McCoy will struggle to find space to get in the open field. Carson Palmer will have another productive game as well. This is a bad matchup for Philadelphia.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals

St. Louis Rams (5-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

There is no quit in St. Louis. They continue to play hard even after losing Sam Bradford for the season. Eventually this team will put all the pieces together and will play a meaningful game in January someday. San Francisco will be too much for them though. Kaepernick should have a productive game; along with the defense forcing Kellen Clemens to throw a few errant passes.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers

Denver Broncos (9-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

With Justin Houston possibly out for an extended period of time, Kansas City’s defense may start to fall off a bit. We’ll see teams focus their attention on Tamba Hali and double-team him at will. Denver is coming off a devastating loss and will get back to being more aggressive. Julius Thomas should be back as well. Denver should win handily.

Winner: Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints (9-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (10-1)

Another great Monday night game and this is likely for home field advantage. Percy Harvin is back and New Orleans’ defense seems to be missing Jabri Greer already. It won’t be high scoring like Ace said, which will favor Seattle. Also New Orleans’ run defense is allowing nearly five yards a carry. Marshawn Lynch should have another productive night and Seattle will prevail in a well-fought battle.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Ace: This week has a few football games on Thursday and some great games the rest of the weekend. We’ve got four more regular season weeks of football left after this weekend and the playoff pictures will start to shape up. There was no new Macho Men Radio this week due to the holiday week. To you, Allen and to all of our readers, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Allen: It looks like I’ll be going to the Dolphins-Jets game. I’m not sure what to expect, since both teams are widely inconsistent. I haven’t been to a football game in almost two years, so it’s nice to go. It has been tough to go, since the Falcons have been a winning team for five years now. Since they are absolutely terrible, I have some time to go take a day and watch another team without really worrying. I’ll still have to watch the Falcons on NFL rewind, as I write for them on profootballspot.com. You can check that website out, as they have a writer for just about every team covering all news for their respective team. Enjoy your Thanksgiving folks!

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