NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly Wednesday 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 TJRsports.com editor-in-chief, John Canton will also ask a question for both guys.
The Ace: Christmas Day was this past Sunday for NFL fans, even though we saw the Giants and Cowboys face off last Wednesday night. Allen, you got showered with gifts and other wonderful things with your Falcons defeating the Chiefs, 40-24. I, on the other hand was showered with coal and socks. Packers lose to the 49ers, 30-22. We’ll talk about those games and more, but other than that Packers loss, I was very happy to see the NFL back and had an awesome time flipping between fantasy sites and different Sunday Ticket games. How was Sunday for you?
Allen: Christmas was fun but the joy didn’t last long. I enjoyed football back with just about every hour between 1 o’clock in the afternoon to midnight consisting of football. The major news coming out from a few days ago was the fatal injury to Brent Grimes for the season. Everyone knows I’m a major Falcons fan and people that watch the sport closely know that Grimes is one of the best cover corners in the league. He’s been terrific the past two seasons after being undrafted in his career. The loss of Grimes probably rules out the Falcons making a serious run for the Super Bowl. I thought they were going to be a dark horse this year but now, it will be nice to see a playoff win. Here’s to hoping Asante Samuel playing like he’s 28 and Dunta Robinson actually playing anywhere close to his contract. That’s my mini plea to the Falcons. I sound pretty negative as a fan, which saw his team destroy a good Kansas City team.
Ace: That is a huge blow to the Falcons. One thing I can take away from the Packers loss is that they're not too banged up after it. We have a lot to discuss, let’s get going! We saw two players come back from two different injuries. Peyton Manning was 19-26 for 253 yards and 2 TD's in a win over Pittsburgh and Adrian Peterson had 17 Carries for 84 yards and 2 TD's in a win over Jacksonville. Both looked like they returned to form and didn't show any signs of injury.
It appears the questions about both guys returning were answered, but will we see either of them slow down as this season goes on?
Allen: They’ll have their moments of lackluster games but both players will have very good years. Peterson seems to be more likely to produce because of the easier schedule and less pressure on him. Peyton will have moments where the Broncos lean on him too much and he’s going to make some poor plays. The Broncos have a very difficult schedule like we’ve been saying for weeks. Peyton was impressive against the Steelers but Denver already seems like they are going to abuse him. They didn’t see interested in giving Willis McGahee more carries even though he is coming off a huge year. Denver definitely showed some skeptics up last night including me. It just seems like Denver is going to really pass heavy this year, which isn’t a good idea with an average offensive line and Peyton is older. Peterson is coming off a scary injury but he’s still in his prime and playing in a dome always helps. He may play a commanding position but Peterson is a machine and he’s always showed that he’s consistently producing. Peterson will be making another Pro Bowl appearance but his team will be out of the wild card hunt by late November. Manning will get in the Pro Bowl based on more popularity than actual numbers but his team will be right in the thick of the playoff picture.
Ace: I think both guys put up big numbers. My preseason prediction for AP was 1,300+ yards. I think he should do that. If John Fox lets Peyton run the no huddle offense and do his thing, that team should be in the mix for 10-12 wins. Both guys will be stars again, and fantasy football owners that may have reached on them, will be heavily rewarded. (Myself included with both guys)
Allen: After having one of the worst defenses last year, many people were predicted the Packers becoming tougher defensively similar to their 2010 form. They looked lackluster and out matched against the 49ers, which doesn't have a spectacular offense.
Are there concerns that the Packers will once again have to score over 30 points to win games this year?
Ace: I want to first recognize San Francisco for their success. This team looks like the favorite to win the Super Bowl this season. What a complete game by the offense and defense. Alex Smith looked like the #1 overall pick in a draft where he and Aaron Rodgers were the first two QB’s selected. The pass rush flustered Rodgers and pushed him out of the pocket all game. Aldon and Justin Smith made the Packers offensive line look like a high school offensive line. Frank Gore is a beast and honestly, if there’s a rematch of this game in Lambeau in January, the Packers will be lucky to put up 10 points if they don’t correct their problems on defense.
The Packers did have the worst defenses in the league last year, and they used their first six picks in the 2012 NFL Draft on defense. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is a genius when it comes to the defensive side of the football, but the last 18 games haven’t looked anything close to a defense, especially a defense like San Francisco’s. We’ll know what the Packers need to do within the next three weeks. They host Chicago tomorrow night, then travel to Seattle and come back to host New Orleans. Prior to the season, I thought starting 3-1 would be a great record for the Pack. If they can come out Thursday and have a dominating win against the Bears, there won’t be any question that they’re still a favorite in the NFC. This is a must win for the Packers. Chicago would be sitting at 2-0 with Detroit facing San Francisco and Minnesota travels to Indianapolis. I have a feeling that the Packers will win, but the score will be something like 38-35 and the defensive questions will continue to linger into a road game against Seattle.
Allen: I’ll never forget how dominant the Packers defense was in the 2010 playoff run. They made quarterbacks that were on fire all season in Michael Vick and Matt Ryan look like below average quarterbacks. They took Jay Cutler out then flustered Ben Rothlisberger to win the Super Bowl. Ever since that run, I’ve yet to see the Packers really perform at that level. The once great secondary with players like Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Jarrett Bush has really struggled. Williams was once considered a top corner back but he was poor last year and looked lost against the 49ers. The once dominant run defense led by B.J Raji was getting run all over. I’m not sure how it happened but the players that I mentioned above haven’t been making the plays that they were making in 2010. Green Bay is going to get tested the next few weeks especially by quarterbacks like Jay Cutler and Drew Brees. They also are going to need to start stopping the run because if they let Forte or the trio of Saints running backs start running all over, they are going to get lit up. There has to be some major concern in Green Bay because they are going to be tested like every team is going to be after winning the division last year. I’m expecting some major improvement because they have talent defensively and Mike McCarthy is an excellent coach but its going to be a struggle with the matchups they are going to be up against.
Ace: Like I've mentioned before, the Packers are going to be tested in their first four games against San Fran, Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans. They also travel to Houston to face the Texans in Week 6. They have a Week 10 Bye, and if the Pack are 7-2 or 6-3, I'll take it. The second half of their schedule isn't any easier, 5 of 7 games are against the NFC North and one is on the road against the Giants. They just need to worry about Chicago and Seattle right now. Speaking of Seattle, this past offseason the Seahawks signed Quarterback Matt Flynn to a 3 year, $19.5 million deal with $10 million guaranteed. Head coach Pete Carroll announced that rookie Russell Wilson would be the starting quarterback going into the season. Wilson's debut wasn't as flashy as his preseason was. He went 18-34 for 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT with a Passer Rating of 62.5 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Did Pete Carroll make the right choice starting Wilson over Flynn and do you think Matt Flynn will be starting for the Seahawks this season if Wilson stays healthy?
Allen: Russell Wilson seems like an interesting prospect but it has to be sad that they gave Flynn a pretty nice deal to be a backup. Wilson has some issues right now with height issues and not being very accuracy. He can’t get away with it like Drew Brees, who has a terrific arm or Michael Vick, who can run and throw as long as the blitz isn’t coming. Wilson is going to have issues and it doesn’t help that he couldn’t take advantage of a weak defense in Arizona. Seattle has a solid all around team that shouldn’t be held back by quarterback issues. Pete Carroll knows he has talent around the team and won’t hesitate to use Flynn if Wilson isn’t cutting it. With games coming up against Dallas and Green Bay coming up, they could easily be 0-3, which could lead to a switch. Wilson’s back is already against the wall because this is a team that feels that they can make the playoffs. This isn’t the Colts or Dolphins where they are going to give you time to develop because they don’t have playoff expectations. Seattle has been around the 7 or 8 win margin the past few years and feel like it’s time for them to get over the hump. I can’t really say if it was smart choosing Wilson because they are both very unproven. Let’s see how Wilson plays against a good Dallas team and a great Green Bay team. He’ll be on a very short leash if they lose both games and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Flynn starting eventually.
Ace: I thought the same thing, if Wilson falls to 0-3 after Aaron Rodgers comes to town, then I think they easily make the switch. I was hoping for a Rodgers/Flynn matchup, but I guess we won’t see that. Pete Carroll is a smart guy, we definitely saw some things when it came to Wilson in the preseason, but much like everyone thinking that Andrew Luck’s preseason was a look at what he would do in the regular season, Luck and Wilson aren’t going up against backups anymore, they’re going at #1 defenses and are going to look like rookies, no matter how polished they may seem.
Allen: The New York Jets shocked the world and scored six touchdowns against Buffalo.
Do you think that Mark Sanchez will finally break out and prove himself or was this just a sign of how poor Buffalo still is defensively?
Ace: I think the best way to answer that question is a little bit from Column A and a little bit from Column B. Each of Mark Sanchez’s first three seasons his passing yardage and touchdowns have both went up, so I don’t think there’s really been anything wrong with Sanchez. Its Sanchez’s supporting cast that’s been the problem. In his first three seasons, only three receivers eclipsed 800 receiving yards (2011, Dustin Keller 815 yards. 2010, Braylon Edwards, 904 yards. 2009, Jericho Cotchery, 821 yards). The Jets drafted Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech and he had a fantastic debut with 5 receptions for 89 yards and 2 scores. Sanchez was able to spread the ball around and to different receivers, instead of targeting the same guy over and over again, which seems to have been his problem the last three years. Sanchez wasn’t going up against San Francisco or Baltimore’s defense, so that definitely helped his case. The Jets travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this coming weekend so we should find out more about him and this Jets team when they take the field.
Allen: It was shocking to see Sanchez complete that pass to Hill considering what has happened to him ever since that blowout loss in Week 15 against the Eagles. He’s been so rattled that I’m shocked to see complete a pass over 20 yards. Sanchez was firing on all cylinders against the Bills, which will give the media something positive to say about him. In this offense, I’m sure Sanchez will be looking to open up the offense. After last season’s failures, it has been proven that Santonio Holmes isn’t a number one receiver. Sanchez will lean on him at times but he realizes that he can’t be counted on to catch eight passes a game. The one thing people forget about with the Jets is how poor Brian Schottenheimer was as the offensive coordinator. He was very conservative even though the Jets were a great running team. Still there was a time where they really limited Sanchez and it hindered him a bit. With a new coordinator, I’m looking forward to seeing if Sanchez can really break out. Schottenheimer wasn’t popular with New Yorkers and they seem optimistic with Tony Soprano. The Pittsburgh game will be a massive test for him along with games against the 49ers and Texans. If he could perform well in those games, its time for the Jets to knock it off with Tebow stealing snaps and let Sanchez work.
What team's week one loss surprised you the most?
Allen: The New Orleans Saints losing really caught me off guard. I knew there was a chance for the Redskins to pull an upset but for New Orleans to get out played for most of the game was shocking. The New Orleans defense was coming into the season looking very fragile and they showed their true colors. The speed of the Redskins offense including Griffin’s arm really caught the Saints off guard. It’s also rare that the Saints lose in the Superdome because of their home advantage and how quarterbacks get psyched out when they play the Saints. Griffin looked right at home playing against the Saints, which is rare for any quarterback playing the Saints. I knew the Saints were going to struggle a bit this season but to lose right away to a team that came in last place last year was shocking. I’m sure New Orleans will bounce back because they are too talented but this was alarming.
Ace: Everyone is thinking that I’ll say Green Bay. No, honestly, I knew this might be the toughest matchup of the season for them. I’ll go with the other obvious answer, New Orleans losing at home to Robert Griffin III and Washington. I said on my radio show that I thought RG3 had the best shot of pulling the upset this weekend; it just depended on what New Orleans team showed up. Drew Brees and company got beat at home by a rookie QB in his first NFL start. Was I surprised? Absolutely not. New Orleans made a push late to get back in the game, but this was all Washington. Every year for the last 10 seasons a team has went from worst to first in their division, will it be Washington? Perhaps. To keep the trend alive it has to be them, Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Minnesota, Tampa Bay or St. Louis. As of right now, I’d take Washington. Last week we debuted the ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’ where Allen and I take our shot at the five best games of the week. I finished 2-3 and Allen finished 3-2. Here’s this weeks picks:
Chicago at Green Bay
This their second game in 5 days. A loss would be devistating. It is a must win game for the Packers. It’ll be a shoot out, Green Bay wins.
Denver at Atlanta
Matty Ice vs. Peyton Manning. Peyton looks like the old Peyton, but Matty Ice rarely loses at home during the regular season. Atlanta wins.
Detroit at San Francisco
We saw how tough that San Francisco defense was against Green Bay, they won’t let up at home and in primetime. San Francisco wins.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh
The Jets dominated Buffalo last week, this week a real test with the Steelers are in their way. I think Pittsburgh wins in a close one.
Baltimore at Philadelphia
If Baltimore can pressure Michael Vick, this should be an easy win for them. Baltimore wins.
Allen: I can’t see any of these games ending up in a blowout this week unless Michael Vick decides to throw it to the wrong team again.
Chicago at Green Bay
This is going to be a shoot out and probably the best game of the year on Thursday nights. I’m going to pick Green Bay in a tight high scoring game.
Denver at Atlanta
With the injury to Grimes, I’m very hesitant to picking Atlanta. Then I realize they are in the Georgia Dome and I got faith. Another high scoring shootout with Atlanta squeaking out a win. For Falcons fans out there or hardcore fans with great memory, this game reminds me of Week 2 Sunday Night between the Eagles and Falcons which was a classic game.
Detroit at San Francisco
Detroit looked very shaky against a weak Rams team. I’m supposed to believe they can go on the road and beat a loaded 49ers team. San Francisco wins.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh
Jets are coming with a lot of momentum but I just can’t see Pittsburgh losing. This game goes down to the wire or Sanchez throws three interceptions and its’ over by halftime. Regardless Pittsburgh wins.
Baltimore at Philadelphia
I’m stumped with this one but Eagles run defense scares me in a bad way. Rice goes crazy and Baltimore gets a nice road victory.
Allen: Those are my picks this week with a very strong batch of games. I’m still a bit let down by the news about Brent Grimes but I still have faith that the Falcons can still make some noise. I’m excited to watch the Sunday night game, which should be full of fireworks with San Francisco and Detroit. Will the coaches shake hands this time? That would be one funky headline but it sounds just about right. The Thursday night game should be one for the ages and a good batch of Sunday games. You have to enjoy these early weekends because eventually you’ll see some exciting teams get hit with byes and the batch of games will get weaker. It’s always a good thing that the night games have each a must watch worthy factor and that’s always needed for every week.
Ace: That’s it for this week. Both of our favorite teams have tough tests this week at home. Win, lose or draw, (preferably win) I was glad to see my Green Bay Packers back in action as well as 31 other teams (not so much San Francisco). We had a fun radio show last night with Chris from @olbagofdonuts Twitter/Blog to talk Packers. Finally, I want to take the time here as we wrap up the article to give a special shout out to my pal Jakey. For those of you who are listeners my weekly radio show on blogtalkradio.com, Jakey has been the other half of ‘The Jakey and The Ace Show’. As announced on last nights show, Jakey will be leaving the show as permanent co-host. There’s no bad blood, it’s actually for the best. Jakey was named Funniest Person in the Twin Cities and is getting standup comedy gigs throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
I want to thank Jakey for 143 amazing episodes and the nearly 3 years of fun we’ve had doing the show. I know he’ll do fantastic in his new gig and he’s always welcome back on the show. He is one of my closest friends and we’ll miss having him on the show every week. The show will be renamed by next Tuesday night and my good pal C-Mac will resume co-host duties as the new full time co-host of the show.
Have a great week and enjoy the weekend! Go Pack Go!
If you have any question ideas please tweet us and we will consider your questions for next week’s article.