NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly column featured on TJRsports.com. Mike Ayers will be replacing The Ace this week, due to the Ace going on his well-deserved honeymoon. Each week the guys will ask questions and discuss the previous week’s games along with picking the Top 5 Games of the Week!

 

Allen: For the first time, I am your host for this week’s column. The Ace is happily drinking sangria on a beach with his wife, while I’m holding the fort down. We are already at week five somehow in another strange season. I’m still struggling to figure out the Falcons’ red zone problems and counting how many players on their defense are under 26 years old. It has been somewhat of a disastrous start for them.

Meanwhile teams that were flying under the radar in August continue to shine, as Kansas City and New Orleans remain undefeated. I’m here with TJR Sports’ own Mike Ayers, who runs a show on the site every Wednesday night. He’ll be writing with me for the next two weeks. He is a fellow Falcons fan, but I promise we won’t talk a whole lot about them this week so there aren’t any complaints about us being “fan boys”. Now if they somehow manage to lose to the Jets, you can expect a freaking out part to next week’s article.

Mike: Hey Allen, thanks for having me on board.  I'm sure Ace would love to be here, but he has to try and be all "adult" on us and get married.  What a joke!

After watching the games from week four, I feel like we are slowly getting a picture of what this season holds.  Hopefully not a full picture, seeing how are beloved Falcons are getting shoved in lockers by almost every team they've played so far.  We have plenty of storylines and big games to talk about however.  None of which surprisingly involve Ndamukong Suh trying to smash an offensive player’s body into pieces.

 

Mike: The Steelers and the Giants are both not only 0-4, but also neither tem are what we call a "we've had misfortunes and barely got beat" 0-4. They've both looked terrible. What are the main problems for both teams, and can they be fixed, or at least worked around to give either team a salvageable season?

Allen: I’ve been saying this repeatedly since August, whether it’s been on twitter or in these weekly articles. Pittsburgh is in rebuilding mode regardless if Mike Tomlin wants to admit it or not. They are trying to build young talent, after realizing that their core of star players is gone or on the decline. Pittsburgh was a seven-win team at best going into this season with their personnel on both sides of the ball.

Antonio Brown is a solid receiver and Le’Veon Bell has star potential in that offense. Everyone else is a role player, which doesn’t provide Ben Roethlisberger much support. You add in a below average offensive line and an old defense, it makes it tough to compete against top teams on a weekly basis. They have had many great years over the past seven years or so. Eventually a franchise reaches to the point, where they need to develop young talent and it’ll take a year or two to get back to contending for a playoff spot

The Giants might be headed down that road, even though I expected them to win nine games this year. They have been a major disappointment with their non-existent running game and pass rush. The secondary was supposed to be the Giants’ downfall this year, due to their lack of upgrades at cornerback. It turns out that the defensive line has been the biggest problem with their lack of a pass rush.

They look desperate right now and a loss to Philadelphia on Sunday could seal their fate for the rest of the season if it hasn’t been sealed already. If they can’t beat an average Eagles team at home, then they could very well be headed for a top five pick this year. The offensive line has been battered by injuries and Eli Manning is turning the ball over on a consistent basis, due to the offense being completely one-dimensional. That’s going to be a recipe for disaster for a team that hasn’t been competitive in the fourth quarter of a game since week one. Other than Jacksonville, nobody is in worse shape than the Giants right now. They are  going to need to rebuild this off-season.

 

NFL Story of the Week

The Josh Freeman era couldn't end any sooner in Tampa Bay. The entire 2013 season for Tampa Bay has been a debacle and now there are reports coming out about Freeman headed to rehab. Many different reports are coming out, but whom do you blame more? Josh Freeman or Greg Schiano?

Allen: It really is a toss up between both men. There has been so much negative attention towards Freeman over the past three weeks that makes you question him not only as a player, but also as a person. Then Schiano hasn’t had a great reputation so far in his first NFL tenure as a coach. You have to truly look at both men, before making a decision.

I’ve always been a believer in Josh Freeman, based on his arm strength and having the ability to make clutch throws. His talent has always made me a fan, even though he clearly has struggled this season. While his approach to wanting to be released or trade is a smart decision, he’s acting a bit immature by not supporting Mike Glennon. When Alex Smith got benched for Colin Kaepernick, Smith was fully supportive of Kaepernick on the sidelines. Freeman has come off as selfish; despite saying repeatedly he doesn’t want to be a distraction to the team.

Schiano is known to be a disciplinarian that wants his team to play to the whistle and stick to his game plan, regardless of his players’ demands. Mike Williams had his issues with Schiano last year and now Darelle Revis has been unhappy due to having to play more zone coverage. You have to wonder if this is another Bobby Petrino situation, where another college coach simply doesn’t know how to adjust to coaching grown men rather than college students.

I’m leaning towards blaming Schiano more for the simple fact that Freeman’s medical information has leaked out. You have to wonder if Schiano with the entire Tampa Bay organization has it out for Freeman and are trying to sabotage him. This is all speculation and anyone can make there own judgments on the fiasco. While he desperately needs a change of scenery, Freeman has never been a problem off the field until this year. Tampa Bay needs to move on with Glennon and will probably need to move on without Schiano after this season.

 

Mike: I have to agree with you that the blame has to be put on several people, but none more than Josh Freeman.  I’m on the other side of the fence when it comes to his leadership abilities and his play on the field.  He has shown flashes of being a quality starter in the league, but that’s all they have been – flashes.  Each year of his career, it was supposedly the year he puts everything together and takes that next step.  He never did it.  I never saw anything from him that made me think he could ever survive as a “solid” starter for this career.

Now could that have to do with constant coaching changes, and not having great pieces (until recently) in place to let him succeed?  Possibly.  Once Tampa Bay got Doug Martin on board, it should have taken lots of pressure off Freeman and let him make better decisions.  It didn’t.  This whole “leak” situation of him entering rehab is a different story.  Granted, anytime someone has to enter rehab, they shoulder the blame. That being said, I completely agree that Greg Schiano is obviously not fit for the job.  The season is a quarter of the way over and that team is in disarray.  This Freeman situation will just compound it, even if Glennon plays better.  It’s a train wreck.  We’ll just have to wait and see how long the wreck lasts.

 

Allen: Despite the return of Sean Payton, not many people were talking about the New Orleans Saints as Super Bowl contenders in August. Are you starting to believe in the Saints and their revamped defense?

Mike: In the preseason, I said on my very show to watch out for the Saints because Sean Payton was back. He may be the best coach in the NFL.  However I thought their rag-tag defense they stuck together would just become jelly.  I think we all knew the offense would be fine, but I am shocked 4 games in that every Saints game has not become “last to score, wins”.  The defensive scheme they have in place is suiting these players very well.  They are fast to the ball and being extremely opportunistic by forcing turnovers.

Am I sold on them?  Yes.  Now as Super Bowl contenders?  Not yet.  So far they have basically been beating up on teams in the comfy confines on the Superdome.  Over the next couple weeks, the Saints travel on the road to face a good Bears team and a Patriots team that might be getting a bit healthier and stronger.  If the Saints’ defense shows up for those two games and the offense continues to click, only then will I put them up there with Seattle as the top threat from the NFC for the Super Bowl.

 

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

Allen: Last week, Ace and I both went 3-2. I’m still one game ahead of him, as my record is 12-8. He is at 11-9, which means we should probably rename our picks as the “Mediocre NFL Mind Challenge”.  I’ll probably get booed for that one. Mike will pick for Ace this week, which could be the boost that he needs.

 

Allen’s Picks

New Orleans Saints (4-0) vs. Chicago Bears (3-1)

This is an excellent game that will be a testament to how improved the Saints’ defense truly is as a unit. They won’t have the comfort of their dome advantage like they did for their games against Atlanta and Miami. Jay Cutler will bounce back from last week’s poor performance. New Orleans won’t be able to run the ball, which will lead to them being one-dimensional. That will play into Chicago’s hands for a hard fought victory.

Winner: Chicago Bears

New England Patriots (4-0) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

In terms of injured players, my feeling is that Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will sit out for one more week. New England has to be thinking that they are in great position right now and don’t need to force there star players back. That will play into Cincinnati’s hands with their defense giving Tom Brady issues all day long. The matchup between A.J Green and Aqib Talib is going to be a joy to watch, especially after seeing Talib frustrate Julio Jones last Sunday night. I’m still going with the Bengals to win a close one.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions (3-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (1-2)

This is a huge test for Detroit against a well-rested Packers team. Can the well-rested Packers contain Detroit’s nasty defensive line? I’d look for Randall Cobb to have a busy day catching screens and slants to help Aaron Rodgers avoid being hit too much. Detroit is firing on all cylinders right now, but their secondary still concerns me. Rodgers will do just enough to get the Packers back into the fray.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Seattle Seahawks (4-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (3-1)

This will be another big road test for Seattle, after they were handed a win last Sunday against Houston. They match up well with Indianapolis, especially with their pass rush going up against the weak Colts offensive line. I’d like to take the Colts in an upset, but Seattle will be too much for them in the trenches.  Marshawn Lynch will have a big day.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Houston Texans (2-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

Two teams that love to play physical on a Sunday night will have my eyes glued to the television screen. Even though the 49ers are rested, they still seem a bit shaky. Aldon Smith is going to be missed in this game, while their secondary is going to have problems trying to slow down Houston’s aerial attack. Matt Schaub may be considered shaky, but he knows how to get the ball to his playmakers. Andre Johnson should have another big game, while Houston’s defense will harass Colin Kaepernick into multiple turnovers.

Winner: Houston Texans

 

Mike’s Picks

New Orleans Saints (4-0) vs. Chicago Bears (3-1)

As I said before, this is the start of the test to see if the Saints are for real.  Getting outside of their dome and heading up to Solider Field is a tough task for anyone.  As good as the Saints’ passing game is, the same can be said about the Bears’ turnover-laden defense.  There are two saving graces for both teams this week:  Bears need Jay Cutler and company to have a better game this week than last, while not giving the ball back to Drew Brees in good field position.  On the other side, the Saints cannot run the ball.  They will have to in order to keep the Bears defense on their heels.  I’m just not sold that the Saints can do that.

Winner: Chicago Bears

New England Patriots (4-0) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

I’m still not sold on the Patriots, even with their 4-0 record.  They have yet to win a game in convincing fashion.  The Bengals have had their own problems as of late on both sides of the ball.  The biggest problem that the Patriots have had is the lack of an effective, fluid offense.  Steven Ridley finally had a decent game running the ball against Atlanta and Danny Amendola might be back this week, which should thrill Mr. Brady.  Wilfork will be a huge loss in the interior of New England’s defense, however I think their pass defense is strong enough to keep them in the game and Brady will help to win a tight one.

Winner: New England Patriots

Detroit Lions (3-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (1-2)

When Detroit’s defense finally plays the way we all expected them to be with how much they invested in the defensive line…they look like a damn good team.  Unfortunately for them, they are playing a rested Packers team, which they needed.  I can see this being a high scoring game, as the Lions have so many weapons to cover both in the backfield and in the air.  If they can get Ryan Broyles going a bit more, they can be even more deadly.  However Aaron Rodgers makes anything better.  The Packers have too much leadership on their team to lose to the Lions here and fall to 1-3.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Seattle Seahawks (4-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (3-1)

I’m riding the Colts’ train until I am forced to jump off.  I think Houston showed that the Seahawks are beatable. It just so happens that Houston is completely stupid at the end of games.  Andrew Luck is a better passer than Schaub and he is also arguably a better scrambler than Kaepernick.  The biggest task is going to be for the Colts mundane offensive line to give Luck time to throw, along with opening some holes for Richardson and Brown to not make their offense so one-dimensional.  I feel Seattle is a better overall team, but the Colts always bring it at home and get the upset behind a big day for their defense and Luck.

Winner: Indianapolis Colts

Houston Texans (2-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

Both teams come into this game wondering what has happened to the first quarter of their seasons.  Both teams were picked to be one of the top teams in their conferences, yet they sit here Week 5 at an even-.500 record.  After the disaster that was the last few minutes of the Texans/Seahawks game, I expect them to be fired up (even though that coaching staff should have been just plain fired).  I’m not convinced that Houston can rely on Matt Schaub to win them this ballgame.  They’ll need their defense to cause havoc against Kaepernick and Frank Gore all game, but I just don’t know if it will be enough to keep the 49ers squeaking out a victory.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers

 

Mike: I picked against you a few times because if it works out, I look like a genius and Ace will come back and forever be in my gratitude.  If not?  Meh, it’s a temporary gig anyways.

With the season officially a quarter over for most teams, the next couple weeks will really start to break apart the true contenders, and those who got off to an easy start because of the way their schedule started. We’ll see between week five to eight, what will make or break a lot of teams.  I’m really interested in what happens this week.  Hopefully our Falcons can get things back together against the lowly Jets and Peyton Manning throws another 40 touchdowns this week.  Those are two things that need to happen.

Allen: A big thanks to Mike for writing with me this week. He’ll be back next week, as it will be the last week before Ace comes back. The schedule is looking really good this week with many good games at one o’clock. I’m not sure which game I’m going to focus on the most, but I’ll have my eyes on all the games we discussed before. Hopefully I’ll be able to avoid watching the Giants game, since I live in New York and they absolutely stink.

In a special part to next week’s article, I’ll have a mini summary of my experience watching the Jets versus Falcons game with a ton of Jet fans. I’m not sure what the number is going to be, but it will be in the double digits range. I’ve gotten together a lot of my friends, who are Jet fans to watch the game with me. I’m looking forward to being as outnumbered as possible and then laughing by the fourth quarter watching a convincing Falcons victory. Good luck to your teams this weekend and enjoy yourself.

 

You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk and Mike at @SportsTalkTJR