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: My last week as the main host and I’m still not sure if I’ll able to hand it. I’m not going to deny this readers; this has been a rough week. It’s hard to digest seeing your favorite team lose to the Jets and their superstar wide receiver in the same week. It’s dark times in Atlanta, but just like every writer in the world. We move on, report what we see on the field, and analyze it.

I’ll continue to do that, regardless of what transpires for the rest of the season. We’ll obviously talk about the Falcons, but I have to give major kudos to the Broncos and Cowboys. It was one of the greatest games that I’ve watched in years. I’ve always been more of a fan of defensive slugfests, because great defense always are under appreciated. We have fans that are so narrow-minded and don’t appreciate a great third down stop or a well-executed blitz. That being said, I was in awe watching Tony Romo (the most under appreciated quarterback in the NFL) go throw for throw with Peyton Manning. I’m going on a tangent here, but you get my point. Mike Ayers is back with me for one more week. Hopefully he’s not too depressed.

Mike: You have to start talking about two things that I hate the most:  My team unraveling before my eyes and the Dallas Cowboys.  You are not helping my seven stages of grief right now, whatsoever.

That being said, it definitely was a weird week for football this week.  Seeing the Cowboys and Broncos look like two college teams was exciting to watch.  We also saw Seattle look human again, a bunch of injuries, and the Cleveland Browns be above .500 through five games for the first time since I was in high school.  Fun times indeed.

 

Allen: Kansas City has quietly gone 5-0 and isn’t really being recognized as a contender. Are you starting to buy into them?

Mike:  I am definitely sold on them, but I still think they are one of the weaker 5-0 teams.  I still like Denver, New Orleans (who I’m officially on board with), and Seattle more than Kansas City.  The Chiefs have it rough playing in the same conference as the Broncos (let alone same division), but they have something Denver doesn’t have.  Defense.

KC’s defense continues to surprise me.  Honestly, they are starting to remind me of the Ravens.  An offense that is run-oriented, but can pass when needed.  They won’t beat you on offense though, but they don’t turn the ball over.  They get to use short fields though because their defense keeps everything in front of them and doesn’t give up a ton of points.  Sound familiar?

Alex Smith is being extremely effective and Jamaal Charles does what he does.  That defensive front is extremely stout and their secondary has been keeping things in front of them.  I think they could give the Broncos some problems, but having to play them potentially three times does not bode well for the Chiefs at all.  So yes, I am sold on them, but they have an extremely tough hill to climb.  More like a giant mountain.

 

NFL Story of the Week

The Atlanta Falcons have gotten off to a 1-4 start losing all four games by single digits. Now they lost star wide receiver Julio Jones for the rest of the season. What do you make of the Falcons' struggles and the outlook for the rest of the season?

 

Allen: This is easily the biggest shocker of the year. Giant and Steeler fans can talk about their struggles, but nobody had major hope for either team. Other than Seattle, nobody was picked more than Atlanta when pre-season predictions were made on which team would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Everyone was clamoring over their offense, especially with Steven Jackson being added to give them a major boost in the running game. There were some issues defensively, but Mike Nolan’s system led to them overachieving. Atlanta sure misses last season huh?

The team has been derailed by injuries on both sides of the ball. That being said, all four losses were winnable games. They had the Miami game in control and had no excuse losing to the Jets. It was the biggest low point in the Mike Smith-Thomas Dimitroff era. Quarterbacks are starting to recognize that throwing in the middle of the field is the best way to have success against the Falcons. The linebacker corps has been derailed by injuries, which has led to two undrafted rookies playing major roles. After a breakout season in 2012, Robert McClain has regressed in a major way as their nickel back.

Matt Ryan couldn’t be playing any better right now given the circumstances. As bad as the offensive line has been, Ryan has done everything he can to keep the Falcons competitive. You could only imagine how Ryan and Tony Gonzalez are feeling right now, considering how well they played and the record being 1-4. With Jones now done for the season, Atlanta has to make a move to upgrade their wide receiver corps. He literally carried the Falcons’ offense at times last year and this year.

They may shy away from Josh Gordon, due to his off the field concerns. I’d still like to see them take a chance on Gordon, but a second round pick is too high for him. Cecil Shorts could be someone that can make a huge impact in Atlanta. If he can be productive in Jacksonville, he would be a major asset to their aerial attack. Roddy White is going to be 32 years old in November; his days of being a number one receiver are likely over. He needs support and Tony Gonzalez could only do much. They need to make a move to add a wide receiver to salvage a nightmare start to the season.

Mike:  I think salvaging this season might just be too much to bear.  It’s obvious they need to retool both lines and get some help at linebacker.  Why risk more draft picks and go after wide receivers?  This season is a bust.  Their main goal for the rest of this season should be to salvage and sign anyone that is a huge asset to the team, get everyone healthy, and get more draft picks if possible.  Let’s give these undrafted rookies more playing time to see if they can be useful.  If not, then it’s not a waste.  Two big spots to get work will be from Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez.  We can finally see if Douglas can do anything.  He’s the top receiver right now.  Ryan will have to rely on him. Gonzo?  Trade him to KC.  Just do it.  Let’s give a little something for him, let him chase a ring, and let him go out with the team that he’ll be enshrined with.

Cut the losses, and start looking rebuilding the team from the lines-outward.

 

Mike: I think we all knew Denver would be solid this year, but as we look at them at 5-0, that offense seems unstoppable.  However the Cowboys showed the defense could give up points.  Are the Broncos the surefire number one team in your eyes right now and is there anything about that team that screams "weakness"?

Allen: The talk about Denver’s defense being exposed is so silly. Wasn’t everyone saying this was going to happen when Von Miller was suspended for six weeks? Weren’t Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Michael Vick supposed to have big games against the supposing weak Denver defense? The three quarterbacks combined to throw for six interceptions. So much for an implosion huh?

When are people going to finally realize that Tony Romo is a very good quarterback? His fourth quarter turnovers obviously have plagued him in the past few seasons. Other than that, he consistently puts up big numbers and has shown how accurate he can be. He was flawless on Sunday making remarkable throws on the run, along with connecting on almost all of his passes beyond 20 yards. Dallas has elite players like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who have proven to be matchup nightmares for just about any team in the NFL.

Another factor that you have to account for is that Champ Bailey wasn’t playing. People can make jokes about his performance against Torrey Smith in the playoffs, but he is still a solid cornerback. People continue to bring up his playoff performance, which is silly considering he’s been such a top cornerback for so many years now. Those two players were missed on Sunday and will prove to be difference makers when they return. To say that they got exposed is just an asinine statement to make.

If they have a weakness, many people believed it would be their lack of a running game. Knowshon Moreno has stepped up to carry the load in phases during the game. This team really doesn’t have a weakness right now. Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers have combined for ten sacks already this year, which will give Miller much-needed support when he comes back. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been an excellent pickup to an already talented core of cornerbacks. There isn’t any true weakness to this team, although I’d like to see a team try to pound the ball against them. The way to beat Denver may be to simply run the ball effectively and keep Peyton Manning off the field.

 

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

Mike actually went 3-2 last week, while I went 2-3. We are both tied at 14-11, which looks really embarrassing despite there being many upsets this season so far.

 

Allen’s Picks

Green Bay Packers (2-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Baltimore has one of the best home field advantages in the league. It goes unnoticed, but the crowd really knows how to make the opposing quarterback’s job even more difficult. Still it won’t be much of a difference maker against Aaron Rodgers. As long as he isn’t running for his life the entire game, Green Bay should win this game. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are a nasty duo, but the secondary has no chance against the Packers aerial attack. Baltimore is too shaky offensively to keep up.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Arizona Cardinals (3-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)

This is an intriguing matchup, since many people believed that Arizona was going to be the worst team in the NFC. They have proven to be scrappy, especially with their fast defense. Arizona’s offense is still a work in progress with their offensive line being the biggest concern. That doesn’t bode well going against the 49ers, even with Aldon Smith suspended. Arizona is going to be in for a rude awakening.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans (3-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (4-1)

Tennessee is in a similar boat with Arizona. They have gotten off to a surprising start based on excellent team defense and steady offensive play. Unfortunately this is the week, they head into a hostile environment against a top team. Seattle’s defense is too fast and will simply be all over Chris Johnson. Russell Wilson may have some struggles, but he’ll do more than enough to lead Seattle to a comfortable victory. Marshawn Lynch should continue to run through defenses as well.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

New Orleans Saints (5-0) vs. New England Patriots (4-1)

This game is an absolute toss up. The return of Rob Gronkowski immediately has me wanting to take New England for that simple fact alone. The chemistry between Brady and Gronkowski is almost unstoppable. Then again, we could say the same thing about Brees and Graham. It will be the ultimate showdown, where turnovers and a few plays will be the difference maker. I’ve been so impressed by the job that Rob Ryan has done in implementing a more aggressive defense to New Orleans, which has made this unit respectable once again. Brady is one of the best quarterbacks against the blitz though and he’ll make them pay especially with Amendola back.

Winner: New England Patriots

Washington Redskins (1-3) vs. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

Despite the under 500 records, this is the second best game of the week for me. This is still a hot rivalry with both teams being the most capable in winning the NFC East. We’ll get to see another chapter in the Dez Bryant versus DeAngelo Hall saga. I’m sure will see them matched up against each other. I’m still surprised Hall shut down Bryant in the elimination game last year. That won’t happen here, as Dallas offensive line has greatly improved from last year’s debacle. It should give Bryant more time to go downfield to make big plays. Washington’s defense has regressed in a major way, which doesn’t bode well against Tony Romo.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

 

Mike’s Picks

Green Bay Packers (2-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Let’s face it; these Ravens are not the defending Super Bowl Champions.  The defense, while still serviceable, lost too much to free agency and retirement.  The offense has looked completely out-of-sync.  Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are both averaging less than three yards a carry. Then Joey Eyebrows has thrown eight interceptions compared to five touchdowns. The Packers may have lost Clay Matthews for a few weeks and still have a carousel at RB, but they are more in sync than the Ravens right now.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Arizona Cardinals (3-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)

Arizona has a lot going well for them.  Andre Ellington has the opportunity to look like a stud if he can carry a full load at running back. If you haven’t had the chance to watch their defense, Patrick Peterson has become the top cornerback in the NFL and ol’ Honey Badger himself Tyrian Mathieu is starting to make big plays at the free safety position.  They just need a few more pieces to the puzzle, especially on offense.  San Fran has those pieces.  The team is slowly getting healthy and Kaepernick is slowly turning the corner after his awful performance against Seattle.  It should be a good day at Candlestick.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans (3-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (4-1)

Seattle has continued to do what they do best, even though they have had very close games the last two weeks.  Lynch looks unstoppable, the defense is fast enough to take away any speedster a team has, and Russell Wilson already has almost 250 rushing yards.  Tennessee has itself a nice defense, however the offense has lost its swagger that it had gained behind Jake Locker.  Ryan Fitzpatrick does not have the same grip on the offense and the passing game that Locker did.  Plus, did I mention it’s in front of the now world record loudest NFL stadium?

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

New Orleans Saints (5-0) vs. New England Patriots (4-1)

One of the few games I’m really looking forward to this weekend.  The Saints continue to surprise me and dominate on both sides of the ball. The Patriots finally got Danny Amendola back and Tom Brady had one of his worst games of his career.  Rob Gronkowski should be back this week as well, so that should help their offense out.  The best thing the Patriots have going for them is their speed on defense.  They held Cincinnati in check last week.  The Saints still can’t run the ball and their defense will be hard pressed to make Brady miss his two favorite targets.  I think Coach Billy Buddy and Brady are not going to be happy, so watch them get right after their first loss.

Winner: New England Patriots

Washington Redskins (1-3) vs. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys torched the Broncos for almost 50 points and over 500 yards passing.  Now they come into a game against a pass defense that is one of the worst units in the league.  This does not bode well for the Skins.  That being said, the Skins have been pass happy lately as well, as RG3 is averaging 300 yards a game.  He has looked better each week out and the bye week should have helped him as well.  Dallas is tough to beat at home, however until Washington fixed that wide-open field of a defense, they will struggle against good offenses.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

 

Mike: You made me talk about my Falcons getting rid of my favorite player of all time and pick the Dallas Cowboys to win. It’s a good thing this is my last week calling the shots around here or else I might have some serious mental issues.  Let’s also not forget about the Broncos-Jags game, which opened up with the largest point spread since the leagues merged.  If you keep your eyes peeled, we might actually see John Elway head out to finish up the game in the second half. 

I expect a 14/19 for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns performance from him, after Peyton is already on the sidelines sipping Gatorade and watching football On His Phone.  Appreciate the time, Allen.  I’m sure I’ll be back when Ace has to go do stupid married things with his wife.  AMIRIGHT?  *sigh*

Allen:  This is a very weak slate of games. Other than New Orleans against New England and the Sunday night game, it’s hard to get excited for any of these games. Baltimore can be so dull that it can suck all the life out of the Packers’ exciting offense. It’s a shame because they have great skill players like Torrey Smith and Ray Rice. It comes to Joe Flacco being predictable and careless with the ball.

I’d like to thank Mike Ayers once again for writing with me this week. The Ace comes back next week full of cheer and happiness, while I’m going to try to setup a workout with the Atlanta Falcons. I’ve gone down from 235 to 193 pounds over the past year or so. It might be my time to shine at wide receiver. Anyway enjoy your weekend and we’ll be back once again next Thursday.

 

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