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: It’s good to be back. I’m relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated. I’m also married and feel so adult. I was able to watch about 10 minutes of football during my wedding weekend but was able to watch a majority of the Patriots/Bengals game at a small sports bar in the Dominican Republic. It was pretty rad. About 12 to 15 other people from all over the United States surrounded me. There were fans of the Vikings, Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins, Lions and more. I was able to watch some NFL action over this past weekend but have been under the weather. I’m looking forward to this coming weekend because I fully intend on devote my entire Sunday to watching as much football as I possibly can. I’m glad to be back writing with you pal. Also, a big thank you to our buddy Mike Ayers for filling in for me the last two weeks. You guys did an awesome job!

Allen: It’s great to have you back, Ace. This was a dull week of football to say the least. The highlight for me had to be Mike McCoy being a genius and the odd conservative play calling from Indianapolis. The Patriots comeback was pretty insane, although Rob Ryan’s facial expression was even more enjoyable. I’m not sure what happened to New Orleans’ killer instinct playing it safe like that offensively. That was unlike Sean Payton, who is always aggressive as a play caller. New Orleans still remains to be a top team in the NFC, but they can’t be that conservative and completely rely on their defense. The defense has improved, but you can’t give an elite quarterback like Tom Brady so many chances.

Ace: Last week you and Mike discussed your beloved Falcons and their struggles. This week I would love to bring up my beloved Green Bay Packers, for the first time this season while writing this article! Last week the Packers lost Nick Perry to a foot injury, Randall Cobb and James Jones to knee/leg injuries. While Jones could be suiting up this Sunday, the other two won’t be ready until late November at the earliest. These injuries are eerily similar to the 2010 Packers who had 14 guys on IR and still won the Super Bowl. I’ve been impressed with their defense the last two weeks.

If their offense can start to click, are the Green Bay Packers a threat in the NFC or is it still San Francisco or Seattle’s conference to lose?

Allen:  The Packers still remain to be a threat, but nothing has changed from August. They are still in the background when people discuss who is going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Seattle has lived up to the hype so far and New Orleans has emerged as a true contender. While San Francisco had some early season struggles, they are starting to get into a groove. Once Michael Crabtree comes back, the offense will be more explosive. Those are the three teams that I see as a threat in the NFC over Green Bay.

Green Bay has proven to be resilient so far this season, but the injuries are pretty significant. The pass rush is a major question mark without Matthews and Perry for at least the next month. I’ve been impressed by the secondary this season for the most part limiting A.J Green and Torrey Smith. They’ll need to continue their strong play by forcing coverage sacks.

Cobb is a massive loss based on being Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target and being a dual threat offensively. This isn’t a season changer like the Julio Jones injury from last week. Green Bay has so many weapons in their offense and now looks to have a running game for the first time in years. Eddie Lacy has been carrying the load and has lived up to the hype so far. A consistent running game makes the Packers offense even more lethal. It’s hard enough to stop Aaron Rodgers when he’s not using play action. Now teams will have to start respecting the Packers running game, which will lead to more success using play action.

NFL Story of the Week

In our NFL Preview, a team that you had as the second seed in the AFC and I had in as the third seed was the Houston Texans. The Texans sit at 2-4, losing four straight after coming from behind to defeat the Chargers in Week 1 and escaping the Titans in overtime Week 2. Three of their last four losses have been by 21, 31 and 25 points. The fans recently cheered quarterback Matt Schaub, when he went down with an injury against the Rams. Is it the quarterback position, coaching or something else that seems to be the problem in Houston and can they turn it around before the ship sinks?

Ace: I’ve been on the Texans bandwagon for a few years now, but I’m not sure what was more putrid, the team’s performance on Sunday or the fans cheering Matt Schaub’s injury? This is a team that has all the potential in the world, but for some reason nothing is clicking. They have no major injuries, aside from Owen Daniels on IR designated for return and Danieal Manning. Arian Foster has 531 yards and one touchdown on 117 carries. Andre Johnson has 495 yards and no touchdowns on 44 receptions and very quietly 2nd year man Whitney Mercilus has 4.5 sacks.

Looking at it, it should all be Matt Schaub’s fault. He’s the quarterback and leader. I don’t think that’s entirely true. He’s definitely part of the blame but not all of it. He’s been sacked 15 times this year and has thrown nine interceptions. Schaub has been pressured quite a bit this season, but some of the glaring numbers are that he’s completed 64.4% of his passes and thrown for 1,552 yards and nine touchdowns. His completion percentage is higher than Aaron Rodgers (64.1%), Tom Brady (56.9%) and Eli Manning (53.7%).

Should the Texans bench Schaub? No, not yet. The season is still salvageable with games against Arizona, Oakland, Tennessee and two against Jacksonville. Even if they win those five games, it only puts them at seven wins. The rest of their schedule puts them at Kansas City this weekend, Indianapolis twice, New England, and Denver at Reliant Stadium. Out of those five games, can you find three wins? It’s very tough seeing that outcome; they probably need to get to 10 wins to even sniff a playoff spot.

Anything can happen in the NFL with five divisional games left the Texans are very much alive, but they may be placed on life support with a loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

Allen: Other than the Falcons, nothing has shocked me more than Houston imploding. Aren’t you supposed to take a step forward offensively, when your team upgrades the wide receiver position? Matt Schaub was taking some heat from critics, before the season had begun. It seems like ever since that loss to New England on Monday night last December, he hasn’t recovered from that performance. Schaub was never a top quarterback, but he was efficient and proved to be more than just a game manager.

The turnovers are alarming and the crowd cheering about his injury is beyond pathetic. As for their issues, the quarterback play is an obvious issue. When Vince Young starts looking like a possible option, you know your season isn’t going in the right direction. The defense can shoulder the blame as well being the sixth worst run defense in the league.

What Houston needs to go back to is running the ball more. This is the last year that Houston will have Ben Tate. You might as well get the most out of Tate, while paired with Arian Foster. Houston may have to run the ball 30 to 35 times a game to avoid turning the ball over through the air as much. It may hurt to do that, especially when you have a top receiver like Andre Johnson in your offense. They don’t have a choice right now because the turnovers have truly derailed their chances to even stay competitive in games.

The defense is far from a liability, but they aren’t the same elite unit from two years ago. We’ve seen some cracks despite Brian Cushing coming back this season. They have only forced three turnovers so far this season, which is unacceptable. This is a defense that’s supposed to force quarterbacks into making mistakes or taking sacks. Neither of that has happened on a consistent basis this season. If Houston can start to win the turnover battle in games and run the ball more, they can salvage their season.

Allen: The New England Patriots have managed to fight through injuries, rookie mistakes, and a lack of running game. They are 5-1 and should be getting star tight end Rob Gronkowski back on Sunday.

Have you changed your stance with New England and now consider them a contender? 

Ace: I still think they’re a contender. When it comes to teams in the AFC, Denver is the favorite, while you have to think that 2a and 2b are the Patriots and Bengals. I do think New England’s defense is a little bit more suspect than Cincinnati’s, as they have played very well through the first six games, but I cannot count out Tom Brady.

I believe that we will see Tom Brady’s completion percentage start to rise in the coming weeks with Gronkowski returning. He will no doubt be Brady’s go to guy. I’m sure New England will drop a few games before the season ends, but I see no reason why this team won’t win 12 games and win their division. I’m excited for the playoffs to begin because I know we’ll see another epic Manning vs. Brady matchup. This time Captain Cool and his troops will march into Mile High and face Peyton in a similar climate that they have in Foxboro.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. As long as Brady and Bill Belichick are together in New England, heck, if they leave New England and move to Jacksonville, I still won’t count them out. They’re one of the all time great head coach/quarterback parings ever.

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

Last week you and Mike (representing me) went 5-0! Big props to Mike for going 8-2 over my two-week hiatus. I’m not sure if I would have done any better! We are deadlocked at 19-11 for the season. Here are this week’s picks!

The Ace’s Picks

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) vs. Detroit Lions (4-2)

This is a tough one to call. Cincinnati’s defense has been great this season and they have a chance of having a big offensive game against Detroit. I have Cincinnati winning narrowly.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

I agree that Dallas is better than their record, but not by much. I came into the season saying they’d win 5 games. They’re on pace for 8. I think the Eagles take this one at home, especially with the absence of DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

I believe that this is a do or die game for Pittsburgh and they will play their butts off. Big Ben escapes in a lower scoring affair.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

                              Seattle Seahawks (5-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

This is the sneaky game where I think Arizona could pull it out. Arizona remains tough, but ultimately, Carson Palmer turning the ball over a couple times will be the difference.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Denver Broncos (6-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

Peyton returns to the house that be built and he will turn it into his personal play place once again.

Winner: Denver Broncos

Allen’s Picks

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) vs. Detroit Lions (4-2)

Both teams are looking pretty vulnerable, despite having solid records so far. I’m not sure who is going to stop A.J Green, as Detroit’s secondary is clearly the Achilles heel to their defense. The status of Calvin Johnson’s health is another massive question going into this game. Cincinnati seems like the more reliable pick here, even though you have to commend Detroit for the way they have played so far this season. It should be highly entertaining to watch two of the top defensive lines in the league play in the same game.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The injuries to DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray are very concerning. Murray has quietly had a very good season after many people were questioning Dallas’ running game going into the season. This will be a close game as you expect, but I’m still sticking with Dallas. With Murray out, you’ll see Tony Romo air it out more this week. The play calling was odd on Sunday night, as they didn’t attack Washington enough through the air. They’ll do that this week against a horrendous Philadelphia defense and win in a shoot out.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

Unless Baltimore can get the running game going, it’s hard to see them win this game. Pittsburgh seems rejuvenated from the bye week and have developed a star in Antonio Brown. He’s starting to become a matchup problem for just about every team in the league. The defense is starting to come alive and they’ll harass Joe Flacco all day long.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks (5-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

I’m not giving up on Seattle because of their offense looking stagnant in recent weeks. Once Percy Harvin is healthy, they will be almost impossible to beat. This is a bad matchup for them going up against Arizona on a short week. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are going to be in the backfield all night long against Seattle’s below average offensive line. Don’t expect much scoring in this one. I’m taking the upset, as I’m starting to become somewhat of a believer in Arizona after saying they would be the worst team in the NFC two months ago. My apologies to all Arizona fans.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals

Denver Broncos (6-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

You have to expect that Indianapolis will open up the playbook more. The play calling on Monday night was way too conservative against a weak San Diego defense. They’ll need to air it out with Andrew Luck to stay on course with Denver. Von Miller makes his return and reminds people why he’s still one of the best pass rushers in the league. Denver wins in the must-see Sunday night game.

Winner: Denver Broncos

Allen: This weekend features much better games on tap. Everyone will obviously be tuning into seeing Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis. I’m not even going to bother getting into Jim Irsay trying to get personal with Manning. That whole situation is just silly and seems to be something that the media is attempting to build up.

As for the Monday night game, Adrian Peterson is playing in the game. That is enough of a sell to have my interest, especially with the great news of Minnesota starting Josh Freeman. I’ve always been a believer in Freeman and he should have an enjoyable night throwing against the Giants weak defense.

Ace: It should be an interesting game, but I do think the Giants will emerge from the game with a victory. I’ve been under the weather since last Sunday and didn’t get to enjoy a lot of football action, hopefully I will shake this and be ready for 12 hours of action on Sunday.

We’re slowly approaching the midway point of the season as we will revisit our predictions and we’ll start to get a good idea of who is a threat and who is a bust. Thanks for reading! We will see you next 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