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.

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18.

Ace: …And then there were two! The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will meet on February 3rd in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. Are you ready for the next 12 days to be filled with ‘Brother vs. Brother’ and Ray Lewis’ Final Game? In Joe Namath like fashion last week on Macho Men Radio, I guaranteed there was ‘No Way’ the Baltimore Ravens would lose to the Patriots. I’m sure you’ll get into this as well, but I was pulling for your Falcons, but still took the 49ers. This week Allen and I will recap this past weekend’s games and look back at the 2012 Season. Next week will be our Super Bowl Edition followed by our 2012 Season Wrap-Up Edition. Let’s get down to business.

San Francisco at Atlanta

This game couldn’t have started off any better for the Atlanta Falcons. 17-0 at home against a team that Green Bay couldn’t stop the prior week. To beat San Francisco, that’s how the Falcons needed to start the game off, the finish wasn’t what they needed to do, however. They needed to play solid defense and make no mistakes. Matt Ryan tossed a pick and lost a fumble in what very well would have been the deciding factors in the game. Matt Ryan and company got the playoff monkey off their back, but not after having to come from behind late after having a big halftime lead. Same goes for this past weekend against the 49ers, although they couldn’t pull the trigger on the comeback. Colin Kaepernick didn’t blow me away in this game, but the team maintained it’s poise after trailing most of the game and they took the lead late, not letting the Falcons have the opportunity for a late comeback.

Baltimore at New England

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I was expecting a Ravens win from the beginning and that’s exactly what took place. Say what you want about Joe Flacco and the Ravens. They’re as cool, calm and collected as any road team in playoff history. That might sound a bit preposterous, but look at what Flacco did this postseason. He defeated the rookie hype with Andrew Luck, beat Peyton Manning at Mile High Stadium and did something no one had done in 67 times when trailing against Tom Brady at halftime. He beat him and the Patriots. Flacco set an NFL record with his 6th road playoff win and now has 8 wins in the playoffs. He’s tied with Jim Plunkett, Eli Manning, Steve Young and Dan Marino with 8 wins. Should he win the Super Bowl, he’d be in the same company as Bart Starr, Kurt Warner, Donovon McNabb, Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning with 9 playoff wins. He’s only 28 and is just wrapping up his 5th year in the league. I think it’s time we start to look at Joe Flacco as one of those upper echelon quarterbacks in the NFL.

 

Allen: I’m slowly recovering from the heart breaking loss, but of course I’m here to talk about it. It was very frustrating to lose a 17 point lead, then seeing one of the greatest first half performances by a quarterback ever to fall in shambles in the 2nd half. Matt Ryan was having a phenomenal game and tearing apart the 49ers defense like nobody has this season. Russell Wilson did but unlike Ryan, he has a running game. Overall though this still hurts, but the Falcons have a great future and I’ll continue to write on.

San Francisco at Atlanta

Wait I have to talk about this more? It’s simple as this and it may sound odd, but the Falcons aren’t built to hold a lead against explosive offenses. The two elements that you need to hold a major lead is to run the ball and to have a pass rush. You can’t rely on your passing game the entire game because eventually teams will build to stop it along with the offensive line starting to wear out. Then when you have a lackluster pass rush, Colin Kaepernick had all day to make plays. It was frustrating to watch this happen, but it didn’t surprise me. There was reason I took the 49ers and despite getting criticized for it, it was the right pick. They ran the ball effectively and used Vernon Davis, which was wise because Atlanta has struggled all season against tight ends. There were too many flaws for Atlanta this season and they did benefit from an easy schedule. They still have a young team and I’m sure they’ll be contending for a Super Bowl for years to come. Let’s just hope Tony Gonzalez has one more year in him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he retired and I would respect the decision 100% percent.

Baltimore at New England

It was tough to analyze this game, but I’ve seen the majority of it and it was pretty shocking. After this loss, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots are aggressive in adding an explosive wide receiver. You see receivers like Julio Jones, Michael Crabtree, and Torrey Smith making explosive plays and being a constant threat to the secondary. New England doesn’t really have a player like that, which is why it’s becoming easier to defend them especially with Rob Gronkowski injured. They may have a running game now, but the lack of a deep threat really has affected this offense against good defenses. Baltimore has stepped up overall, which is shocking because I really didn’t see this coming. Joe Flacco continues to shut the critics up, even though I still think he’s not an elite quarterback and I’ll stand by that. Another player that is shutting the critics up is Anquan Boldin, who has been aging and not getting open as much. He may not be getting open, but he’s making so many difficult catches and has looked rejuvenated in the playoffs. Along with the defense, those two players have really helped Baltimore pull this unexpected playoff run off.

 

Ace: This week the article will have a different feel. We’ll talk about the Super Bowl but we won’t make our predictions until next week. This week we will revisit our end of the season awards. We will pick who should win it and the runners up along with who we had originally picked in August. This should really determine who has the most elite of football minds. Speaking of Elite Football minds, Allen will win our picks segment, but I correctly hit on both winners last week and with one game left to pick, I trail Allen by 5 games. He sits at 62-33 and I am 57-38. Let’s get to the Awards

 

Coach of the Year

Ace: I was either onto something or on something when I picked the Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West and possibly prevent the Denver Broncos from reaching the playoffs. My runners up could of easily taken home this award. First, Pete Carroll saw it clearly in the NFL Draft by selecting Russell Wilson. Despite paying some big money to free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, he elected to roll with the rookie out of Wisconsin and his gamble paid off. The Seahawks played excellent on defense, but Wilson and Marshawn Lynch helped the offense shine as well. I’m sure Carroll was scrutinized by the media for not going with Flynn, but once they saw Wilson on the field, I’m sure the critics were quieted. My second runner up is Leslie Frazier from Minnesota. The Vikings started off 4-1 with big a big win against San Francisco but fell off after terrible play from Christian Ponder. Frazier was criticized for not pulling the plug on Christian Ponder in favor of Joe Webb, but Frazier knew what he had with Ponder and ultimately not jumping the gun and replacing his quarterback, he left him out there and that ultimately put them into the playoffs. The Indianapolis Colts were projected to finish 3rd of 4th in the AFC South behind Houston, Tennessee and possibly Jacksonville. After Week 3, they lost head coach Chuck Pagano until Week 17 as he underwent treatment for Leukemia. Bruce Arians stepped in and led the team with remarkable class and when Pagano was ready to coach again, welcomed him back with open arms. We saw how in disarray the Saints were this season when they lost their head coach due to suspension. It’s remarkable how Pagano and Arians in their first season with the Colts were able to keep the team focused on the goal at hand.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Runner(s) Up: Pete Carroll, Seattle & Leslie Frazier, Vikings

Preseason Pick: Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs

Allen: It’s funny that we both chose coaches that are now fired. This is an easy prediction for me and it has to be both coaches in Indianapolis. It was an inspirational season and they played their tails off. Mike Shanahan gets the runner up for me based on nobody picking the Redskins to win the NFC East.

2012 Coach of the Year:  Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Runner(s) Up: Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins

Preseason Pick: Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Ace: I believe this category is up for grabs. I’m sure Allen, along with everyone reading looked at this category and thought I’d go with Casey Heyward from the Packers. It very well could be him after his 53 tackle and 6 interception season. Harrison Smith was my preseason pick and he made the Vikings look great by trading up to get him late in the first round. He finished the season with 103 tackles, 1 sack, 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. My pick this year will go to a guy who was a little bit under the radar, but could very well end up being a solid 13 year NFL linebacker and that’s Luke Kuechly from the Carolina Panthers. He was apart of 164 tackles along with 1 sack and 2 interceptions. When you see a defender with as many tackles as Kuechly had this season, he plays sideline to sideline. Great season by him, I think it comes down to these three.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Runner(s) Up: Casey Heyward, Harrison Smith, Bruce Irvin

Preseason Pick: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Allen: Despite Carolina being a below average defense, Kuechly has already played like a leader and has been very productive. It was a pretty weak year for defensive rookies but Kuechly is a star on the rise. Smith helped a Vikings secondary that was among the worst pass defenses in 2011.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Runner(s) Up: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Preseason Pick: Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Bucs

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ace: There were two names that were mentioned for OROTY when the season started and those two names were Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the first two picks of the NFL Draft. As the season progressed two other names came out as candidates. RG3’s teammate, running back Alfred Morris (1,613 yards and 13 TD’s) and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3,118 yards, 26 TD’s and 10 INT’s). Luck set a rookie record for passing yardage in a season (4,374) but he threw 5 less interceptions than touchdowns (23-18). My pick is Griffin. He had a 65.6% completion percentage along with passing for 3,200 yards and 20 TD’s to 5 INT’s. What pushes Griffin over the top for me is 815 yards rushing with 7 TD’s. He had a huge year on the ground, lets hope he’s ready to go for his Sophomore campaign.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Runner(s) Up: Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Alfred Morris

Preseason Pick: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Allen: It was a tough season overall to choose a clear winner and there could very well be two co-winners. I’m still going to pick Griffin because he was so dynamic and had to go up against a very difficult division. NFC East may be overrated, but nobody saw the Redskins winning more than 6 or 7 games. Luck is the runner up because he was more valuable to the Colts than Russell Wilson is to the Seahawks.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Runner(s) Up: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Preseason Pick: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Ace: This was a one horse race from the beginning of the season. Names like Clay Matthews, Von Miller and Aldon Smith have popped up as competition for him during the season, but it was Watt’s award to lose. He broke out in the playoffs last season against Cincinnati and hasn’t looked back since running that interception in for a touchdown. He finished the season with 20.5 sacks (2 shy of the single season record) 16 pass deflections and 4 forced fumbles. His mere presence on the defensive line makes quarterbacks and offenses change the way they scheme just to get around his massive wingspan. I would say in the next handful of years, along with Watt, the three other guys I mentioned will be battling for this award all season long.

2012 Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Runner(s) Up: Von Miller, Aldon Smith

Preseason Pick: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

Allen: Both players were fantastic this season and threatened to break the sack record. The difference between both players is that Smith has a much better supporting cast than Watt. Justin Smith clearly plays a role in Aldon Smith’s success, while Watt was a one man wrecking crew at one point this season. That makes it an easy selection for me.

2012 Defensive Player of the Year:  J.J Watt, Houston Texans

Runner(s) Up: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Preseason Pick: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

 

Offensive Player of the Year

Ace: I’m going to talk about my runners up in my final two awards much more, but let me tell you why Calvin Johnson is my pick for the 2012 Offensive Player of the Year. Through seven games this season, Johnson had only 638 yards and 1 Touchdown. Doesn’t sound very OPOTY like now, does it? Through his final 9 games he averaged 9 catches and 147.3 yards per game. Finishing the season with 1,964 yards on 122 receptions, he broke Jerry Rice’s single season record and had managed to do the unthinkable and top 100 yards in 6 games he didn’t; we’d be talking about how he may have set a record that might never be eclipsed. People can argue that a lot of his yardage was in garbage time. Where do we draw the line at garbage time? I mean, should we throw out all of Jacksonville’s stats because essentially from the 2nd quarter of Week 1 they’ve been playing nothing but garbage time? Johnson had a heck of season and set records. He’s the 2012 Offensive Player of the Year.

2012 Offensive Player of the Year: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Runner(s) Up: Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning

Preseason Pick: Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Allen: This award is pretty much given to the runner up of the MVP award. Manning will be that and he is my pick, although if Johnson wins it he deserves it. Johnson broke a major record this year, but I highly doubt that they would choose him over Peyton.

2012 Offensive Player of the Year:  Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Runner(s) Up: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Preseason Pick: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

 

Comeback Player of the Year

Ace: When I think of a ‘Comeback Player’ I think of someone who was injured and didn’t have much of an impact on the prior season. This award is down to two players for a majority of people and it’s between Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning. Last year Adrian Peterson missed 5 games, went down Week 16 with his ACL/MCL injury but still managed to get almost 1,000 yards and 12 TD’s. Peyton Manning missed the first 16 games of his career last year and a lot of people were speculating that his career was over and he wouldn’t be able to come back from all of his neck surgeries. The Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler as insurance to Manning and speculated that if they ever needed a deep ball thrown, Osweiler would be inserted into the lineup to do just that. As we saw, Peyton Manning didn’t just comeback quietly, he came back and dominated. He threw for his 2nd best completion percentage of his career (68.6%), 2nd best yardage total (4,659) and 2nd most touchdowns (37). He improved the Broncos from 8 wins to 13 wins, but they still came up short of expectations. Peyton Manning, however, exceeded expectations and is my pick.

2012 Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Runner(s) Up: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Preseason Pick: Did Not Pick

Allen: This was another easy pick and I’ll explain why below. Basically whoever wins the MVP shouldn’t win the comeback player of the year. Plus Manning missed an entire season, while Peterson played 15 games.

2012 Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Runner(s) Up: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Preseason Pick: Did Not Pick

 

Most Valuable Player

Ace: Adrian Peterson had the 2nd best rushing season in NFL History. He fell 8 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Through six games his season was starting off a little sluggish like Calvin Johnson’s. Peterson had 499 yards through six games and then he just exploded. Coming off of major knee surgery 9 months earlier, AP was able to run for 2,097 yards on 348 carries. The Minnesota Vikings were a 3 win team last season and there’s no question that if it weren’t for Peterson, the Vikings would have been lucky to go past 5 wins. Peyton Manning improved the quarterback position in Denver, but they had a solid core of guys to compete. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are two guys that will be in the conversation but both did as much as they could of with what was around them. Adrian Peterson had one of the worst QB’s in the league throwing to a bunch of nameless wide receivers. The defense was average and mixed with an easy schedule it was very easy for Peterson to run away (Pun intended) with the 2012 MVP.

2012 Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Runner(s) Up: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers

Preseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Allen: Adrian Peterson was my choice to win the MVP for the simple fact that he’s more valuable to Minnesota than Peyton Manning. Manning is very valuable, but Peterson literally carried the Vikings offense. There was a point when Peterson was averaging more yards per carry than Christian Ponder yards per completion. That’s an amazing stat and it cements that Peterson deserves the award especially with Denver being far more talented as a team over Minnesota.

2012 Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Runner(s) Up: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Preseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

 

Ace: This is a fun week for the NFL. No, not because it’s Pro Bowl week, but because I love reliving past Super Bowls and seeing highlights, games and stars from the past talk on NFL Network about their glory days. Another nice part of this week is that I can look back and say that I don’t think the Green Bay Packers could have beaten the Ravens or Patriots in the Super Bowl, so I’m glad they’re sitting this one out. Allen, I know it’d have been more fun last week if our two teams squared off, and I know it’d be a much more exciting 14 days if one of our teams were in the big game. Let’s be honest here, after my team’s performance in the Divisional Round and the collapse your team suffered, is it for the best that the Falcons and Packers aren’t the NFC representative? We talked about that and more last night on Macho Men Radio, go ahead and check that out after you’re finished reading what Allen has to say.

Allen: It was an interesting discussion and I’ll just wrap it up by saying that the 49ers were the best team in the NFC since November for me and they played up to my expectations. I’m happy at what the Falcons achieved and they played up to my expectations, but it’s clear that the 49ers were the better team. It sounds painful especially after having a commanding 17-0 lead and were literally fifteen yards from a likely Super Bowl berth. It was exciting and memorable, but it didn’t surprise me to see them lose because I’m a realist. That being said, I’ll stand by that the Falcons would have beaten the Ravens. The Ravens have been dodging some bullets with Denver not being able to convert some easy 3rd downs and then missing on a clear interception, instead it went for a Jacoby Jones last minute touchdown. As for New England, they mostly earned that one but I still think that upset in Denver was lucky. I just feel that Joe Flacco isn’t as good as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, which would lead to Atlanta getting enough stops and scoring enough offensively. Anyway I’ll enjoy the week off and possibly check out the Pro Bowl for a bit. Other than that, enjoy the week off Baltimore and San Francisco fans. Thanks for reading.