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

Allen: Thankfully the best rivalry in football saved us on championship weekend. I’m still fired up from Richard Sherman’s incredible post game interview. It was so good that I wrote about it last Monday, along with how he’s the best cornerback in the game. So I’m not going to ramble on about him. There are other players on Seattle that deserve credit like Doug Baldwin, Byron Maxwell, and Brandon Mebane who don’t get enough publicity for their stellar play. San Francisco did let me down a bit, since I’ve believed in them for the past two years that they’ll win a championship when the playoffs started.  There is always next year, when you have a stellar defense and a young quarterback.

Ace: There’s no question that Sherman is the best cornerback in the league. His numbers don’t lie. Since he’s been in the league he leads the league in interceptions and quarterbacks he faces have a ridiculous passer rating of something like 37.5%. What a Championship Sunday that was! Peyton Manning dominated and the Denver Broncos looked like the elite class of the AFC, while the New England Patriots looked like an average team at best. The AFC has a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the NFC.  Let’s get rollin’!

AFC Championship

Denver Broncos 26, New England Patriots 16

Ace: Like I just mentioned, I expected Denver to win this game. They showed they were the better team all season long and sure, every great team has some hiccups along the way. I’m not going to sit here and talk about what I liked out of Denver because Manning threw for 400 yards and everyone stepped up and played big, including their defense. What I will talk about is the horrendous play of New England.

We talked about this on Tuesday’s Macho Men Radio, but do we remember what got the Patriots past the Colts in the Divisional Round?  The running game. Bill Belichick and company definitely forgot that. They rushed the ball 16 times in this game and When you’re down by 10 at halftime, that by no means says ‘abandon the running game’. LeGarrette Blount ran for 160 yards two weeks ago, he ran for 6 on Sunday, on five carries, mind you.

It appalls me that such a great coach can give up so quickly when one part of his offense isn’t working. If Blount wouldn’t have blown up against Indy, would they have even won that game? It was a tight game until Andrew Luck turned the ball over and Blount exploded on some big runs. It doesn’t surprise me too much because one of the Patriots big offseason acquisitions, Danny Amendola, was targeted one time on Sunday and didn’t catch that ball. The Patriots have a lot of work to do to rise to the top in the AFC next season after playing with somewhat of a skeleton roster with some guys on IR and in jail.

Allen: Nothing really caught me off guard, when this game was played. I knew that New England wouldn’t muster up a running game and LeGarrette Blount would go back to being a below average running back. There is no explosiveness when he runs and doesn’t cut back very well. The big surprise has to be the play of Terrance Knighton. He has been the best interior tackle for Denver all season, but for him to completely dominate Logan Mankins wasn’t expected. Mankins is a six time Pro-Bowler, yet he was getting manhandled at times including on the big fourth down sack by Knighton. Tom Brady missed some throws, but even the greatest quarterbacks can’t perform well with a below-average receiving corps.

The only other surprise was the poor coaching decisions by Bill Belichick. New England has the opportunity to cut a 17-point deficit to 14 points. Instead of kicking the field goal, he elected to go for it and it leads to Brady being sacked. Why don’t you take the points? For all the praise that he gets, it was nice to see Belichick’s ego get taken down a few notches. He’s always had the mindset that he can make any decision and his team will back him up. That doesn’t happen when you are going up against a more talented team.

Aqib Talib being injured was another major turning point. I have to mention that Belichick is delusional for thinking Wes Welker blatantly knocked into Talib. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and very enjoyable to watch, when jamming an opposing receiver at the line of scrimmage. That doesn’t change the fact that Talib has become fragile and simply needs to keep his body in check. For him to get injured in two straight AFC championships should say something, along with coming out of games in the past two months. As for Denver, they handled their business as usual. If Demaryius Thomas isn’t on your top five-receiver list, you need to wash your face and open your eyes.

NFC Championship

Seattle Seahawks 23, San Francisco 49ers 17

Allen: This was the game that I was looking more forward to and it lived up to expectations as expected. Besides their win in Atlanta last year, the other two losses in the NFC championship showed a glaring weakness in San Francisco’s offense. They lack receiver depth, which caused Colin Kaepernick to be erratic once again. Richard Sherman took Michael Crabtree out of the game, until the last drive when they moved Crabtree around. A combination of Seattle’s athletic linebackers and hard-hitting safeties made Vernon Davis anonymous. Anquan Boldin was the only receiver consistently making plays. They may need to add another slot receiver, since Mario Manningham can’t stay on the field.

Seattle’s front seven didn’t let Frank Gore get past the line of scrimmage on most of his carries. Colin Kaepernick’s legs were essentially San Francisco’s offense for most of the game. It was surprising to see San Francisco’s offense become so inept at times. After playing against them twice this season, you would think they move Crabtree around to find ways to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker. He’s a very good receiver, but isn’t someone that can beat an elite cornerback like Sherman.

Eventually San Francisco’s defense tired out, as Marshawn Lynch ran all over them in the second half. They attacked Carlos Rogers, who may have come back from his injury too soon. He looked slower than usual and Russell Wilson didn’t hesitate throwing his way repeatedly. This has become the best rivalry in football and it’ll always come down to a few plays to determine who will win between them. Kaepernick forgetting where Kam Chancellor was on his first interception and throwing it Sherman’s way on his second interception were the plays that determined the outcome. It was an incredible game similar to last year’s NFC title game.

Ace: We’re going to get into our preseason predictions coming up soon, but one of my Bold Predictions would be that the 49ers would not win the NFC West, advance past the divisional round and Colin Kaepernick would come back to earth a bit. I was right on two of three of those predictions. I’ve been called nuts and scoffed at when I’ve said that I don’t believe San Francisco is a Super Bowl contending team. I think they’re an elite team, I really do, but I don’t trust Colin Kaepernick’s arm. His legs are what wins him and the 49ers games but when Kaepernick sits in the pocket, I don’t think he’s among the best.

The 49ers have loads of talent but so do the Seattle Seahawks. They’re a gritty, hard nosed team that I thought might have gotten ahead of themselves when the 49ers jumped out to the 10-0 lead. This team did not panic and that’s what Super Bowl teams do not do. Russell Wilson is wise beyond his age and I don’t think this will be his last Super Bowl. The one play that people are forgetting was his heads up play to chuck the ball deep on the free play with the 49ers penalty and it went for a score. He took a gamble on the deep ball (Well, not really because the worst case scenario would have been an incomplete pass) and it paid off big time.

This game was everything I expected and hopefully this coming offseason Kaepernick and company can focus on beating the best team in the NFC in 2014, because that won’t be them. They can do all the Beats by Dr. Dre commercials they want, but just because the media crowns you, doesn’t mean you’re the king.

Allen & Ace’s Preseason Award Winners and Playoff Predictions

Allen’s Awards and Predictions

Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, Detroit Lions

Coach of the Year: Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wild Card Round

Bengals over Ravens

Patriots over Dolphins

49ers over Cowboys

Buccaneers over Packers

Divisional Round

Broncos over Patriots

Texans over Bengals

Falcons over Buccaneers

49ers over Seahawks

Conference Championships

Broncos over Texans

Falcons over 49ers

Super Bowl XLVIII

A rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII except this time it won’t be so one-sided. The result won’t change though, as the Broncos offense will be too much to handle. Atlanta’s questionable offensive line and mediocre pass rush will finally catch up to them. Peyton Manning wins his second Super Bowl and Denver’s aggressive spending finally pays off.

Allen: There are clearly some head shaking picks here. My NFC South predictions were completely butchered by picking Atlanta and Tampa Bay over New Orleans and Carolina. How about picking Greg Schiano for coach of the year? That may be the most embarrassing pick of them all. What he did involving the Josh Freeman controversy was so pitiful. I’m sure Ace is still chuckling that I picked Tampa Bay to upset Green Bay in Lambeau Field. Many people picked Atlanta and Houston to go far, so that doesn’t annoy me as much. How about the irony of me calling out both lines of Atlanta in August? That’s the main reason why they went 4-12, besides losing Julio Jones.

As for the awards, the Peyton Manning pick couldn’t have been more obvious. They put an all-star supporting cast around him, you knew it was going to be his year. Peterson and Watt both had tremendous years, but injuries and poor overall team play will take them out of the running. LeSean McCoy and Robert Mathis would be my picks for those respective awards.

Austin and Ansah both came on late in the season, which was too late for them to have a legitimate claim for rookie of the year at their respective position. Keenan Allen and Eddie Lacy should share the offensive rookie of the year award because they were both spectacular. Sheldon Richardson easily wins defensive rookie of the year for playing a big part in the Jets suffocating run defense. For coach of the year, I’m going with Chip Kelly. He reinvoragted Philadelphia’s talent with a bunch of role players and two stars. His system played a big role in the success of Nick Foles and Riley Cooper. Unlike Ron Rivera, he was afforded a great front seven or a good quarterback situation.

The Ace’s Awards and Preseason Predictions

Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player of the Year: Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona Cardinals

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Wild Card Round

Texans over Chiefs

Colts over Patriots

Packers over Bears

Giants over 49ers

Divisional Round

Broncos over Colts

Bengals over Texans

Seahawks over Giants

Packers over Falcons

Conference Championships

Broncos over Bengals

Seahawks over Packers

Super Bowl XLVIII

It will be cold. It will be snowy. This game will benefit the team with the better defense and stronger running game. The Seattle Seahawks will defeat the Denver Broncos 27-23 in a classic!

Ace: I can’t believe I didn’t expect Peyton Manning to have a record setting career season! I can make a case for Aaron Rodgers as MVP since his team went 2-5-1 without him and they looked like a JV team. AP as the OPOTY was another contradiction of myself when I said that he wouldn’t go for more than 1,100 yards. The one bright shining spot on my predictions would be Richard Sherman as defensive player of the year. It could happen and I know the votes have already been tallied, but he’s go the momentum right? I think Allen is right too, Allen or Lacy will walk away with the offensive rookie and Richardson on defense. Coach of the year I will go with Ron Rivera. He made everything click this season and we both had Carolina coming in last place.

I was wrong on four teams reaching the playoffs the Texans, Bears, Giants and Falcons. I’ll hope to get 100% of my teams next season. When it all comes down to it, in August I put Seattle over Denver in a cold snowy game. It’s going to be cold and snowy will I pick Seattle? We’ll find out next week!

Taking a look at our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge,’ Allen is 61-32 and I am 59-34. The best I can do is coming up one game short. I knew we should have picked the Pro Bowl!

I’m actually going to watch some of the Senior Bowl on Saturday and maybe look for the next Green Bay Packers safety or offensive lineman. We talked extensively about the NFL on this past Tuesday night’s Macho Men Radio that Allen was apart of. Check it out! Have a great weekend of no NFL action. You better get used to it because after the Super Bowl, there will be 181 days until the first preseason game!

Allen: Usually I don’t watch the Pro Bowl, but it was announced that Tony Gonzalez would be playing in it. That announcement alone forces me to watch at least him play on offense. Other than that, it’s hard for me to watch a game where the defense isn’t playing that hard. That’s why I’m not a big NBA fan anymore. Anyway enjoy the weekend off from football and start planning accordingly for the Super Bowl. I’ve already ordered my Sherman shirt in honor because of how incredible he is. L.O.B!

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