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.
Ace: That’s it. The 2012 NFL Season has come to a close. On the bright side, it’s 178 Days until the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio to kick of the 2013 NFL Preseason! If you’re a big time sports fan, there’s no need to worry. You’ve got pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training for Major League Baseball in just a couple weeks. The NFL Combine is at the end of February. For you hoops fans NCAA Basketball gears up for a fantastic time of the year as the conference tournaments and NCAA Tournament of 68 begins in Mid-March. Major League Baseball opens up in the beginning of April and then the NHL and NBA begin their playoffs. The NFL Draft is in April and before you know it, we’ll start previewing the NFL’s Divisions and drafting our fantasy football teams and then talking about the opening night game that the Baltimore Ravens will host. Whew! It’s a bittersweet time of the year, the season has ended and we saw a fun game.
My thoughts on the game are as follows. I expected Baltimore to win this game, but I didn’t expect them to run out to such a commanding lead. After the kick return for a touchdown to start the second half, I thought all the momentum was on their side and they would continue to blow the game out of the water. Then the lights went out. San Francisco took advantage of the odd 34 minute delay to rest, stretch and game plan. They got it close but looking at San Francisco’s final drive I thought to myself, ‘You rode Kapernick and Gore through the playoffs, why would you not at least try to expose the Ravens Haloti Gnata-less defensive line.’ When it comes down to it I’m glad there was a no-call on the 4th down play. There was only one pass interference call in the entire game, so the officials were letting them play. It was a fun game to watch. It just gets me excited for next season when we can talk about our two favorite teams and hopefully them reaching this plateau next season.
Allen: NCAA College basketball is fantastic and will keep me happy. Also I’m possibly going to the NFL draft this year, which should be fun even though I watched zero minutes of college football this season. I’m not a fan of how the system is structured so I refuse to watch it.
The Super Bowl in itself was enjoyable. It was nice to see San Francisco make it a game and see Kaepernick shut up the critics. He’s a star and he’ll always be far better than Alex Smith. The play calling was questionable in the red zone and they paid for it. How they didn’t try to run it with Gore is beyond me. No wonder Frank Gore said in an interview that the Ravens got away with one. I agree with that because the 49ers looked capable of pulling the comeback off. Instead, a poor first half with no pass rush and miscommunication on both sides of the field cost them. As for the lights out, what can I say other than New Orleans continues to be a laughingstock in the NFL. It was an odd Super Bowl but overall the team that made big plays all four quarters rightfully won.
Ace: After facing another large deficit at halftime, the 49ers kept Colin Kaepernick in at quarterback during the Super Bowl. During the blackout, the CBS team was all but saying that they should possibly try to put Alex Smith in. We saw that Kaepernick brought them back into the game late.
Would you have stuck with Kaepernick after he was pretty ineffective during the first half?
Allen: I’m going to make this short because this is an easy answer. I’m very passionate with football and when I see a star, I’ll always stick by him especially when comparing him with an average player. Colin Kaepernick is a star and he’s going to be a great player for years to come. Alex Smith is nothing more than a game manager, who benefited from talent around him. Kaepernick can make plays with his arm and legs, while Smith needs all the support he can get. It was the right move to keep in Kaepernick, especially after his performance against Atlanta. Smith would have offered little to nothing and it would have ended in a blowout. If anyone thinks Kaepernick should have been benched, then you clearly haven’t watch the 49ers in these past two months. This is his team now and he has proved it week after week.
Allen: After the last two games in the playoffs, do you think the 49ers defense particularly the secondary has lost their edge? They were torched against Atlanta, which isn't surprising but then by Baltimore.
The pass rush needs improvement as well, but do you put the blame on the secondary for their failures? Also could you see them joining in the Darelle Revis sweepstakes?
Ace: They have a tremendous front four and linebackers, but yes I do think that the 49ers will address their defensive backs in the offseason. I could see Darelle Revis be a potential candidate to fill the holes there. I’m sure Jim Harbaugh would love to have a guy like Revis back there for the next 5+ years as this team is in their prime. Another name that could possibly fill a hole is Charles Woodson of the Packers. He’s a free agent after this season and unless he decides to take a huge pay cut from the team that resurrected his career, the 49ers could pay him in a return to the bay area, but in different colors. Justin Smith hasn’t been the same since he was injured against the Patriots and when Justin Smith isn’t at 100%, Aldon Smith is ineffective. We saw that through much of the playoffs and the Super Bowl as well. I don’t think the 49ers should panic with their front seven, but they need to look at improving their secondary.
Allen: The secret about the 49ers that some people don’t recognize is that the safeties are vastly overrated. Donte Whitner has allowed ten touchdowns this season and always tends to leave his cornerbacks to dry in single coverage rather than give them proper support when receivers run deep routes. Whitner had a poor game in the Super Bowl along with Dashon Goldson. Just because you see that two safeties made the Pro Bowl, it doesn’t mean that they are actually good. Both safeties are overrated and should take some of the blame, not just Chris Cullvier. They could make a move for Revis, but I’m not sure if the front office will be that aggressive. It certainly would make that defense instantly the best defense in the league, if it’s not the best already. I could see the move happening, but it falls on if the 49ers are willing to give up around three to four draft picks.
Ace: There will be several quarterbacks changing homes in the offseason. Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Matt Flynn and possibly Michael Vick will be changing area codes.
Where do you see these four ending up?
Allen: It’s rare that few teams need quarterbacks, but this is the year where you don’t see many teams in need of an quarterback. The most confident prediction I can make is Matt Flynn to the Jets because of the Jets new general manager coming from Seattle. It just flows right and I could see the Jets being able to do that. As for Michael Vick, I’m going to say he stays with the Eagles. It may be a surprise, but Chip Kelly will find a way to use him. Also I don’t think any team will bring in Vick because he doesn’t have anything left to offer as a starter. At this point, he’ll be a decoy for possible read option plays. Tim Tebow won’t be signed this season and he’ll possibly be out of the league forever. The feeling I’m getting is many people are sick of him around and don’t see any reason in bothering to bring him. Jacksonville was the only legitimate place, but they already announced that they have no interest. Alex Smith is tough to judge, but I’m going on a limb to say he ends up in Arizona. It could very well be wrong, but I could see them bring in Smith to compete with Kolb.
Allen: The Ravens have a lot of questions going into free agency and have a possible overhaul ahead of themselves.
Does Ed Reed return to the Ravens next season?
Ace: If he does, he’ll give the Ravens a discount on his contract. I think that locking up Joe Flacco is priority #1 for the team. Offensively, I think they’re in good shape, but with Lewis retiring and Reed possibly leaving, they’ll need to address the secondary in the draft and free agency. If I was gambling on this, I would say Reed is 60/40 in favor of returning to the Ravens, but he’s already talked about how he would love to play on a Bill Belichick coached team. I would flat out hate that move just because Reed has been one of my favorite players in the NFL, heck he’s been one of my favorite players since his days at Miami. I would say 60/40, but my gut is saying that he’ll want to explore his options in free agency.
Allen: I’m pretty confident that Reed will return. He always seems to be one of the players that is just a Ravens player for life and is proud to represent the franchise. I couldn’t see him wear another team’s jersey, along with being content on taking the leadership role in Baltimore and helping the team repeat as champions. Also I’m not sure if many teams would be interested in him mainly because he had a poor season. Reed is getting up there in age and his play is declining, but he’s still a great presence to have on the team. I’ll be shocked to see him demmand for a major contract, he is intelligent enough to know where he stands in terms of value at his age.
What are the three biggest needs of your favorite teams?
Allen: The Atlanta Falcons. They basically have two major needs right now and if they are addressed properly, they’ll be in the Super Bowl next season. Defensive end has seemed to be a need ever since 2008. It seems like a never ending saga with the Falcons due to under performing free agent signings and young players not developing into starters. With John Abraham turning 35 and Kroy Biermann not capable of being a full time starter at defensive end, the Falcons seriously need to bring a complete defensive end that is ready to play for most of the game. The running game needs to be obviously addressed with Michael Turner being released. I’ll always love Turner and thank him for 4 great seasons, but his time is up. If they can draft a power back to align with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, they could become even more unstoppable. If there is a third need to come up with, they could use a right guard since Todd McClure could possibly be finished and Peter Konz will move to center. The third need is a toss up, but a defensive end and running back are severe needs for the Falcons to get to the Super Bowl.
Ace: The Green Bay Packers. The biggest glaring need is their linebackers core. They were riddled by injuries this past season, Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry both went down, it will be nice to have them back, but they need to address their interior linebackers because AJ Hawk isn’t cutting it. Their next position of need was their most injured all season long, the offensive line. The Packers have to realize that Aaron Rodgers is their franchise and if they’re going to lock him up to a big time deal in his prime, they need him to be upright and not the most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Finally, they need a solid running back. I would hang on to Dujuan Harris and let the rest go. They need to pick up someone along the lines of Steven Jackson in free agency and draft someone in April like Montee Ball. They need to be more of a threat instead of a one dimensional pass first team. When they can run the ball, they’re even more dangerous. Look at the 2010 playoffs with James Starks. If they can address those needs, they’ll be towards the top of the NFC in 2013.
Allen: Well it has been a blast, but I’m pretty happy that the season is over. I’ll always love football, but eventually you need a break from it. Many of you are hardcore fans and you put a lot of emotion into every week of football watching your favorite team. I know I did and I was fortunate enough to watch my team play till late January. It was a great season and it will always be memorable to me. Sure it has some bad points with the replacement refs and some sad deaths, but the unpredictability and how there wasn’t ever a true dominant team made this year so enjoyable.
Ace: Well buddy, it’s been fun doing this with you and I’m looking forward to when we will regularly do this column again, my guess is sometime in July or so, but until then we’ll try to check in once a month to talk about Free Agency, the Draft and other Moves. Our next Article will be up on Tuesday, March 19th, a week after Free Agency is opened. From then on we’ll check in right around the middle of the month until about July when we start doing our NFL Previews. You can still check out Macho Men Radio. Tuesday night C-Mac and I wrapped up the NFL Season. The radio show will still be a weekly bit, be sure to podcast and listen to us all offseason long. Thank you for reading all season long and we’ll see you in a month!