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.
The Ace: It seems like it was just yesterday we were previewing the NFL Season and I was eagerly anticipating the Packers opening win against the 49ers. We are at Week Ten; there are seven more weeks of NFL action after this week until the playoffs begin. We already know a handful of teams that we’ll be seeing in January and I’m sure there are a handful of teams who know that they can set up some tee times in January. While we expected certain teams like the Patriots, Texans, 49ers and Falcons to be good, who’d of thought that the Colts would be in control of the 1st Wild Card spot in the AFC and that rookie Russell Wilson of Seattle would beat out prized Free Agent Matt Flynn to quarterback the Seahawks to the 2nd Wild Card in the NFC? There’s been massive disappointment by some teams as well. Kansas City was widely expected to contend for the AFC West title, but they sit at 1-7 and Romeo Crennell’s seat is getting very warm. Philadelphia and New Orleans we’re both supposed to be contending for playoff spots, but Andy Reid and Michael Vick might not survive the season, and the Saints might be eliminated from playoff contention before Thanksgiving. My Packers are banged up and thankfully are on a bye this week sitting at 6-3 in 2nd place of the NFC North. They could be 8-1 or 7-2 if not for some bad luck and bad play, but that’s neither here nor there, we’ll look forward to the 2nd half of the schedule that has 5 divisional opponents and a trip to the Meadowlands to face the team that crushed their Super Bowl dreams last season. Let’s get rolling!
Allen: The season seems to be passing by fast, not that I’m complaining. Some major surprises as usual in every football season with my favorite surprise this year being how many teams passed over Doug Martin in the draft. Doug Martin looks like the second coming of LeSean McCoy over the past few weeks. The Falcons continue to remain undefeated, which continues to amaze me. Even when the offense is struggling to score in the red zone, they step up whether it’s on defense or the guy that people thought was finished in Michael Turner. I’m not going to get into Atlanta much because I’m planning to write a separate column about them for Friday since they‘ve gotten to 8-0 and deserve more recognition. Without further or do, let’s begin talking about some contenders.
Ace: The Chicago Bears defeated the Tennessee Titans 51-20 in a dominant performance on Sunday. The Bears only loss this season came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. While their passing game ranks 30th in the NFL, their defense is clearly their strong point, after scoring a touchdown for the 7th time of the year.
Is Chicago the most dominant team in the NFC or is their relatively easy schedule a reason for their success this season? (Wins against: Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dallas, Jacksonville, Detroit, Carolina and Tennessee)
Allen: I’m a believer in Chicago and think they can make a run to the Super Bowl but you can’t say they are the most dominant team. People like to take shots at Atlanta for a weak early schedule yet they’ve beaten Denver and Philadelphia (impressive because Andy Reid has been undefeated coming off bye weeks especially on the road). Chicago’s most impressive win was arguably against Dallas since they were away and blew them out. Chicago’s defense is looking similar to 2006 with how dominant they are and how many players are stepping up. You have the usual stars like Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher, and Julius Peppers making plays but we’ve seen a few guys step up. Henry Melton has been a force at defensive tackle and Tim Jennings has six interceptions already. Some people thought Chicago’s offense was going to take some of the load off a defense that is starting to age a bit. That hasn’t been the case with Chicago’s defense and how dominant they are. They still have a good offense with Jay Cutler limiting his mistakes in the past few weeks and Brandon Marshall playing at a high level. The production doesn’t surprise me from Marshall because it has been a very long time since he’s played for a winning team. He’s always put up big numbers, but it was rare if he ever smiled because of the bad situations in Miami. The offensive line is still a major concern but Chicago is definitely not a fluke or overrated. It’ll be great to see how they match up in prime time matchups against two top teams coming up then in December against the Packers. If they can beat Houston and San Francisco in the next two weeks, then I’ll give them their due considering those are two top five teams in the NFL at least. If they get those two wins, then Chicago is the best team in the NFC.
Ace: You’re totally right about the defense. The D is fantastic, but the offense I wouldn’t consider elite. If Cutler doesn’t make the mistakes and gets Brandon Marshall involved, then they totally have what it takes to jump up to the next level. Personally, I think they’re a good team, the next two weeks and a home matchup against the Packers will determine if this is a great team.
Allen: I'm sure some people may be sick of it but there is no denying that the Dallas Cowboys are still one of the most popular teams in the NFL. Popularity doesn't equal success though and they are at 3-5 right now in a very tough NFC conference in general. So many questions that can be asked about Dallas but the thing that sticks to my mind is Jason Garrett.
Would you have fired him by now or would you fire him if they lose to the Eagles next week, or see what happens until the end of the season?
Ace: If the Super Bowl were based on popularity, Dallas would be there every single year. Right now Dallas sits at 13th in the NFC out of 16 teams. Tony Romo has been inconsistent and losing DeMarco Murray has hurt this team more than you’d think. Felix Jones is a serviceable backup, but without Murray this team has gone one-dimensional and when you’re quarterback is Tony Romo, you do not want to be a one-dimensional team. One positive note on Dallas and we saw it on Sunday night when the Cowboys lost to the Falcons is that their defense looks considerably better than it has in years past. Call Rob Ryan a good coach or call him a great motivator but one thing’s for sure, don’t call him late to dinner (Sorry I had to). Offensively speaking, Dallas is way too inconsistent. Jerry Jones says he’s behind Jason Garrett, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve heard Jerry Jones talk a lot and we’ve heard Rob Ryan talk a lot, but we don’t hear much from Jason Garrett. I don’t like the idea of a team firing a coach during the season, it’s not like it will make that big of a difference, why not let the season play out. If Dallas finishes terribly, I could see Jones letting Garrett go and replacing him with Rob Ryan. Deep down inside, I think Jones wants Rob Ryan as the head coach of this football team.
Allen: Dallas is clearly better than their record indicates but the mental mistakes that they make have me wondering if they would be better off without Garrett. You make a great point about how firing your coach usually means your giving up on the season, but Garrett’s coaching has been pitiful. His usage of timeouts against Atlanta was very questionable using them within 3:45 and not really using the two-minute warning to his advantage. Then in games against New York and Baltimore whether it was play call on 4th down or using timeouts poorly in late game situations, Garrett has looked lost. After watching how bad the Eagles are, if the Cowboys lose to them I’d fire Garrett. They played very well against the Falcons and gave themselves a glimpse of hope going forward. It seems like he’s lost the locker room a bit, but a division win can do any team wonders with morale and confidence. He’s on a short leash but Dallas schedule does get lighter and I’m not ruling out that they can make a run for the wild card. The talent is there, it has been said over and over again but its time for them to put it all together. The missed tackles, penalties, and poor 3rd down conversion rate have really cost them in the 2nd half of their close losses. It comes down to fundamentals something Dallas hasn’t shown much of this year. The game against Philadelphia could very well be the end of their playoff hopes or the start of possibly something huge.
Ace: After a 3 Touchdown performance in Week 5 against the Browns, Eli Manning has completed 54.5% of his passes, thrown for 847 yards (337 in one game) and 2 TD’s with 4 INT’s. The Giants are 3-1 in that stretch with 3 games being decided by a touchdown or less. Manning’s passer rating has dropped from 103.3 to 41.1 in that stretch, declining every week.
Should the Giants be worried about the consistent decline of Eli Manning over the last five weeks?
Allen: I’d be concerned but not completely worried because things can happen like this. With tough defenses like Dallas and Pittsburgh, they can make life miserable for any quarterback. Giants have become too predictable offensively with Kevin Gilbride really struggling to bring any sort of creativity with the play calling. It doesn’t help that Hakeem Nicks still looks hurt and is struggling to get open. The Giants look like a team that needs the bye week already but they’ll have to play Cincinnati first. A good running game is always a cure for Eli since he’s one of the best using play action. If the running game can get going, it will make things easier for Eli to work. The true stars like Nicks and Cruz can’t do it all; young players need to contribute on a consistent basis more like Martellus Bennett, Reuben Randle, and Andre Brown. During the Pittsburgh game, it seemed like Eli was losing confidence if he wasn’t throwing it to Cruz or Nicks. The throws that he usually makes have been over thrown as well. I’m not ready to get worried about a top five quarterback especially when the Giants are known to drop a few home games a season that they were favored in. I’m expecting Manning to bounce back against the Bengals next week and then start to gear up for a playoff run after the bye week. If Eli struggles against the Bengals, then it may be time to start becoming worried. Even though the division is weaker than ever, the Giants want to try to get a first round bye since they are in prime position to do so. They’ll need Eli at his best to compete with the top teams for 1st round byes.
Ace: I mentioned this in my NFL Preview of the Giants and the NFC East, the Giants have made the trend over the last number of years, pretty much during the entire Tom Coughlin tenure, of being a team that plays a great first or final 8 games. Sure, they’ve worked in a consistent year here and there, but a majority of those seasons we see a very dominant team to start the season and a shaky team down the stretch or vice versa. Have the Giants peaked? Maybe. Will they win this division? Probably, just due to them having twice as many wins as the 2nd place team. I still think this team can get to 10 wins and get in the playoffs, but if Manning and company play the way they have the last 5 weeks, they won’t get too far.
Allen: After the past few weeks, it amazes me how the race of the best rookie quarterback has changed. Even though Robert Griffin III is already showing that he's special, there is no denying that Andrew Luck has taken control of the rookie of the year race. Now forget the awards for now, what do you think of the Indianapolis Colts in general? They have been gifted with a pretty favorable schedule so far like all teams do when they are the worst team in the league.
Do you see Indianapolis being a serious wild card contender or will they drop off eventually.
Ace: We touched on the AFC a bit last week, but lets look at it like this; Indy has 5 wins, I think the magic number in the AFC this year will be 8 or 9 wins for a Wild Card team. Of the 3 win teams (Oakland, NY Jets, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Tennessee) I don’t see any of them making a legitimate run at the post season. There are two 4-win teams (Miami and San Diego) and Miami has shown glimpses of a team that could possibly make a run, but so has San Diego. I’m not sure which team I’d have more confidence in, a young inexperienced team in Miami or a veteran team that doesn’t seem to know which direction it wants to go in San Diego. Finally, there are four teams with 5 wins (New England, Denver, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh). I would think that New England and Denver would be the division champs, which would leave Indy and Pittsburgh as the two Wild Card teams. Indianapolis has a favorable schedule to reach the 8 or 9 win mark, which means they will control their own destiny, as long as they keep winning. Looking ahead to games that they should win, they have Jacksonville tomorrow night, they host Buffalo in two weeks, travel to Detroit the following week, host Tennessee the next and their second to last game has them traveling to Kansas City. If they win all 5 of those games and they’re sitting at 10 wins. I think they can take 4 of them for sure, with the exceptions being Buffalo or Detroit. The rest of their schedule has them traveling to Foxboro to play New England and a home and home with the division leading Houston Texans. This team is a serious Wild Card contender, with a schedule like that and playing inspired football for head coach Chuck Pagano, I think we’re in store for a fun run for the Indianapolis Colts. How much hype would a Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck playoff game have for fans? It would be off the charts.
Allen: Indianapolis is similar to last year’s Bengals in terms of how everything is set up. They were going to have a favorable schedule after last year and are making the most of it. Obviously the systems are different with the Colts being more pass heavy than last year’s Bengals team. They aren’t as physical as the Bengals defense but they can force turnovers. The schedule is so favorable and the inspiration of Chuck Pagano has them really believing in themselves. Confidence always helps and after that huge win over Miami, they are starting to believe that they can make a run. One major positive for the Colts has been the rejuvenated Reggie Wayne. People were shocked to see Wayne even come back to the team after all the releases that Indianapolis was giving to the veterans. Wayne managed to stay with the Colts and is now leading the league in receiving yards. He’s been easily Andrew Luck’s favorite target and has made some spectacular catches to keep drives alive. The odds are favoring them, but the defense still needs to improve since it’s lacking in many areas. They still have the great pass rushing duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but they’ll need young players in the secondary to step up. The team is growing and could sneak in as a 6th seed but I can’t see them upsetting a team like Denver. Manning against Luck would be magic and it’s a possibility right now if both teams stay consistent. Regardless this team is easily a serious wild card threat with the lack of competition around. Miami will be in the hunt and San Diego usually plays at an unbelievable level in December so you can’t rule them out. Other than that, like you said their isn’t any other team that you can see.
We know it's a QB driven league, but who is the best Running Back in the NFL right now?
Ace: There’s a few ways to answer this question, but living in Minnesota and seeing this guy everywhere, it’s got to be Adrian Peterson. You could say that Marshawn Lynch is in the conversation due to his beastly running style or that Arian Foster is the best because he’s a constant threat to score touchdowns, but pound for pound, the best running back in the NFL is Adrian Peterson. Think about this; here’s a guy who 11 months ago tore two major ligaments in his knee, rehabbed his butt off to get back to the top and look where he sit; 1st in the NFL with 957 yards rushing, aside from C.J. Spiller’s 7.2 yards per carry, A.P. is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He has 6 touchdowns but the scary number is that 11 of his runs are 20+ yards. When A.P. gets through the defensive line, and kicks it up a notch, he’s as scary as they come. I’ve compared him to another running back that had a similar injury at the same time last year, Rashard Mendenhall. If you want to compare stats; Mendenhall has played in 2 games, and has 74 yards rushing on 19 carries. Adrian is a freak, and if he stays healthy and puts up big numbers, he could go down as one of the all time greats in NFL history.
Allen: Arian Foster would be the ideal choice considering how good he is and how it’s almost impossible to stop him but Adrian Peterson is my pick right now. He may not be the receiver that Foster is, but Foster is nowhere near as explosive as Peterson. Foster can run over defenders and make some fancy spin moves but Peterson takes it to another gear in the open field. Also Peterson doesn’t get the honor to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the league in Houston. Peterson seems to carry the team on his back sometimes and has to make plays on individual effort. His comeback story has been outstanding and he’s doing just about everything to keep the Vikings around in the playoff hunt even though they have hit a rough patch in the past few weeks. Peterson is still the most dangerous running back in the league and hasn’t missed a beat in his return this season. Peterson has really beaten the odds and has played even better than ever.
Ace: This is Week Ten of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. My Packers are on a bye this week, so we’ll replace it with an NFC North battle along with 4 other games! I went 4-1 to Allen’s 3-2 last week meaning I’m now one game back of him. Allen is 30-15 and I am 29-16
Detroit (4-4) at Minnesota (5-4)
The wheels on the bus are falling off…falling off…falling off. The wheels on the bus are falling off, and so is Christian Ponder! Detroit wins.
Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5)
New Orleans defense is horrible. If you have any of Atlanta’s offensive weapons on your fantasy team, you’ll be in for a big day. I think Atlanta puts up at least 35 and wins big.
St. Louis (3-5) at San Francisco (6-2)
As a birthday present for John, I figured we would talk about his Rams. Unfortunately, I think John would rather have the outcome for the Rams last Sunday. (The Rams were on a Bye) San Francisco wins. Sorry John but make sure to wish him a belated birthday, it was this past Sunday.
San Diego (4-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4)
Despite a big win at home against one of the worst teams in football, I think San Diego is on the decline and Tampa Bay is on the upside. Tampa Bay wins in a close game.
Houston (7-1) at Chicago (7-1)
Do you know what these two teams have in common? They’re both apart of the ‘We Got Beat by Green Bay’ club. Chicago has faced two playoff teams from last season, GB and Detroit, while Houston has defeated Denver and Baltimore. Chicago has dominated the terrible teams, but as you know this isn’t a terrible team. I think Houston steals one.
Allen: Ace got one up on me. Maybe I shouldn’t pick against that Andrew Luck guy.
Detroit (4-4) at Minnesota (5-4)
With Percy Harvin likely out for this game, Minnesota’s chances look bleak. They may be at home but Detroit seems prime and ready to get a huge division win.
Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5)
After years of seeing Atlanta lose to New Orleans, I’m happy to see Atlanta have a far superior record. I’m still feeling something funny that New Orleans can shock the world especially at home. Atlanta is too disciplined though and the defense will get enough stops in a likely shootout. Atlanta stays undefeated.
St. Louis (3-5) at San Francisco (6-2)
This should be a great defensive battle. St. Louis has to be thankful to not be playing against an elite quarterback after the past couple of losses. The Rams offense is still pretty below average and San Francisco is a great home team. 49ers win and it could be a blowout if the Rams don’t protect the ball.
San Diego (4-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4)
San Diego traveling to the East Coast is already concerning me. The secondary is still pretty below average and how is Doug Martin going to be stopped? Vincent Jackson is thankful not to be in San Diego anymore and Tampa Bay continues to win.
Houston (7-1) at Chicago (7-1)
This is what I call a Sunday night game! The difference in this one is that Chicago’s offensive line is going to have serious issues against Houston. That will lead to turnovers and I like the chances that Matt Schaub protects the ball better than Jay Cutler. Houston wins in another statement game behind protecting the ball and forcing more turnovers, along with Foster carrying the load.
Ace: Not a lot jumps out at me this week. Houston/Chicago is definitely the game of the week and I’ll be pulling for the Lions to upend the Vikings just so I can watch their ship continue to sink. I’m heading up north for the weekend, so I’ll set my fantasy lineups and check in on them Sunday morning and not worry about football this weekend. Big thanks to you, Allen for coming on Macho Men Radio this past Monday night. We moved the show ahead a night due to the Election in the U.S. and my giant ego didn’t want something bigger than the show going on that night. We had a lot of fun discussing some of these topics and the NFL. Good luck to you and your Falcons this week, I know I’ll have a stress-free Sunday with my Packers resting up for the Lions next week. Have a great weekend!
Allen: The bye week couldn’t have come a better time for the injury filled Packers team. It will probably be another stressful weekend for me that will lead to joy in the end. The New Orleans Saints have always been the team I hated the most and the wins over Atlanta still hurt. From the failed fourth down on their own 27 in overtime last year to the blowout on Monday night football, New Orleans has owned Atlanta. Even in 2010, when Atlanta won the division over the Saints they lost at home on Monday night to the Saints. I’m sick of it and hopefully they’ll finally get revenge. Other than that, I’m really excited for the Sunday night game to see if Chicago is legit. The Monday night game has the Chiefs in it, which makes you want to smell the ratings right? The smell is worse than Christian Ponder’s passer rating in the past few weeks sorry for the spoiler. I’m working on a Falcons related column for Friday on why they are the best team in football right now and how things are changing with them from the past two years on both sides of the ball. Some people believe in Atlanta while others are waiting for January. Either way is fine but I’m going to explain how this team is different from the past few years and it will be a shocker if they fail to win at least a playoff game. It will be up by Friday so be on the look out for that. Until then, thanks for reading and feel free to like or comment below to start up debates or just feed back in general.
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