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.
Allen: The weeks keep on passing by in the NFL and things keep on getting more bizarre. I'm not sure what makes more sense Rob Gronkowski breaking his arm on an extra point with the game already over or the Falcons winning despite five interceptions from Matt Ryan (3 of them were off deflections and dropped passes). My headache from Sunday's game lasted a few days but getting to 9-1 is huge regardless of how ugly it is. The playoff race continues to heat up with the Saints, Bucs, Bengals, Cowboys continue there respective winning streaks to boost their wild card hopes. You are going to start seeing contenders rise and pretenders fall, along with all the cheesy quotes you want to use. It's a shame that injuries are piling up especially with a few contenders in the quarterback position. Many people have seen in prime time how poor Chicago and Pittsburgh looked with Jason Campbell and Byron Leftwich leading their respective offenses. You would like to see teams try to run the ball, but with average offensive lines its tough to get anything going. It goes unnoticed but staying healthy is a very major component to going all the way to the Super Bowl unless you're the 2010 Packers where you can have eight guys on IR but it doesn't matter when the quarterback and defense is unbeatable. The Ace is probably getting all giddy that I made a Packers reference, that's my cue to stop the intro.
Ace: I am giddy, you mentioned the NFC North Division leading Green Bay Packers! Think about this, if the playoffs started today the #3 Packers would host the #6 Seahawks at Lambeau Field with real referees! It wasn’t as dominant of a showing as I hoped on Sunday for the Packers, but their defense and special teams bailed out their offense and Mason Crosby. I’m excited that we’re in the home stretch with 6 games left on the NFL schedule. The Lombardi Trophy is really up for grabs, Houston and Atlanta both sit at 9-1, but like you said, Matt Ryan threw 5 interceptions and Houston won in the final minutes of overtime against Jacksonville. The Bears looked extremely bland against a San Francisco team who might have a quarterback controversy on their hands. Let’s get down to business, shall we?
Allen: A trade that went under the radar during the season was Aqib Talib going to the Patriots. Talib is a very talented cover cornerback, but has had difficult in staying out of trouble. In his first game as a Patriot, he had an interception returned for a touchdown.
Do you see Talib making a huge impact in New England and boosting the Patriots Super Bowl chances?
Ace: Sometimes all a troubled player needs is a change of scenery and it all works out, except for Pacman Jones. Think about it, Talib made the move from Tampa Bay, Florida to Foxboro, Massachusetts. I don’t think there are the same temptations and nightlife in New England as there were in Tampa. Bill Belichick knows what it takes to be a winner and I’m sure Talib knows that he’s been given a second chance by a team with a stellar reputation in the Patriots. Belichick’s move is low risk, high reward. If it doesn’t work out, they lose a draft pick and they wash their hands of it. If it works out, it could work out very well. This is Talib’s 5th year in the league and he’s averaging about 5 interceptions per season (19 for his career) and can swat the ball down consistently as well. I think this move will help out the Patriots defense, which struggled last season and was a huge reason they didn’t hoist the Lombardi last year. Will it get them over the hump? It’s hard to say because like I mentioned above, it’s hard to predict who will even be in their respective league championship games, let alone the Super Bowl.
Allen: Talib has always been a top corner in my eyes and he gave Roddy White all he can handle when he was on Tampa Bay in those intense divisional games. You make a great point about the change of scenery and location. It sounds silly but sometimes players just need to stay out of areas that are known for their nightlife. When I saw the Patriots make this move, I was happy to see him out of the NFC but it made me think that it was typical New England making a wise move. Talib knows how great the situation is and has been playing well this season before the suspension. With top receivers like Andre Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and Mike Wallace in the AFC, he will be called upon to cover the top guy. He’s an impact player that New England desperately needed in their secondary. I’ve seen games where they have made Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez look like Pro Bowlers, which is never a good sign for any defense. This may be the 3rd biggest steal I’ve seen in 2012 when it comes to trading. Brandon Marshall to Chicago for a few draft picks and Asante Samuel to Atlanta for a 7th round pick were the biggest steals for me but Talib only going for a 4th round pick is genius by New England.
Ace: We've talked a lot about the Steelers and Colts being in control of their own destiny for the Wild Card spots in the AFC, but a team that's 5-5 and winners of two in a row are the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers and Colts both fell to 6-4 this past weekend as Cincinnati improved to .500.
Ben Roethlisberger is out with an injury and Byron Leftwich is looking everything like a backup, do you think the Bengals are a legitimate threat to move past Pittsburgh in the standings?
Allen: The Bengals are a legitimate threat but I just don't see it happening. They still have to play Pittsburgh in Week 16 and I'm confident that Roethlisberger will be back by then. Also I'm sure you'll see Pittsburgh upgrade at quarterback through free agency or their own team for now. Pittsburgh is a team that is gritty and always seems to get the job done. It also helps that Pittsburgh has the tiebreaker over Cincinnati right now. I'm just not a believer in how limited the Bengals are offensively and they’ve had some favorable match ups. The blow out win over the Giants did catch me off guard but blowing out the Chiefs isn't anything to jump around about. The defense is still prone to give up too many passing yards and Andy Dalton gets flustered when A.J Green is double covered. They still seem too inconsistent to make a true push but with the AFC being so weak, anything can happen. If they make it to the playoffs, it would be at the Colts expense. Pittsburgh always finds a way to make it and will do so again. I'm not a fan of their addition of Plaxico Burress though, it seems like a bit of a desperate late season addition but he could prove me wrong.
Ace: The key to Cincinnati’s success will start and end with the running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cedric Peerman need to make this team more than just Dalton to Green. They’re too one dimensional right now with their passing game and that’s what’s slowing them down. They could end up 8-8, but you’ve more than likely hit the nail on the head by saying Pittsburgh is a gritty team who will beat you on the ground if they don’t have the right guy throwing the ball. Big Ben will be back for the Week 16 matchup when the Bengals and Steelers go head to head. Looking at their next four games Pittsburgh has Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego and Dallas while Cincinnati has Oakland, San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia. I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams are 8-6 and playing for a playoff spot when they meet on December 23rd, but an injury or a surprise team could derail those plans.
Allen: A few injuries happened as usual this week but nothing seems more of a loss than Willis McGahee for the Broncos. I'm aware of Rob Gronkowski missing the rest of the regular season most likely but that just means the Patriots offense averages 31 points instead of 34 points without him. McGahee is a huge loss for Denver, as he will likely miss the rest of the regular season.
Peyton Manning is having a huge season but without a running game, does Denver's offense decline and do they get a first round bye?
Ace: I don’t think they’ll decline because they’re really high on running back Ronnie Hillman and now it’s his time to shine. Early in Peyton Manning’s career he had Edgerrin James but over his last few in Indianapolis he had a declining Joseph Addai, so there wasn’t much of a running game there. If Hillman can step in, I think Denver will continue to roll, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to kick the tires on a free agent running back that’s out there to provide added depth and another veteran voice to help out Hillman. Keep in mind that Baltimore still holds the #2 seed and it’s theirs until they fall out of that spot, so Denver doesn’t have a bye locked up by any means. With New England playing well they’re tied with Denver at 7-3 but own the head to head tiebreaker. I believe that Denver will finish with 11 or 12 wins. They travel to Baltimore and host Tampa Bay, which will be their two toughest remaining tests. One thing that we should know by now is don’t count out Peyton Manning.
Allen: I’ve seen glimpses of Ronnie Hillman and he’s shown some promise. I’m not sure if he can even handle 20 carries, so you may see a free agent come in and spell Hillman or Lance Ball. Denver has been on such a roll that it’s almost been criminally unnoticed. People rave about Peyton Manning but it seems like the defense gets no appreciation or even players like Eric Decker. Denver’s defense was the major reason why they beat San Diego in the epic comeback win on Monday Night last October. Denver will take a small hit on offense because it’s never good to be one-dimensional. Willis McGahee may not be putting up the same numbers as last year, but he’s still productive and a threat to defenses. Even though Denver is very close to being the 2nd best team in the AFC, I’m leaning towards them missing on a bye week. They are prone to lose a game or two down the stretch even though Peyton has been phenomenal this season. Houston and New England have easier schedules down the stretch as well. Baltimore may be the number two seed but I don’t have much faith in them going forward.
Ace: With a win on Thursday against Washington, the Dallas Cowboys will be at 6-5 and a half game behind the Giants when they host the Packers on Sunday night.
Do you see the division slipping away from the Giants to the hands of the Cowboys or will the defending Super Bowl Champs turn it around on their post bye schedule and successfully defend their NFC East Division Championship?
Allen: I knew Dallas was too good to let their season implode this early unlike Philadelphia. Even though Jason Garrett is still a cancer to the team's success, Dallas is playing hard and still doing just enough to win games. The offense is still underachieving for all the talent they have but some of that can attribute to a poor offensive line, bad play calling, and not having DeMarco Murray running the ball. You would expect a receiving core of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten with Tony Romo throwing the ball to score more than 21 points a game, which is ranked 21st in the league. Thankfully for Dallas fans, the defense has played better than it has in years thanks to a new and improved secondary. With a top ten worthy defense, Dallas hasn't imploded and they are in the thick of the playoff race. That being said, I don't see them making the playoffs at all. Even though the Giants have a difficult schedule, they have a sense of urgency after how poor they have played in the past few weeks. The bye week couldn't have happened at a better time for them so Hakeem Nicks can get fully healthy and Eli Manning can rediscover his arm. Dallas is just too inconsistent and will lose a few home games that they should have won as usual. Both teams are very inconsistent but the Giants are too good to falter and will step up in big match ups against the likes of Green Bay and Atlanta. I'm expecting them to win one of those games because when competition is at its best, the Giants step up and play at their best.
Ace: I by no means am a believer in the Dallas Cowboys but looking ahead at their schedule they should beat Washington on Thanksgiving and then have a ten-day break to prepare for their Sunday Night matchup hosting Philadelphia. That would put them at 7-5 if they win both games, but here’s where the schedule gets tricky; they travel to Cincinnati, come back home to host Pittsburgh and New Orleans and they wrap up their season in Washington. The winner of this division might have 9 or 10 wins. Can Dallas get to 10? Maybe they can but can the New York Giants? Their remaining schedule is: home against Green Bay, at Washington, home against New Orleans back to back road games at Atlanta and Baltimore and they finish up the season at home against Philadelphia. Both teams have tough similar tests; I’d lean with the Giants just because they’re far less inconsistent than the Cowboys.
Should the 49ers go with Colin Kaepernick at QB instead of Alex Smith?
Ace: No it’s that plain and simple. Smith went down with a concussion and I hate seeing guys lose their jobs to an injury. We saw Kaepernick’s athletic ability in the preseason when he took a run 80 yards against the Vikings and I’m sure the 49ers know the ability he has. Kaepernick throws a hell of a long ball and no doubt he’ll be a starting quarterback for the 49ers in the future. When Smith is healthy the job is his. I don’t think Smith will be with the 49ers next season. If he’s on their roster on April 1st, 2013, then his $7.5 million is guaranteed for the season. There are some other teams that might be looking for a quarterback after this season, hey Kansas City, how you doing? Colin Kaepernick will be the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers on opening day 2013.
Allen: Smith has had some poor games this season but it would be cruel to bench him. He’s still having a solid season and there is nothing worse than having a controversy when you are making a playoff push. Kaepernick was impressive on Monday night against an elite Chicago defense, but Smith has really improved over the past year and half. The team has showed trust in him and he has shown the ability to get the job done. Smith should stay at quarterback barring any future injury. As for your theory about next season unless the 49ers win the Super Bowl, I see Smith leaving San Francisco. He’s going to have to be that good because Kaepernick could become a star while that ship has sailed for Alex Smith. Smith is serviceable at best but that doesn’t mean you bench in the middle of a push to get a possible first seed in the playoffs. Stick with what you have until something serious happens.
Ace: This is Week Twelve of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. We both went 5-0 last week, so Allen is 37-18 and I am 36-19. I don’t think we’ll agree on all of our picks this week, in fact, Allen might call me a bad name.
Green Bay (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4)
Aaron Rodgers should be Thankful for his wide receivers and good defensive play. Packers win.
Atlanta (9-1) at Tampa Bay (6-4)
Tampa Bay should be thankful that New Orleans got off to a terrible start. Bucs win in an upset and improve their playoff chances.
Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6)
Houston should be thankful for a division that has Tennessee and Jacksonville in it. Houston wins.
Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5)
Dallas should be thankful for Rob Ryan and his luscious gray locks…and for playing in a division that no one wants to win. Dallas Wins.
San Francisco (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5)
The 49ers should be thankful for Alex Smith’s concussion. Now they have a quarterback competition along with on the field competition. 49ers win.
Allen: Tampa Bay upset? You really want to be down more than one game. I won’t call you bad name, I’ll just say look at the standings and see what team is number one right now in the NFC.
Green Bay (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4)
It may still be in November and that’s the month the Giants stink, but they are coming off a bye. Green Bay has played really well with some of their top stars injured but the winning streak stops here. Giants front four has a big game and Hakeem Nicks will make several big plays. New York gets a much-needed win.
Atlanta (9-1) at Tampa Bay (6-4)
I wish we could wait till Friday so I know if Sean Weatherspoon will be back or not. If he plays, I’m confident with the Falcons limiting Doug Martin. By limiting, I mean keeping him to 85 yards. This should be a great game, but I just don’t see Tampa Bay’s defense having an answer for a furious Matt Ryan. Atlanta wins another close & I get closer to having gray hair as a teenager because of this team.
Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6)
The only Thanksgiving game I’ll be able to watch most likely. Titus Young will be watching too, since he has the attitude of a six year old. I’ve been saying for a while that Detroit has too many flaws to contend and it’s been exposed. Houston will win and possibly turn into a blowout after the terrible defensive performance against Jacksonville.
Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5)
A must win game for Dallas since it’s a division game and they are at home. This is a very winnable game and the defense is starting to really become a great defense. Washington is always a threat with Griffin & Morris but Dallas won’t let down their fan base in this one. I’d give it two weeks or so but for now Dallas prevails.
San Francisco (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5)
I’m really stumped on this one similar to Atlanta at Tampa Bay. I really like the chances of an upset but San Francisco seems very focused. Also they haven’t forgotten about the Saints and how Gregg Williams was coming after to injure players like Frank Gore. Sproles may not play but if he does, I don’t see him being much of a factor. 49ers win in what should be a great game.
Allen: Just looking at those picks and I noticed, the NFC has three outstanding games this week. The best part about those games is that they are all on different times. You can watch Matt “used to be a MVP contender” Ryan try to bounce back at1 pm againstTampaBay. Then you can see at 4:25 Drew Brees against San Francisco “anyone can be our quarterback” 49ers. Then at prime time, Ace will be on a tweeting rampage as the Packers look to avenge their loss from last year in the divisional playoffs to the New York Giants. I’m stoked for this week and really look at this schedule as a great week. The only down part of Week 12 is the Monday night game. Carolina versus Philadelphia, are you serious? I might as well dedicate an hour to watching whatever awful NBC singing competition show. Hopefully everybody’s favorite Thursday night football song artist Cee-Lo Green is judging so I can look at his ridiculous face along with his outfit. Other than that, I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and thankful for all of you that read what Ace and I discuss every week.
Ace: I wonder if you’re picking the Giants because I picked the Bucs? Anyway, it’s almost as if we get a bonus weekend of football with games on Thanksgiving. I’m sure I’ll catch most of the action on Thursday but like you said, Sunday is shaping up with a great slate of matchups. The Monday night game is a bit of a snoozer, but for those of you that are contending for a Fantasy League Regular Season Championship and Cameron Newton is your quarterback (like me), you’ll be watching. The Packers have a lot to prove on Sunday night, if they can take down the defending champs at home that will give them a big momentum boost going into their matchup with the Vikings next week. Speaking of the Vikings, big thanks to Paul Allen, radio host heard in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul on FM 100.3 KFAN. He’s the play-by-play guy for the Vikings and he joined Macho Men Radio last night and we got a good NFL discussion in. Allen, I hope you and your family have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. To everyone that reads this or listens to me on Macho Men Radio, I thank all of you for taking the time out of your day to dive into our world a bit. Have a great Thanksgiving and we’ll talk next week!
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