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: It's 12/12/12, do you know what that means? It's Aaron Rodgers Day! It's a real thing, I swear. Here, look! We are through fifteen weeks of the 2012 NFL Season and there are still five NFC Playoff spots up for grabs and three NFC Spots. While we know which teams might be in, it comes down to if they’ll be a division champion or a wild card team. After digging out of over a foot of snow on Sunday there were some exciting matchups. The Vikings did my Packers a favor by beating the Bears, the Colts came from behind to defeat the Titans and the Redskins knocked off the Ravens in overtime. I sent you a text on Sunday night when the Packers were struggling and asked you how depressing and diseased our column would be this week if both the Packers and Falcons lost. Cameron Newton (thanks for the fantasy win, Cam) had one of the best games of his young career against your Falcons. What happened? Many were convinced, including me that the Falcons would win. They need to be careful as they go into the final weeks of the season. As of right now the playoffs go through the Georgia Dome, but the 49ers and Packers are both licking their chops hoping for another Falcons slip up.
Allen: It’s nice that Atlanta picked early December to play their worst game of the year. That may be exaggerated because the worst could be yet to come if they don’t start playing with the intensity and urgency that a playoff team should have in December. It was a bit alarming but I’m not worried yet. After last year’s playoff loss, they will be fired up for the Giants and look to avenge that horrible defeat along with my 270 dollar ticket (is that possible?). New England put themselves in top contention as the best team in the league after the domination over Houston. The scary part about New England’s win was how their defense shut down a potent Texans offense. Now that New England’s defense is playing well, who exactly is going to stop them? It was an odd week with wild card teams falling flat like the Steelers and Bucs against low-level teams. I’m looking forward to seeing what questions are ready to be offered after an unpredictable week like Week 14.
Ace: We saw Robert Griffin III suffer a hyper extended knee and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins came in and went 2/2 for 26 yards and a Touchdown. His big play came on the game tying two-point conversion, where he ran it in up the middle.
Would you shut down RG3 next weekend in favor of Cousins when the Redskins travel to Cleveland to face the Browns or would you risk it and let him play?
Allen: If I’m coaching Washington, I’m playing Griffin as long as he says he can play. If that means that he can’t even practice the entire week, I would still play him. Cleveland has quietly put together a 3 game winning streak and is proving to be a tough team to play with how competitive they are. This won’t be a walk in the park for Washington and they can’t afford to lose any games right now especially a game that they should win. Cleveland may be tough, but Washington has to feel confident going into this one. With the Giants playing Atlanta, that could open things up for Washington to get even with the Giants in the record column. It could be a huge risk but Griffin has proven to be one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league for a player that is only a rookie. Griffin has come back from adversity time and time again; this will be just another step. Cousins did well in his absence but he can’t be trusted to lead an NFL offense for an entire game. Washington has to do all they can to get Griffin on the field. If that means handing the ball off to Morris 30 times then so be it, but they need Griffin out there whether he’s healthy and explosive or just a decoy that will throw 15 to 18 times. He’s the face of the franchise and wherever he goes along with Alfred Morris, Washington goes since they don’t have a good defense and the passing options are limited.
Ace: It’s a huge risk, but here’s what you have to do if you’re Washington. Cleveland has been much improved, so they might be a bit tougher, but you have to game plan having RG3 in for one half. If they could get out to a 3 score lead at halftime, you pull RG3 in favor of Cousins for the 2nd half. Their final two games are pivotal in the playoff run. If the Redskins can knock offCleveland and Philly over the next two weeks, a Week 17 showdown against Dallas at home will be the difference between making the playoffs. It could very well be for a division title too. If you’re Mike Shanahan, you go balls to the wall to win that game in the first half, so your star quarterback can take a half off and recover before two big final games against divisional opponents.
Allen: It’s very rare to see a firing in December from a team that is in the middle of playoff race yet the Baltimore Ravens have done that. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired by the Ravens after the organization felt he was starting to hinder Joe Flacco's development as a franchise quarterback?
Do you agree with the decision on firing Cameron in December when your team is supposed to start to gel?
Ace: I don’t really agree with any regular season firings on any level, but this change had to occur in Baltimore. A loss earlier this season to Philadelphia by 1 and now back to back losses by 3 points to the Steelers and Redskins will do that to a team with Super Bowl aspirations. This is a good football team and good football teams do not play 4 straight games where the final score is separated by 3 points. Despite all the injuries on defense this team’s offense has been the problem and held them back. Joe Flacco has failed to surpass 200 yards passing in 6 games this season, which is unacceptable in a pass happy league. Their next two games are at home against Denver and the defending Super Bowl Champions. Winning their next game may be the difference of finishing with a first round bye or the #4 Seed.
Allen: Didn’t Joe Flacco call himself elite before the season started? That was a nice chuckle, but in all seriousness I agree with this move. Cameron is known to be an excellent offensive mind, but this was a bad combination. It was clear that they became too pass happy at times and weren’t using Ray Rice enough. Rice is a top five running back and he becomes forgotten about when games get desperate. Joe Flacco isn’t in position to be a top quarterback right now, he’s not good enough. They need to run the ball more and this situation reminds me of the situation in Philadelphia before they imploded. They weren’t using LeSean McCoy enough, who is their top play maker. Rice is the same player as McCoy to that offense and its mind boggling that he doesn’t get the ball more. I’ll give Flacco some due working behind an average offensive line and the receiving options aren’t great. Torrey Smith has been inconsistent this year and hasn’t stepped up like the number one receiver that he was advertised to be. Everything about Baltimore’s offense has underachieved this year, so the firing is a good move even at a very odd point of the season. The next two games are going to be a turning point for the Ravens this season playing two championship contenders in the next two weeks.
Ace: Barring a crazy collapse by the Atlanta Falcons, they will be the #1 Seed and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The #2 Seed is still undecided with the 49ers and Packers the most likely of candidates to gain a 1st round bye. If the Packers defeat the Bears next Sunday and the 49ers lose to the Patriots, the Packers will have a 0.5 edge for the #2 Seed. The New York Giants, however, hold the tiebreaker over Green Bay and San Francisco, so they are in the mix as well.
Who is more likely to have a 1st Round Bye in the NFC: the 49ers, Packers or Giants?
Allen: The most intriguing part about the race for the 2nd seed is that none of these teams have locked their division yet. Every team that you mentioned above has a team right behind them within one game. Despite their lackluster play in the past few weeks, I’m going to pick the Packers to get the 2nd seed. We all know how schedules help teams and Green Bay is really benefiting from the weaker schedule out of the three. Chicago looks depleted now without Brian Urlacher and they are having offensive issues. Then they have games against Tennessee and Minnesota, which really should benefit them. Green Bay hasn’t been playing their best football but they should finally start getting fully healthy. Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews should be back within a week or two to make the team fully healthy for the first time in months. Green Bay still has some concerns with their offensive line and running game, but they seem fully suited to get the bye. San Francisco is probably the best team in the NFC, but they run into difficult matchups with the Patriots and Seahawks. Those games will be both away, even though I still see the 49ers beating the Seahawks. As for the Giants, their schedule is far too difficult and can’t see them winning three straight games like the Packers. All three teams should win their respective divisions, but Green Bay will win the bye. The strange part is that Green Bay will really benefit the most from the bye week. We know that the Giants don’t need a bye week to make a Super Bowl run and the 49ers are built to play four games to win the Super Bowl with how physical they are. Green Bay would benefit the most and they are most likely to get it.
Ace: I agree. I think that after Sunday night’s matchup of San Francisco and New England, Green Bay will hold the 0.5 game edge and maintain it. There’s a good chance that Minnesota can beat St. Louis and that end of the year matchup with Green Bay and Minnesota could mean a 1st round bye for the Packers and a Wild Card spot for the Vikings. Green Bay won’t take any games off between now and the end of the regular season. This team desperately needs the bye to get healthy, I think it will be theirs, they should win out and as long as the 49ers drop one, the Packers are the #2 seed.
Allen: The St. Louis Rams have quietly played their way back into the wild card race. They haven't gotten much attention this year.
How do you feel about the Rams possibly making a push towards a wild card spot and are thy capable of doing it?
Ace: Did John Canton’s question come early this week? I’m just kidding. For the last couple of years I’ve been pulling for the Rams. I was hoping they’d beat out the Seahawks for the division a couple of years ago and I think I picked them to win the division last year. Its okay, I think I took the Chiefs this year, as Spiderman on Family Guy says, ‘Everybody Gets One’. I feel that they are capable of it, but a few things have to fall into place perfectly for the Rams to make the playoffs. Here’s a look at the playoff picture:
5.Seattle-(8-5) at BUF, vs. SF, vs. STL
6.Chicago-(8-5) vs. GB, at AZ, at DET
7.Washington-(7-6) at CLE, at PHI, vs. DAL
8.Dallas-(7-6) vs. PIT, vs. NO, at WAS
9.Minnesota-(7-6) at STL, at HOU, vs. GB
10.St. Louis-(6-6-1) vs. MIN, at TB, at SEA
Looking at the remaining games for those teams, obviously if Seattle and Chicago win out, they’re in the playoffs, and if Seattle wins out, they’re NFC West Division Champs. I believe that Minnesota and Dallas will be out of the playoff picture after their Week 16 games, so that leaves Washington and St. Louis to contend. Washingtonhas the best chance of going 3-0 to finish at 10-6. Things will get interesting if Chicago and Seattle both lose a game. It will come down to Detroit beating the Bears Week 17 and St. Louisdefeating Seattle at Century Link Field. I think it’s a long shot, but personally I believe the Rams will finish 7th or 8th this year and next year they will be big time contenders. If I had to choose the Wild Card teams for this year, it would be Seattle and Washington.
Allen: St. Louis has been gritty all season and they have been competitive for most of their games this year. They have outplayed the “favorite” of the NFC right now in the 49ers in both games. They have a top ten defense with a talented front four leading the way. Sam Bradford continues his gutsy play despite the lack of talent around him to throw to, which has given the Rams some hope after a lackluster 2nd season. The fact that they won the last two games without Danny Amendola shows that Bradford is growing and really battling through the offensive struggles. They are still flawed in major areas, but St. Louis fans have to be ecstatic right now that they are playing competitive football in December. They are facing an elimination game against the Vikings though. Any loss from here on out and they are probably finished so the playoff chances for the Rams are minimal but the future couldn’t be brighter. I’m still in shock that Tampa Bay has imploded and they are pretty much finished in the wild card hunt since they were my pick a few weeks ago to make it. It looks like Seattle, Chicago, and Washington will compete for the wild card along with their respective divisions. Minnesota’s flaws will eventually get to them especially with Percy Harvin out for the season. Dallas has a similar problem with Dez Bryant possibly done for the season and that will be a serious hit to Dallas offense along with their chances to get a wild card spot. The race should clear out eventually, as the season wears on even though it has been enjoyable to see so many teams competitive for this long in December.
John Canton: As of right now, 7 of the 8 division leaders won their divisions last year with only the Falcons a new division leader.
Do you like seeing the same teams in familiar positions or would you have preferred some surprises?
Allen: I’m always open to seeing new teams contend. You can look at football like life where sometimes you would like to see change. Of course in my best interest, no change in the NFC South would be greatly appreciated. I’m enjoying how teams are coming up like the Redskins and Seahawks to where you can really see them contend for first place in their division for the next 3 to 5 years. People shouldn’t be content on seeing the same teams make it, regardless of how much you enjoy them. Of course you’ll still have the Patriots and Packers around, but how refreshing is it to see the Texans as the number one seed in the AFC. They aren’t the best team in the AFC right now after Monday night, but they are still a Super Bowl contender and it was only two years ago when they had the worst pass defense in the league that couldn’t stop anyone. I’m all for different changes and I’m happy to see the usual bottom feeders like Washington finally become relevant and put together one of the most exciting offenses I’ve watched in years.
Ace: As I mentioned before the season started, on average there’s about 5 new teams added to the playoff picture every year. If the playoffs started today the only difference from this year’s playoffs and last years (teams, not division winners or wild card teams) would be the addition of the Seahawks, Bears and Colts. The Saints, Lions and Bengals would be missing out after being in the playoffs last season. It’s possible thatWashington could edge out the Giants and the Bengals could beat out the Steelers, but other than that, your playoffs are pretty much set. I love seeing new teams in the mix, as Allen says about his Falcons, I don’t mind if the NFC North Champion every year is the Green Bay Packers, but it’s so refreshing to see a team like the Texans or Bengals in the playoffs, because once you get there you have no idea what can happen. The NFL is full of parody, unlike the NBA or MLB where if you picked four teams to win the NBA Finals, you’ll have a pretty good likelihood of having a correct guess. Until Tom Brady retires, the Patriots will be a constant threat, but it’s nice to see such a good amount of turnover in the NFL.
Ace: This is Week Fifteen of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. Allen is 48-22 and I have fallen behind 5 games to 43-27. We differ on two games this week, one of mine might be a long shot, but I need to make up ground!
Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5)
The defense is banged up and Jay Cutler has a neck injury. The last big game these two teams played was the 2010 NFC Championship Game where Cutler got hurt and never came back in. If Cutler doesn’t play or is limited, it’s an easy win for the Packers. I’m excited to see Tramon Williams matchup with Brandon Marshall. Green Bay Wins and is the NFC North Champions!
New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2)
Huge game for both clubs, if Atlanta Loses, they’re 11-3 and could be in serious jeopardy of losing their #1 Seed. If the Giants lose, there’s a good shot that they could be tied with Washingtonatop the NFC East. It’s a home game, and Matty Ice rarely loses there (Unless it’s to Green Bay). Atlanta Wins.
Minnesota (7-6) at St. Louis (6-6-1)
This is a huge game for both teams. The winner of this game greatly improves their chances of a Wild Card Spot. The loser of this game will start to focus on next year, possibly. It depends on how Dallas, Washington, Seattle and Chicago do. I think Adrian Peterson has a big day, but Christian Ponder struggles. St. Louis wins and John Canton pre-orders playoff tickets.
Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2)
Coming off their second loss (and second humiliation on National Television) the Texans get their first look at Andrew Luck (and their second comes in two weeks). This is the biggest game of Andrew Lucks young career, why? If he wins, they’re 1 game behind the Texans with a road game against Kansas Cityand a season finale against the Texans. With a win, Andrew Luck’s legacy will start to grow and what bigger game for Head Coach Chuck Pagano to return to the sidelines than a 11-4 vs. 11-4 Colts/Texans matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium for the AFC South Division Championship. Indianapolis wins.
San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3)
After seeing New England fire on all cylindars Monday night against Houston, I don’t think Colin Kaepernick and company will be able to keep up. What’s that, King? Is that Alex Smith’s music? My Gawd! Alex Smith! He’s back! Still, New England wins.
Allen: I keep on winning, Ace keeps on losing. Did anyone expect different? Of course you didn’t.
Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5)
It was only about a month ago that Chicagoseemed primed to win the NFC North with their dominant defense. Now that defense is starting to show some cracks whether it’s age or because the front four can’t stop the run. Chicagoisn’t going to quit though because this is their last chance to win the division. They should make it competitive regardless if Cutler plays, but I’m expecting Green Bay to win and continue their push for a first round bye.
New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2)
A playoff rematch from last year that still hurts to this day will be taking place. I’ll explain below about the personal story, but here’s my prediction. I’m expecting a fantastic game with both teams playing a high level. For the first time all season, I’m picking against the Falcons. Giants are at their best when they are in must win mode and they are with Washington right behind them. New York wins in a classic game and my social media profiles get exploded once again by New Yorkers.
Minnesota (7-6) at St. Louis (6-6-1)
I really wish I can watch this game. Why couldn’t the Atlantaget flexed? Anyway this should be a really physical game with two young teams playing above expectations. Both teams are in must win mode, but Minnesotais likely to falter. It should be a close game with Adrian Peterson carrying the Vikings offense but the Rams offense does just enough. St. Louis wins and everyone can make their “John Canton is doing this” joke.
Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2)
Another fantastic early afternoon game, what happened to the flex system? This looks like a major mismatch though. Even though Indianapolisis playing great, they don’t have the defense or offensive line to last. Houston’s pass rush should make a huge difference and force a few turnovers on Andrew Luck. Matt Schaub should bounce back from a tough game at New England and lead Houston to victory.
San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3)
Finally we get to watch a Sunday night game with two Super Bowl contenders. I’m really looking forward at this game, which is already being promoted as a “Super Bowl preview”. I can’t dispute that right now, that would be my pick. After the performance by New England’s defense, I can’t see the 49ers scoring enough points. Colin Kaepernick is starting to struggle a bit and this is a tough matchup for him. Tom Brady does just enough and New England wins in a game where they don’t score 30 points.
Ace: I’m excited for this weekends games, hopefully by about 3:30pm Central Daylight Time, my Green Bay Packers will be 2012 NFC North Division Champions. Regardless if it’s the 3rd or 4th seed (hoping for the 1st or 2nd) I want the Packers to have a home game. My fantasy team got super hot last week with Cameron Newton and the Seahawks Defense, 44 points, what up? This week I have a much tougher matchup and if Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson both don’t play, I’ll be in the 3rd place game for sure. Other than the NFL Season starting and drafting fantasy football teams, the NFL in its final 3-4 weeks is so much fun to watch. The Colts pretty much have the 1st AFC Wild Card spot locked up, but the other 3 could go to any of a handful of teams, some divisions aren’t wrapped up and might not be until the final week of the season. Check out last nights Macho Men Radio as C-Mac and I talked about the NFL, Alcohol in the NFL and the kickoff change possibility. Have a great weekend and good luck to all your teams, real and fantasy!
Allen: This week is arguably the best regular season week of the year. So many great games, but unfortunately most of them are on1 pm. I’m frustrated with the NFL schedule planning because they are putting too much stock in Steelers versus Cowboys game. I know that they are “America’s teams” but both teams won’t be playing deep in the playoffs. I’d love to see Packers versus Bears at one, followed by Falcons versus Giants at 4:15. That can’t happen sadly thanks for nothing with the flex system. At least America doesn’t have to see the Jets versus Chargers in Week 16 on Sunday night, they got one thing right. For the Falcons versus Giants, the game means more than any other game this year. I’m a Falcons fan inNew York and I did go to the playoff game last year. It was a rough experience wearing my Roddy White jersey and paying 270 dollars to see my favorite team score 2 points. It was enjoyable to watch it with a hardcore Giants fan that isn’t biased and knows the Giants aren’t dominant by any means. The game itself is what makes it rough and it’s something that I’ll probably never forget. HopefullyAtlanta can prove me wrong this weekend and make a statement by beating the Giants. Other than that, I got three fantasy teams in my three money leagues all playing in the semifinals so that adds on to my worries. December football is here and the intensity of the playoff push continues to grow. Enjoy the weekend; it’s going to be memorable with so many great games. Thanks for reading!
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