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: Welcome to our second to last week of the regular season! Lots of games are starting to have that playoff feel to them. My Green Bay Packers won their second consecutive NFC North Title and should they beat Tennessee and Minnesota, mixed with a San Francisco loss, the Packers will secure a 1st round bye and the #2 seed. I’d be okay with that and I’m sure Aaron Rodgers and company would be fine with that too. Sunday gave us a better look at the AFC playoff picture as Cincinnati and Indianapolis now control their own destinies when it comes to the Wild Card spot. Cincinnati, a team that was once 3-5, could potentially finish 10-6 (with wins against Pittsburgh and Baltimore) and win the AFC North on the final Sunday of the season (Hey, NBC, you’ll probably get that game). The NFC Wild Card picture is anything but clear. Seattle is the front runner for the #5 seed while Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas and New York are all at 8-6. These final two weeks should be exciting!
Allen: I rather see Dallas versus Washington and I think they’ll pick that game for Week 17. Who wants to watch Flacco versus Dalton in the battle of mediocre quarterbacks? Not me that already happened on Monday night and it was bad. Speaking of statements, the Atlanta Falcons gave all the critics the bird (middle finger for those that don’t like to swear) and gave the media darlings a beat down. It was a joy to watch and shockingly enough, nobody in New York really gave me any heat for wearing a Falcons jersey in public. Anyway enough about the Falcons, they are pretty much set. The rest of the playoff race is still very tight with teams starting to break out (Seahawks and Broncos) and other teams are fading (Ravens and Bears). Last week was a pivotal week, now it becomes even more must win. Who will survive? If you watched last night, the Jets sure didn’t.
Ace: When Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith was hired, his goal was to beat the Green Bay Packers. He started off 7-3 record through 2008 and has been 1-8 (including the playoffs) since then. The Bears were a favorite to make the playoffs, even the Super Bowl. Now, they might not make the playoffs.
Is Lovie Smith the head coach of the Bears next season?
Allen: We said about six weeks ago that the Bears elite status would be judged by their performances against the Texans and 49ers back-to-back weeks. That failed badly even though Jay Cutler was injured. Now they may not even make it to playoffs after some inconsistent play on all sides of the ball. The once vaunted home field advantage for Chicago has become far less vaunted. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have had big games throwing on their secondary. Even though the Bears had to deal with the loss of Brian Urlacher, Tim Jennings, and Henry Melton against the Packers, you would have expected a better performance. The Packers have a great offense but their offensive line is among the worst in the league and you would think they would take advantage of it more. Instead Rodgers managed to hit triple digits in the quarterback rating and throw for three touchdowns. As for Lovie Smith, he should be fired if they don’t make the playoffs. Other than 2010, has Chicago really been that good since their Super Bowl season? They have been lackluster and after a hot start early on, the late season collapse is really starting to hurt the organization. The crowd noise was so loud on Sunday that Urlacher had to make a statement about how the crowd shouldn’t boo. Another January with no playoff appearance should mean the end of Smith.
Ace: Going into the season many picked the Bears to actually win the North and for a while, it was looking that way. With such high expectations entering the season, a missed playoff spot should surely spell the end of Lovie in Chicago. While his defense has been great while he’s been the head coach, his offense ranks in the middle to lower third of the NFL. I think we’re going to see some bigger names be removed this offseason like Norv Turner, Lovie Smith and my bold prediction is Rex Ryan of the Jets.
Allen: Speaking of coaches, do you see Tom Coughlin possibly on the hot seat? It may be a ridiculous statement but his play calling was absurd against Atlanta. The offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride deserves blame as well, but it seems like Coughlin has been out coached far too often this year.
Do you see him in trouble and possibly the front office for not doing much in the off-season?
Ace: This team isn’t that different from the team that won the Super Bowl almost 11 months ago. Sure they’ve lost a few guys on offense and defense, but nothing too drastic. I’ve never been completely sold on the Giants, I didn’t have them making the playoffs this season, because despite them being hot at the end of the season and beating the Falcons at home, shocking Green Bay and beating a mistake prone 49er team, they still did not impress me. The defensive front for the Giants is still as good as ever, but the reason for some of the blame is squarely on the shoulder of Eli Manning. When he’s good, he’s good, but when he’s bad he’s flat out bad. He’s had some awful games this year and that definitely deserves some of the blame. As for Coughlin being on the hot seat, I don’t think his seat is hot, if next year is a lot like this year, I could see his cheeks getting a little toasty. If I’m a New York sports fan, I think there’s another New York football coach with a much hotter seat, the seat is much bigger than Coughlin’s too.
Allen: Tom Coughlin isn’t on the hot seat, but he will be next year if they don’t make the playoffs The team isn’t very different but the team is performing different which points to the stars. Of course you want the role players stepping up, but where have the stars been? Hakeem Nicks may be banged up, but they need him more than ever right now. Victor Cruz was a nonfactor throughout the game Sunday along with Jason Pierre Paul. Sure the role players stepped up in the Giants Super Bowl run, but the stars were making big plays on a consistent basis. Now the once feared front four and dynamic receiving duo has been limited since November except for the big wins against Green Bay and New Orleans. I’ve always been a believer in Giants, which is why I picked them on Sunday but they really need to get their star players to get back to form. That includes Eli Manning as well. The Giants are far too talented to miss the playoffs and if they do, it should cost Gilbride his job and put Coughlin on the hot seat.
Ace: Adrian Peterson is 294 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record (2,106). Calvin Johnson is 181 yards always from breaking Jerry Rice's single season receiving record (1,848) and JJ Watt and Aldon Smith are 3 sacks away from Michael Strahan's single season sack record (22.5).
Will all of these records fall, if not, which one(s) won't and which record is the most prestigious?
Allen: It is absolutely remarkable that so many records are up for being taken away in one season. I’m going to start with players that aren’t going to break the record and that starts with J.J Watt. Houston will start resting their players as long as they beat the Vikings on Sunday to clinch home field. Watt doesn’t seem like a player that cares about records and I’m sure Houston wants to keep him healthy for the playoffs. The other record that won’t be broken is by Calvin Johnson. It may come as a surprise but Detroit has some difficult matchups coming up. They are playing Atlanta and Chicago coming up, which are teams that have major reason to continue to play hard. Atlanta hasn’t clinched home field yet and the defense has been playing extremely well since November so Calvin won’t explode. Calvin will come close but he’ll fall just short. I have two records being broken, which are Adrian Peterson and Aldon Smith. It seems like people sometimes forget about Smith when they talk about the best pass rushers in the league. Adrian Peterson has been running like a man possessed for the past month and he seems to be a lock to break it. Even though I’m expecting Houston to keep him in check (check in meaning less than 150 yards by Peterson standards), he’ll break the record against the Packers. Both Smith and Peterson are playing for teams that will most likely be playing for playoff positioning or lives in the next two weeks, which increases the possibility. Watt will likely rest and Johnson will be dealing with some difficult matchups on a team that seems to be defeated.
Ace: I’m going to agree and disagree with you on these. I’m going to agree that the sack record will be broken, by who, it could be either guy or both. I think Calvin Johnson will break Jerry Rice’s record. He needs only 91 yards per game to do that. It’s very doable especially if the Lions fall behind in both games, which is very possible. They might not have much to play for, butStafford will want to help get his receiver that record. I think Megatron ends up with close to 1,900 yards. The Eric Dickerson record, as much as I’d love to see it broken, I don’t think it will fall. A.P. has been running like a mad man, but looking atHouston’s run defense this week, in a game they absolutely need to win to solidify home field advantage throughout the playoffs,Houston has only allowed 2 rushers to go past 100 yards, can you name them? Chris Johnson and Vick Ballard. 70+ yards has been topped by two other backs, Stevan Ridley and Jalen Parmale. Adrian Peterson needs to get at least 175 yards against the Texans for that to happen, if he does, 120 at home vs. Green Bay is entirely possible, but remember, the Packers are going to be playing to win because if they win out and San Francisco loses 1 game, the Packers can grab the #2 seed.
Allen: Dallas is quietly on a 3 game winning streak and has won 5 out of their last 6. I've constantly defended Dallas and said this is a good team that will compete for a playoff spot. You have been harsh on them in the past, has your judgment changed?
Do you see Dallas making the playoffs?
Ace: I don’t think they’re in, they could surprise me, but I’ll go with no. They host New Orleans this coming weekend, but then travel to Washington. The Redskins dominated Dallas on Thanksgiving and they’re in control of their own destiny. Tony Romo has been settling down, but I still don’t trust him. The defense is banged up and even though Jason Witten will soon set the single season record for receptions by a tight end (105). I don’t like that their top receiver Dez Bryant has that broken finger, all it takes is falling on it or really anything to knock him out. The Dallas Cowboys are a few pieces away from becoming a dominant team. They’re in a very ordinary division and next year is a real possibility. They won’t make the playoffs as a wild card team, they’d have to win the division this year to make their way in, and with Washington facing Philadelphia this weekend and Dallas next weekend, that makes them the favorite, especially if Baltimore can knock off the Giants this weekend.
Allen: Dallas has turned some heads and has fought hard against tough AFC North competition in the past few weeks. I’ve been impressed with how Romo is playing and how much composure he’s showing. Despite the praise, I see this being the week that Dallas loses that just about demoralizes their playoff chances. The Saints aren’t laying down and are still playing hard despite being out of the playoffs. This is a difficult game for Dallas and it seems like its only a matter of time before they lose in a close game. The Saints defense has been playing better recently and the running game has really turned it up this year to make the offense even more difficult to stop. With Dallas thin at linebacker, they are going to have a difficult time dealing with the Saints. It was a nice run for Dallas, but they won’t make the playoffs but there is plenty of optimism for next year. This is a team going through severe injury problems that could be piling on if Dez Bryant can’t last which is a possibility. Dallas is far from out of it, but plenty of red flags show up to me when discussing Dallas with the word playoffs.
How did the Jets win more than 3 games this season?
Ace: I’ll go first because I know how much Allen loves talking about the Jets. Hashtag, Sarcasm. Remember when they blew out Buffalo to start the season by putting up 48 points and everyone was second guessing the Jets and saying ‘Hey, these guys might have a real shot!’ Then next week they fell on their faces to the Steelers? The Jets have failed to put up more than 10 points in 6 games. 6 GAMES! Call it a quarterback problem, call it a lack of wide receivers, or call it bad coaching, but I honestly have no earthly idea how the Jets managed to win 6 games. Well, three of those wins came against the Dolphins, Jaguars and Cardinals.
Allen: A shot at the Dolphins, they actually have a decent team. Speaking of the Dolphins, many of my friends that are Jet fans looked at me like I was intoxicated when I said Miami is better than them and have a far better future. That looks pretty evident now. The Jets have benefited from an easy schedule getting some free wins along the way. How they beat Arizona is still a mystery (not really for me because I didn’t watch that garbage). I could go on and on about the Jets about being the most delusional organization in all of sports, but I’m not going to waste my time. The general feeling from all football fans is going to feel the same about the Jets. This was an old team that made it to two AFC Championships with glaring flaws. The flaws were exposed in 2011 and now that has made them a laughingstock in 2012. The lack of attention to glaring holes at receiver and actual pass rushers just has to make you shake your head. It was fun to make fun of the Jet fans in 2011 because they actually thought the team was a Super Bowl threat when they were going to get exposed. Now I feel sympathy and feel bad for Jet fans that have to put up with a joke of an organization. The team needs to completely rebuild from scratch, you are delusional if you think otherwise. This team is among the top 5 worst teams in the league that has benefited from some easy opponents.
Ace: This is Week Sixteen of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. After both of us went 2-3 last week, your lead remains at 5 games. Allen is 50-25 and I am 45-30.
Tennessee (4-10 or 5-9) at Green Bay (10-4)
The Packers won’t be resting their starters until they’ve solidified their playoff positioning. They could grab a hold of the #2 seed if Seattle beats San Francisco and they beat the Vikings next week. They should win this game easily as the offense and defense continues to get healthy and tuned up for a playoff run. Green Bay wins.
Atlanta (12-2) at Detroit (4-10)
Detroit lost to Arizona. Enough said. Atlanta wins.
Cincinnati (8-6) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
Pittsburgh needs this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. I said in the beginning of the season that if the Bengals get hot, they could make a run at the AFC North title. Next weeks game against Baltimore could be for the AFC North Championship. Cincinnati wins.
New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore (9-5)
I don’t trust Baltimore anymore. They very well could lose all of their games in December and still be a playoff team. Next week’s game against Cincinnati will be for the AFC North Title. New York wins and keeps their playoff hopes alive.
San Francisco (10-3-1) at Seattle (9-5)
Seattle and Atlanta are the only undefeated teams at home. I really think it stays that way. Seattle is a different kind of monster at CenturyLink Field and this game will have the feeling of a playoff game. If San Francisco wins, they should lock up the #2 seed. If they lose, Green Bay will control its destiny as the #2 seed. Seattle wins in a close game.
Allen: After seeing some of Ace’s picks, it’s going to be fun to win the pick em challenge before the playoffs even begin.
Tennessee (5-9) at Green Bay (10-4)
Green Bay still has plenty to play for this season. They aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Titans defense is terrible and will probably wish that they could play Mark Sanchez every week. Green Bay wins easily.
Atlanta (12-2) at Detroit (4-10)
I’m sure the motto in the locker room for Atlanta is to play like it’s a playoff game so they can rest Week 17 and not have to worry. Detroit may get some early momentum but I’m expecting Atlanta to pull this out. It may be closer than most would expect, but I still say a double-digit win for Atlanta to clinch home field.
Cincinnati (8-6) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
Pittsburgh lost in a nail biter last week but now this game has their season on the line. I’m shocked a wise man like you picked against Ben Rothlisberger. You must really want to lose huh? Steelers win in a close game where Andy Dalton continues to be exposed for being just average.
New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore (9-5)
Instead of a possible Super Bowl preview that people could have imagined in August, this is a preview of what team is sinking faster. Both teams are coming off brutal losses, but the Giants don’t seem out of it to me. Baltimore is just lost right now on offense and the defense is no longer feared. The Giants fire power wakes up and they keep their playoff hopes alive.
San Francisco (10-3-1) at Seattle (9-5)
Another great Sunday night game, thank you NFL flex system. Anyway this should be a war with two physical teams playing for a possible first round bye. The looming suspension of top cornerback Richard Sherman is on Friday and it looks like he’ll be suspended. That’s a huge loss especially with how good Michael Crabtree has played in the past few months. I’m going to pick San Francisco to prevail in a close game where Russell Wilson’s magic just isn’t going to click for one game. Seattle will still make the playoffs but they will lose their home field, which is huge.
Ace: After this week, the playoff picture will be much more clear to us. Some of the contenders may just be pretenders and some of the hopefuls might actually make it into the playoffs. This was a shorter column this week because I know Allen was busy with finals and we’re both prepping for the holiday season. Also, be sure to check out last night’s Macho Men Radio. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe joined us for a bit and Chris Lempesis from the ‘Ol Bag of Donuts’ Packers blog/podcast joined us as well. I’m not sure what our column will look like next week with it being Christmas, but we’ll be sure to have something up for you, even if its just pictures of Allen and I drinking egg nog wearing Packers and Falcons gear. Have a happy and safe holiday to you and your families. As we close out 2012 and get ready for 2013, I want to thank my pal Allen for a great 16+ weeks of NFL talk in this column and on Macho Men Radio!
Allen: I tried to do all I can this week, but like Ace said it’s been busy. Next week and the playoffs you’ll be getting even more with the best teams to talk about and less nonsense (sorry Jet fans). It has been so much fun to do the column with Ace and this season has been a blast in general. Not just because my favorite team is playing fantastic, but their have so many memorable moments and records that could possibly be shattered. I’ve enjoyed watching and writing so much this year for the most part. A major shout out to all of those that are reading and that won’t be the last time you’ll see that. Here’s to hoping that your team is still in the playoff race or clinched going into Christmas so you aren’t depressed. It’s a possibility I’ll have to deal with a couple of annoyed people at the dinner table come Christmas Eve (A few Giant fans and my brother is a Vikings fan). Other than that, I also wish everyone the best in their fantasy football championships. I’m only in one out of my three money leagues sadly; my two other teams lost by combined 110 points. Oh well other than that, I can’t be bummed out. Once again have a great Christmas and thanks for reading.
If you have any question ideas please tweet us and we will consider your questions for next week’s article.