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 Week Seventeen! This is the final week of the 2012 NFL Regular season and we have some exciting matchups to discuss. I hope everyone, along with you Allen, had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed the weekend. The column is a day delayed due to the holiday, but we’ll still be in full gear. Your team has comfortable wrapped up the #1 Seed in the NFC and hopefully, they don’t pull a page out of my favorite team from a year ago and completely lay an egg at home in the Divisional Round. Speaking of my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, they have a huge matchup this weekend at the Metrodome against the Minnesota Vikings. If the Packers win, they not only knock the Vikings out of the playoffs, but they gain the #2 Seed. I’ve already determined that at 3pm on Sunday I will put away my iPad and cell phone and not Tweet or Facebook during the game, it will be too stressful, but I may pull a page out of most Viking fans and if my team is ahead comfortably, I’ll break my vow of no Twitter or Facebook. If you don’t get that, all I can say is that if the Vikings are losing by a lot at halftime, the bar is typically quiet and people filter out, but if they’re up by a lot at halftime, the bar is louder and more people are arriving.

Allen: That was quite the diatribe of your social media ritual there Ace. The same goes to you as well and to everyone out there. Anyway the last week of the regular season and I don’t have much worries. I’m not going to go on a rant on it but big thumbs down to Danny Amendola and Hakeem Nicks for zero points in my championship fantasy football money league. Not to mention Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers giving free gifts to the Seattle Seahawks defense for me to lose by one point after leading by 43 going into Sunday night. I’m still very bitter about that but it will go away. At least I get two stress free weekends with nothing significant going on as a Falcons fan. Also congratulations to Calvin Johnson for breaking Jerry Rice’s record and proving me completely wrong. It was a fantastic performance on Saturday night and I have to fess up to it.

Ace: The AFC Field is set and the #1-3 seeds are still up in the air. The most likely scenario is that if all three teams win, Houston, Denver and New England are 1 through 3, respectively. With what we’ve saw the past few weeks (Houston losing to New England and Minnesota, New England losing to San Francisco and playing a close game with Jacksonville) it really makes Denver look like the favorite. Q1

If you had to put an AFC Team in the Super Bowl today, who would it be?

Allen: I'm still picking the Patriots even though they seem to be struggling right now. Denver may be hot right now but they have played some low level teams recently. The issue I have with Denver is their lack of a running game. Even though Knowshon Moreno has played better, he isn't a number one running back. The Broncos still miss Willis McGahee and it will come back to haunt them if they can't get any sort of running game going in the playoffs. They haven't been tested since the Willis McGahee injury happened and I'm not convinced if the Broncos can hold up against the best teams without a proper running game. Houston continues to get exposed and it looks like they are going to avoid playing the Patriots or Broncos in the 2nd round, which they should be really thankful for. New England is still my pick, even if they are playing three games in a row in the playoffs. The defense has improved and the offense continues to put up major numbers. They'll be getting Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup, which makes the offense even more lethal. New England hasn't been fully healthy this season and now they'll be healthy at the perfect time of the season.

Allen:  The shocking fall of the Pittsburgh Steelers came into full fruition on Sunday. It was odd to see them lose in a game that they had to win a home against a division rival that they have beaten on a consistent basis.

What happened to the Steelers this season and what do they have to do in the offseason to improve their team?

Ace: The easiest answer to this question is find a fountain of youth and let any guy on the team who’s in his 30’s go back in time about 5-10 years. They need more depth in their roster. The offensive linemen have been banged up all season and so has their defense. They need to draft better and add depth. Big Ben is a tough quarterback and if you have a tough quarterback who plays with the style of a Big Ben you need to have a backup who can step in and play adequately. Byron Leftwich and Charlie “freaking” Batch are not those guys. This team is two years removed from the Super Bowl and now, they’re on a downward spiral and if they don’t add more depth to this team, they’ll be lucky to win seven games next year.

 

Allen: You couldn’t have said it better. The depth on the team is lackluster compared to the best teams in the league like San Francisco, New England, and Green Bay. The running back situation needs to be fixed with it being unstable for most of the season. I’m not sure what they can do with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor but they have broken down after years of playing at a high level. Pittsburgh is pretty worn down and the lack of young talent has caught up to them. I’m sure they can bounce back with a good draft and a few pick ups, but it was surprising to see them not make the playoffs in such a weak year for the AFC. The defense and offensive line need to be reshuffled the most along with a running back that can be relied upon.

Ace:  A game that I am both excited and nervous for next Sunday is Green Bay at Minnesota. A win for the Green Bay Packers gives them a first round bye and the #2 Seed (Also, with a Chicago win at Detroit, puts the Bears at the #6 Seed). A win for the Minnesota Vikings puts them in the playoffs and sends them to Green Bay for a rematch Wild Card weekend.

Of those two scenarios and judging by the way both teams have played the last few weeks, who wins this game?

Allen: I'm starting to become a believer in the Vikings and they deserve respect that many people haven't been giving. For them to beat Houston on the road in a game that is important for both teams, it impressed me a lot. The Minnesota defense has really stepped up in recent weeks and have overachieved expectations. Brian Robson has become a solid defensive lineman with 7.5 sacks and Harrison Smith has been a massive upgrade at safety. They have played hard and if Percy Harvin was playing, I would seriously consider an upset. It's a shame that Harvin is hurt because the Vikings now have zero threats at wide receiver. Unlike Houston, Green Bay will not be limited to six points. The offense is starting to play up expectations and the team in general is still playing for playoff positioning. For a team that has gone through injuries all season, Green Bay has to be in need of a bye week just for a week to rest. Green Bay should pull this out, but don't rule out a Minnesota upset especially if Adrian Peterson has 30 carries. It should be an intense game with the Metrodome finally hosting a game that has playoff implications for the first time in years for the Vikings. It will end in disappointment though with Aaron Rodgers being too good to be completely stopped.

Allen: Who would of imagined that the Washington Redskins would be in a primetime Sunday night in a game to win the division?

Are the Washington Redskins the biggest surprise of the season and do you see this team more than just a one and done team?

Ace: Washington is a huge surprise this season, don’t get me wrong, but I think the biggest surprise of the season has to be the Indianapolis Colts. The Redskins weren’t a horrible team last year; they had pieces and a very good head coach in Mike Shanahan. Then adding RG3 and Alfred Morris along with some receiving weapons drastically improved this team. They also have the benefit of playing in an extremely soft division. I didn’t think the Giants would make the playoffs this season and as of right now, that looks like a very good prediction. The Redskins have a huge possibility of being a team that could make a run this postseason. If they’re in, they could potentially play the Seattle Seahawks. It would be a tough matchup of two rookie quarterbacks, but I wouldn’t count RG3 out. They also could make the #6 seed with a loss and some help, and I hope that wont be the case because RG3 coming into Lambeau reminds me a lot of a young Michael Vick coming into Lambeau and beating the Packers where they’ve never been beat before. They have a very legitimate shot of reaching the second round of the playoffs, but they need to get through Dallas first.

Allen:  That was 2002 when Michael Vick pulled the unthinkable, back when Vick was actually a good person and not a complete disappointment. I’m going to go with the Colts as well because they didn’t have much talent defensively and the offensive line was among the worst in the league. For what Andrew Luck is doing with that team is remarkable and they have caught everyone off guard. The Redskins can be more than a one and done team, which is surprising because I felt they were finished after Brian Orakpo went down with a season ending injury. The defense has managed to stay afloat and play hard under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who I’ve always felt was underrated and should get a coaching job in the future. Washington should get a home game and they are more than capable in winning there. It will be a challenge for them to go against teams like Atlanta, Green Bay, or San Francisco. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs if they make it, Washington fans should be thankful for the improvements of the franchise especially Robert Griffin, who deserves to win Rookie of the year.

Here is this week’s question from TJRsports.com Editor-in-chief, John Canton. Follow John on Twitter at @johnreport and @TJRsports.

Now that the playoffs are almost here, does home field advantage really matter or is a wide open race where the hottest team in the league is going to win?

Allen: I'm still going with home field advantage, even though the last two seasons have been different. The reason I'm going for the home field advantage is because the lower seeded teams were actually really good. In 2010 if they didn't have several players injured, the Green Bay Packers would have won the division over the Chicago Bears. Then if you look at last year, the New York Giants were always talented and things finally came together for them. If you look at the AFC, home field has been essential for the past few seasons. Sure the New York Jets eliminated the New England Patriots in 2010, but the Steelers won two home games in a row. The emotion of Heinz Field is always a major energy booster for the Steelers. When you look at this year's 2012 Atlanta Falcons, this team is clearly different from 2010. They are 7-0 at home and the defense tends to play much better at home than on the road. You can ask Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees about the Falcons defense inside the Georgia Dome. Home field is still essential and it's a more important factor to win regardless if you have momentum or not. 

Ace: The last two seasons you sensed that Green Bay and New York were dominating like no other team on their run and anything was possible. This year the NFL has been anything but predictable, so it’s really hard to say. The Falcons are dominating at home and this is a much more different team that’s made the playoffs the last two seasons. In the AFC, Denver and New England will be tough places to play, but Houston who has not looked like a #1 Seed in the last few weeks controls its #1 Seed destiny. I think being hot and making the playoffs is a nice thing to have, but home field advantage has a lot to do with postseason success too.

Ace: This is the final week of the regular season of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. Last week I went 4-1 while Allen went 2-3. I gained two games and Allen now sits 3 games ahead at 52-28 while I’m 49-31. Let’s make up some more ground this week!

Green Bay (11-4) at Minnesota (9-6)

I would love nothing more than to see the Vikings down by 4 with :02 seconds left and Adrian Peterson sitting at 1,999 yards and the ball is at the 1 yard line and the Packers stuff him at the goal line and not only knock the Vikings out of the playoffs, but keep AP from hitting 2,000 yards. I’ll take a Mason Crosby game winner. Packers win by 3 and give me heart problems throughout the game. I’ll keep the baby aspirin nearby.

Chicago (9-6) at Detroit (4-11)

I think Megatron gets his 2,000 receiving yards but Chicago wins with Jay Cutler and company become big time Packers fans.

Houston (12-3) at Indianapolis (10-5)

I really want to pick the Colts, but Houston needs this way too much. They’ve never won at Indy, I think Matt Schaub and his crew realizes that they need their home crowd. Houston wins.

St. Louis (7-7-1) at Seattle (10-5)

St. Louis is 4-0-1 vs. the NFC West and Seattle is 7-0 at home. One of those has got to give. I think Seattle wins and improves to 11-5*.

Dallas (8-7) at Washington (9-6)

If you asked me a month ago if Dallas would be in this position I would of said you’re crazy. If you would have asked me a month ago if Washington would be in this position I would of said, yes I do. In fact, I think I said that on the radio show and said Washington would make the playoffs. Washington wins.

Allen: No more picking the disappointing Steelers. They have burned me far too many times.

Green Bay (11-4) at Minnesota (9-6)

You are an evil individual. I’m expecting Adrian Peterson to break the record because he’ll get the ball 30 times. Everything else was covered above. Green Bay wins.

Chicago (9-6) at Detroit (4-11)

Detroit should play hard but they are too damaged to beat a Chicago team that is in must win mode. Chicago wins and they’ll be playing the San Francisco 49ers next week.

Houston (12-3) at Indianapolis (10-5)

For some reason, Chuck Pagano said publicly that the Colts wouldn’t rest their starters. With no chance of seeding advancement, that is ridiculous. If they lose a starter due to injury, you can’t say they didn’t deserve it. Houston wins regardless of how long the starters actually play and they wrap up the 1st seed.

St. Louis (7-7-1) at Seattle (10-5)

This should be an entertaining game because you know the Rams will play for pride and the chance for their first winning season since 2003. They may have made the playoffs in 2004, but it has been forever. Sadly they’ll just miss out against a Seattle team that has been arguably the hottest team in the league in December. Seattle wins in a much closer game than the past few games.

Dallas (8-7) at Washington (9-6)

Both teams are pretty even in terms of talent but the injury to DeMarcus Ware scares me. Also the Redskins have played really well at home this year and their team is starting to gel at the right time. Tony Romo has played fantastic for the past two months, but I just can’t see Dallas winning. Redskins prevail with Dallas fans once again eliminated on the last day.

Allen: I’m looking forward to how the NFC plays out. With the AFC pretty much finished, my attention is mostly on the NFC wild card race during the race then the NFC East at night. My predictions will be that the Seahawks will play the Redskins and the Bears will travel to San Francisco. Those two matchups interest me heavily and should be far better than the AFC. Other than that, I hope you all have a great New Year’s celebration. Now here’s Ace for a possible speech about the heated division rivalry, wait you aren’t?

Ace: I’m not going to say much in this outro because there’s only one game to me that matters this weekend and it kicks off at 3:25pm/CT. The Packers need this game. The Vikings need this game. Listen to C-Mac and I discuss it on Macho Men Radio on a special Thursday show. Thanks for reading this week and we’ll talk about all the playoff matchups and hand out our end of the season awards next week.

Go Pack Go!

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18.

If you have any question ideas please tweet us and we will consider your questions for next week’s article.