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: Welcome to Week Eight! Some teams will be at the midway point of their season, while others will be playing in their seventh game of the season. There’s one team playing their eighth, a team who is now 4-3 and can hopefully have dominant victory on Sunday, and a game I will be at. I’m talking about the Green Bay Packers! I’ll be at Lambeau Field on Sunday with a few pals and they host the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’ve never seen the Packers lose when I’m in attendance, so that’s a good sign. The other good sign is their opponent, the Jaguars. Enough said. Aaron Rodgers found his swagger that he had last year that he was missing from the first few games of the season. It’s funny to think that this team could very well be a 6-2 team, if there wasn’t a meltdown inIndianapolis and the Monday Night game in Seattle, but we won’t live in the past, we’ll look towards the future. If the future is any indication of what the last two games have looked like for Green Bay, it will be fun to watch down the stretch as Green Bay has 5 divisional opponents in the final seven weeks of the season.
Allen: Still bringing up the Seattle game? Anyway I enjoyed the bye week and got to check out both New York teams. Both teams played in very exciting games during the afternoon. Robert Griffin III is officially my 3rd favorite quarterback in the league behind Matt Ryan & Rodgers, while the Jets shouldn’t be counted out in the playoff hunt. Overall it was a good Sunday with the Jets and Patriots putting on a possible game of the year contender for me. Other than the New York games, it was a pretty boring Sunday of games. The bye week really hurts when teams like the Eagles, Broncos, and the undefeated Falcons aren’t playing. Thankfully they’ll be back and it can create more buzz before Sunday. Anyway let’s get rolling!
Ace: I’m a Packers fan, it’s not like we live in the past or anything. At least we do have a successful past, unlike most bitter Viking fans, even your team managed to be apart of their unsuccessful past (See: Falcons, Atlanta 1998). We are nearing the midway point of the season and some division’s look to be a battle to the very end, while some we can pretty much figure out who will be claiming the division championship and a playoff berth. In my mind, the NFC is up for grabs; there are 4 or 5 legitimate teams that could wind up in the Super Bowl. The AFC is a different picture. The Patriots don’t look like a dominating team as they once were. The Ravens are riddled with injuries and teams like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati could fight their way to the top of that division. The AFC West looks like its Denver’s to lose. The Houston Texans had a dominant 43-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Are they the clear cut favorites to make the Super Bowl for the AFC or do you see a team Ike then Patriots, Broncos or Ravens knocking them off?
Allen: Houston seems to be the only AFC team that has been consistent all year. Other than the Packers game, they have clearly outplayed every opponent. I'm aware of the Jets game, which got a bit too close for comfort butHouston clearly deserved that win. Despite the loss of Brian Cushing, they still have the pass rush to take over any game and play makers in the secondary. Jonathan Joseph hasn't looked very good this year but he's been battling injuries so I'm expecting him to bounce back. Houston is a very good team but what I'm worried about is how the defense is going to contain pass first teams. We've seen how the Packers handled them with ease with their passing attack. What about Denver and New England, who have solid offensive lines and have quarterbacks that can throw downfield consistently. I'm aware of Houston beating Denver a few weeks ago but Manning still led Denver to a great near comeback and is starting to get back into the form. Houston's secondary has been shaky and Houston's lack of receiving options concerns me. Matt Schaub tearing up a diminished Ravens defense was good to see but can players like Kevin Walter & James Casey step up when called upon? You know Denver and New England will put up points but can Houston keep up if they are down by two or more possessions? Houston's defense doesn't strike enough fear into teams right now like last year and will need to more weapons to emerge for Matt Schaub. New England and Denver are the only teams I consider major threats right now. Baltimore looks like a team that is diminished and nobody can really take them seriously right now. Baltimore's defense looks brittle and Joe Flacco continues to be a disappointment. I'm aware of New England looking shaky but they'll still be a threat as usual. I’d lean towards Houston to make it to the Super Bowl but they are nowhere near a clear-cut favorite.
Ace: Houston has been the most complete team this season. They had a rough game against Green Bay, but they've looked to be the most complete team in the AFC. The loss of Cushing is big, but they stopped Ray Rice, even though he only had something like 13 rushes. I like Houston, they were my preseason pick in the AFC, no one really stands out and scares me right away, but New England can get hot and once they get on a tear, they're scary.
Allen: Even though he looked sloppy at times in the 2nd half, Robert Griffin III continues to play at an incredible level. He had some incredible moments against the Giants and seemed to be in control through out the game.
Is Griffin III going to be a lock for rookie of the year as long as he stays healthy & do you see Washington battling for a wild card spot?
Ace: I think there’s two ways to look at this question; you’re either on something or onto something. You’re onto something when you say RG3 is a lock for Rookie of the Year. Comparing passing numbers for him and the four other rookie quarterbacks from this years draft class aren’t even close, check it out:
R. Griffin III- 70.4%, 1,601 yards, 7 TD’s, 3 Int, 101.8 Passer Rating
A. Luck- 53.6%, 1,674 yards, 7 TD’s, 7 Int, 72.3 Passer Rating
R. Tannehill- 59.6%, 1,454 yards, 4 TD’s, 6 Int, 76.5 Passer Rating
R. Wilson- 59.4%, 1,230 yards, 8 TD’s, 7 Int, 79.5 Passer Rating
B. Weeden- 56.6%, 1,783 yards, 9 TD’s, 10 Int, 72.3 Passer Rating
Griffin is 11 points higher in completion percentage than the next closest guy, only Luck and Weeden have more passing yards and Griffin’s passer rating is 3rd in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Where Griffin really separates himself from the pack is when he runs the ball. He’s carried the ball 64 times for 468 yards and 6 touchdowns, which ranks him in 12th in the NFL in rushing. I would think that his only major competition for Rookie of the Year would be his teammate, running back Alfred Morris. Morris is currently 2nd in the NFL in rushing and on his current pace he’ll rush for over 1,500 yards. It would be hard to over look that but I’ll say you’re on something if you think the Redskins are a playoff team this year. I don’t think they’ll be contending for the divisional crown this year that belongs to the Giants. That means they would have to get in as a Wild Card and I don’t see that happening. There are seven teams with a better record than the Redskins when it comes to playoff positioning. I believe that Dallas and Philadelphia have a good shot to finish ahead of Washington, but the Redskins have remained competitive in their games and they could pull a few more surprise upsets this season. This coming offseason will be huge for Washington because they should be able to attract some bigger names to come play with Griffin and company. I would see them as a postseason lock next season.
Allen: Robert Griffin continues to be a human highlight reel but his accuracy shows more than just being on a highlight reel. He makes things so effortless whether it’s scrambling, escaping pass rushers, or his accuracy especially when they run play action. What makes it even more amazing about Griffin is that he’s playing so well with an average at best supporting cast to throw to. Pierre Garcon has been injured for most of the season while they just found out the unfortunate news that Fred Davis will be done for the season. With a supporting cast of Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, and the addition of Chris Cooley, it shows how good Griffin is without having the aid of any stars. It always helps to have a great running game led by Alfred Morris, who you’ve said is the biggest competition toGriffin for rookie of the year. I’m still convinced that Griffin is a lock right now to win the award with how much he’s outplayed the rest of the rookies. This is a quarterback league and you know who will always be favored. As for the Redskins playoff hopes, it will be extremely difficult in the NFC. They are clearly missing Brian Orakpo with their front seven struggling to muster any pass rush. The Redskins secondary was average to begin with but now they are dealing with even more pressure to stay with their man in coverage. They are still a year away butWashington is going to be a problem for most teams this year. They’ll compete and control the ball with their rushing attack before mixing it up with a play action. We all know Dan Snyder loves to spend so I’m really looking forward to see what upgrades they’ll make going into the off season. Until then, they’ll be playing the role of hanging around till early December before having to play spoiler in a tough NFC East division.
Ace: My only response to that is that the only way RG3 makes it a tight race is if his completion percentage drops to the 50’s and his passer rating drops down considerably. Right now, those are the two most glaring statistics that scream ‘Rookie of the Year‘. Former Colts and Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy said on NBC this past Sunday night that the Packers had reclaimed their spot atop the NFC and are the favorites. As announced on Monday, the Packers lost Charles Woodson for up to six weeks with a broken collarbone. Add Woodson to the list of Desmond Bishop, DJ Smith, Nick Perry, BJ Raji and Sam Shields to the injuries on the Packers defense.
Do these injuries take the Packers out of the running as one of the favorites to win the NFC this season?
Allen: Tony Dungy may want to calm down with that statement but the Packers are no way out of the running. They are starting to get their groove back as a team and will be getting Greg Jennings back soon enough. With Aaron Rodgers on their team, they’ll always be one of the top favorites to make a Super Bowl run. After a rough schedule to start the season, the schedule really benefits them coming up. Other than Jacksonville, there isn’t really any pushover team while Woodson will be out. Other than the Giants, you don’t really see any high powered offenses during the span that he’ll be out. Everyone knows how important Charles Woodson is to the defense from his run support to how much of a ball hawk he is. He’ll be missed but I’m sure Green Bay will survive. They may struggle to win the division but they’ll be very dangerous regardless. Bishop has been out for the entire season and Raji hasn’t been good since 2010. Raji may be one of the most overrated players in the league with how he hasn’t clogged lanes and made plays in the backfield like in 2010 yet still gets popularity as a top nose tackle. Green Bay may be beaten up but their defense has improved from last year when they were among the worst in the league but still went 15-1. They have also proved that they can win on the road so it’s not going to be the end of all hope if they end up being a 5th seed where they look to be headed right now. They aren’t the best team in the NFC right now though, the team still doesn’t have much of a threat in the rushing game and secondary is still shaky. The Houston win was impressive but they need to pull together a major winning streak with consistent performances before being up there with teams like Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and the New York Giants.
Ace: I don’t think they’re the favorite…yet. They’ll be 6-3 at their bye week and before the season started, I had them at 7-2 going into their bye week. Offensively, there’s been a few shaky games for the offensive line, but they’re healthy and aside from missing Greg Jennings at wide receiver, I’m pretty satisfied with the offense. It’ll be tough to swallow for us Packer fans, but because Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones have been playing so well,Jennings might be out the door as a free agent next year. (Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll be wearing a purple jersey next year) On the defensive side of the ball, Raji has been hurt but regardless if you have Raji or Ryan Pickett in the nose tackle position, you’re getting roughly the same guy. I can’t complain about the defensive backs too much, the loss of Woodson hurts right now but with Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett and Casey Heyward already back there, other guys like Jarrett Bush, Sam Sheilds (when he’s healthy) and MD Jennings will step up in his absence. This team would be in a lot worse shape if they lost either #12 or #52. Woodson’s injury isn’t as big of a blow as some might think, keep in mind, they lost him in the Super Bowl with the same injury for the entire second half. Looking at the Packers schedule there’s 3 games that could go either way, Week 12 at New York, Week 15 at Chicago and Week 17 at Minnesota. If the Packers can come away with two of three there, then they should be in good shape to finish with 11 or 12 wins, maybe not a NFC North Title, but definitely a Wild Card spot.
Allen: During their bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles fired their defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles. Bowles is unknown and will have a tall task at hand in his first game as defensive coordinator trying to stop the Falcons offense.
What has been the Eagles problem defensively and will they be able to fix it?
Ace: The Eagles have Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, DeMeco Ryans, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Those are more than half of the starters on defense for Philadelphia. On paper they should be fantastic, but statistically they’re average. They rank 15th in the league against the pass and 15th in the league against the run, so it’s very middle of the pack. Juan Castillo might not have been the man for the job, we’ve seen coaches step in and mold the pieces together in the right place (i.e. Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco). I’m not comparing Todd Bowles to Jim Harbaugh, but maybe a change of scenery would do the right trick for these guys. The Eagles are immensely talented on defense and aside from their last two losses of a combined five points, this team could be 5-1 however, they’re not. Personally, I believe that they feel entitled to success when they need to earn it. Jenkins won a Super Bowl with Green Bay, but Ryans, Asoungha and DRC haven’t achieved that kind of success. They all need to work together to achieve this common goal, not be penciled in as the favorites and expect success.
Allen: The talent on the Eagles is clearly filled with Pro Bowl caliber players. Even though Castillo has been a target for the struggles, he could be a scapegoat. They have several players that have underperformed this year. Nnamdi Asomugha has been a bust so far getting beat on several occasions and seems to have lost his physical edge. It may have been the system that has hurt him, but he’s still playing the same position and not worried about the system last year when Asante Samuel was taking snaps from him. He needs to step up in coverage and start being the dominant corner that he was in Oakland. Another problem with the Eagles is that the fearsome duo of Jason Babin and Trent Cole has combined 4 sacks this year. Sacks may be overrated but for two players that have been among the top leaders in sacks for the past few years, it has to be a concern. With the offense struggling at times, the defense will be called upon to make more plays. They haven’t looked poor but you would expect them to force more turnovers and make more stops defensively. The defense may be held back from Castillo and could shine now with a new system but they’ll need some of their star players to step up. What better way to start that then this Sunday against a high powered offense in the Falcons.
John Canton: I'm not blaming Sam Bradford for the Rams four losses. I just think it's time to ask.
Should the Rams have picked Robert Griffin III at #2 or is it too early to tell since they get Washington's first round pick in 2013 & 2014?
Ace: We’ve seen Bradford reach success in his first season with the Rams. He took a team from 1 win to 7 wins. His sophomore season was filled with injuries, he played on an injury riddled team and the Rams were 1-9 under him. This year his numbers are similar to his rookie season, with one glaring difference: he’s been sacked 21 times this season. He was sacked 34 times his rookie season and 36 times last year in 10 games. He’s been sacked 91 times in 33 games. Bradford isn’t the reason why this team hasn’t been able to succeed. He needs better protection when he’s back in the pocket and he also needs some weapons to throw to. Last season there were so many injuries to his receivers that he was throwing to guys who might have been lucky to be a 3rd or 4th WR on some teams. The Rams need to look at getting him a tight end as a safety net, so when he senses pressure he can drop it off to someone like that. The Rams defense is progressing nicely, I don’t think it’s time to pull the plug onBradford or anything like that; they’re going to have multiple first round picks the next few years. If they can improve the offensive line and add some weapons on offense, Bradford and company will be just fine.
Allen: The stat that shows how much punishment Bradford has taken is pretty alarming. Griffin is a dynamic quarterback right now but he would take punishment regardless from a below average offensive line. Another issue with Bradford is that he needs weapons to throw to. Even the top quarterbacks need at least one star receiver or tight end to throw to. Philadelphia tried to win the Super Bowl with Donovan McNabb leading the way but no star weapons for a few years. They fell short in three NFC championship games and eventually added Terrell Owens, which got them to one Super Bowl at least. Griffin doesn’t really have any stars on the Redskins team to throw to and that will hold him back if the Redskins don’t upgrade their receiver position better. You are overreacting right now and need to be patient. Bradford needs better weapons to throw to without a doubt. He’s not going to scramble ten times a game like Griffin. Similar to what Ace said, the Rams have done an excellent job at rebuilding the defense and adding some key components to make them a top ten defense. This off season they need to start improving the offense because they won’t be a legitimate playoff contender until they can start scoring 20 points consistently.
Ace: This is Week Eight of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. After going 5-0 last week, Allen now sits at 22-13, while I went 3-2 and lost my edge by one game, as I sit at 21-14. There are not a lot of great matchups this week, so here goes!
Jacksonville (1-6) at Green Bay (4-3)
My Lambeau Field undefeated streak remains intact. Green Bay wins.
Atlanta (6-0) at Philadelphia (3-3)
I think this is the test for Atlanta. Vick, McCoy and company could be hard to stop but if Atlanta can force turnovers they should be in business, but if the Eagles defense plays their butts off, they can steal one. I think Atlanta manages to move to 7-0.
San Francisco (5-2) at Arizona (4-3)
A few weeks ago, I said this could be for control of the NFC West. San Fran took down their first challenger last week (Seattle) and as much as I want to pick Arizona, I don’t think they have enough on offense right now (besides Larry Fitzgerald) to beat the 49ers. San Francisco wins.
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas (3-3)
It’s a must win game for Dallas. If they win, they’re only a game back. If they lose, which wouldn’t surprise me, I think this division comes down to New York and Philly. I think Dallas wins.
New Orleans (2-4) at Denver (3-3)
If this were at New Orleans, I would take them, but Peyton Manning and company improve to 4-3 and the Saints might be done. Denver wins.
Allen: I’m happy to have my crown back but I’m tired of the seesaw battle, time to start building a lead.
Jacksonville (1-6) at Green Bay (4-3)
Is there a mercy rule? Not even wasting my time previewing this. Green Bay rolls with an easy win.
Atlanta (6-0) at Philadelphia (3-3)
This is going to be an excellent game and I’m really looking forward to it. Vick against Atlanta is always a good plot since I hate that man more than most things in life. I’ll enjoy Vick play like Vick, which means give the ball to the other team. Atlanta forces enough turnovers even though McCoy has a big game. Atlanta hangs on once again.
San Francisco (5-2) at Arizona (4-3)
Arizonais fading fast and they really need to step up. A prime time game home against division rival is huge and it should fire them up after a few lackluster weeks. Still, San Francisco is well rested and that defense against Josh Skelton is bad news. San Francisco wins in a slugfest before pulling away.
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas (3-3)
I’m really stuck on this one but I’m going to mix things up. Even though the Giants are due for a letdown eventually, they’ll be fired up for this one and that Giants pass rush going up against the Cowboys offensive line is bad news for Tony Romo. Giants seem to be getting their groove back offensively with Hakeem Nicks back. New York wins in a high scoring contest, which leads to another week of nonstop headlines criticizing Dallas.
New Orleans (2-4) at Denver (3-3)
A well rested Broncos team at home against a Saints team that really dodged a bullet last week. I’m really looking forward to see how good the Broncos secondary plays after that outstanding 2nd half performance against San Diego. Brees will have his moments but Denver’s defense is solid while New Orleans defense is still abysmal. Denver wins in a game where it starts out to be a shoot out butDenver pulls away in the end.
Allen: I’m excited for this week with numerous games that I’ll be able to check out. The schedule is much better including seeing my team back. They will also be playing a team that it will be alright beating by three points without people contacting me how the Falcons are “overrated”. They have a big test this Sunday against a good team like the Eagles. For those who don’t know, I’ve made it well documented my personal anger towards Michael Vick. I’m not going to go on a tirade but whenever I see Philadelphia on the schedule, it’s instantly the most important game on schedule other than playing the Saints. It’s a big game and personal to beat Vick after what he has done over the years. Other than Vick, another player that will have a spotlight on him will be Asante Samuel. I’m interested to see how he plays after Andy Reid was pretty harsh on him and went to the extent of saying Asante has lost a step. I haven’t seen that this season and he’s been as good as ever. Let’s see if Vick targets him, even though Vick may want to stop turning the ball over consistently. I’m super excited after the past few weeks seeing the Falcons play (and struggle) some teams that won’t be anywhere near the playoffs.
Ace: It’s frustrating seeing all these injuries on the Packers just as I’m gearing up for a trip out to Green Bay. I’ll be sure to keep the Twitter feed updated on what C-Mac and I do this weekend. Be sure to follow us @TheAce18 and @RealCMac24 as we’ll tweet pictures and random musings. I don’t want to get too cocky because that’s what happens, I get cocky and run my mouth then the Packers lose. If Aaron Rodgers plays the way he has the last two weeks, this should be a pretty easy game. It looks like Blaine Gabbert will be the starter and they’ll be without Maurice Jones-Drew. The Packers need to make sure to stop the run and force them to air it out. I wouldn’t be too upset if Cecil ‘Eat My’ Shorts catches a TD just so I can yell, ‘Hey Cecil! Eat My Shorts!” Saturday night we’ll be going out to some of the Green Bay Bars dressed up for Halloween, I’ll be ‘Zombie Brett Favre’. It might be a bit chilly for me to wear Crocs. I haven’t been to Lambeau Field since last November when the Packers destroyed the Vikings 45-7. There was no new Macho Men Radio this week, C-Mac and I will be back next week to talk about our trip to Green Bay and hopefully my Packers will be sitting at 5-3 while your Dirty Birds are atop the NFL at 7-0. Philly will be a tough test, but that’s what separate the good teams from the great teams.
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