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 this weeks installment! We were almost pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy, but thankfully my pal Allen has power and were good to go. Thoughts and prayers with all of our readers on the East Coast, hopefully everyone is safe and relatively dry. We are pretty close to the middle of the season some teams have played seven games and some have played eight. Before this article is over Allen and I will rehash our preseason picks and awards. We will also handout our midseason awards and most importantly we will tackle each others questions. I was out in Green Bay this past weekend for the Packers/Jaguars game and it was an ugly win, but a win is a win. The trip itself was a great time with great friends, I'll talk a little bit about it when I end the article, but here's my buddy Allen, let’s get to it!

Allen: Another Sunday, another enjoyable Falcons game. It was nice that I could watch the game and not have to worry about a game winning field goal. Atlanta is the best team football right now and it’s not even debatable. If you want to include the Giants, I can understand but any other team doesn’t have the body of work of beating teams. Things are great as a fan, now if only my fantasy teams can step up. Also just for the curiosity of readers, I do live on the East Coast and I’m doing fine. My power never went out and no trees collapsed near me. I’m very fortunate that everything went smooth but for those that were affected, I hope you recover soon because it was very serious. The only damaging thing for me Monday night was my eyes watching Monday Night Football. That wild card pick of the Arizona Cardinals is sure looking good now right Ace? Anyway lets get into another disastrous quarterback situation on the East Coast.

Allen: The answer to last week's question about Philadelphia's defense seemed to be answered in a big way after their performance against the Falcons for now. Philadelphia continues to be in major headlines over the offensive problems now. Michael Vick has been mediocre at best this season and there has been buzz that he may get benched in favor of rookie Nick Foles.

Do you bench Michael Vick and bring in an untested rookie to try to save the season?

Ace: This week Philadelphia travels to New Orleans to face the Saints and their terrible defense. Michael Vick, Andy Reid and company know that the clock is ticking on their season and in order to save it they have to turn it around here. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Eagles, I don't buy into the hype of the NFC East, aside from the Giants, and I've just never been able to say that the Eagles are a great team. I picked Philly to win the NFC East this year, mostly because I saw it as a trendy pick and wasn't fully on the defending Super Bowl champs bandwagon. With that being said, if the Eagles can't defeat the Saints this week, they're effectively 4 games back of the Giants at the midpoint of the season, and unless they hit a great streak, they likely miss the playoffs. should this team drop to 3-5 I say you bench Michael Vick and role with Nick Foles. Who knows what will happen, maybe this kid can rattle off a few wins and make this team somewhat productive on offense. If Foles is a success, it very well could save Andy Reid's job, a la Romeo Crennel at the end of last season for the Chiefs. If the Eagles are going to cut ties with Andy Reid, they will wait until the end of the season. He's been with the franchise too long and he's too well respected to be dumped in the middle of the season. Personally, I don't believe that Vick OR Reid will be in Philly next season, will Nick Foles be the starter next year? Who knows? Will he finish out the season as the starter? Yes, I believe so.

Allen: Monday Night will be the judgment game for Michael Vick in a Eagles uniform. We all know Vick has struggled all season but he will be playing against the worst defense that the NFL has had in years. New Orleans is awful on defense and would probably struggle to stop some of the best college teams. The Eagles will play them next week on Monday night, if Vick can’t have a good game against them then I’d pull the plug. The New Orleans defense has broken records on how awful they are and can’t seem to stop anyone. They’ll be playing in a dome too so Vick won’t have any excuses. I got a close look of Vick’s struggles on Sunday and he still can’t throw under pressure. Vick has notoriously been terrible against the blitz but you would think after all the years playing, he would pick up on it. His accuracy continues to fade and he’s not the same with his scrambling. I’m assuming that age has gotten to him, which doesn’t surprise me but he has so many weapons. They need to use LeSean McCoy more, who is the 2nd best running back in the league behind Arian Foster to me. Then you have DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek among others. You can’t say Philadelphia hasn’t surrounded him with talent. He needs to step up and his last opportunity is against New Orleans. If he fails against them, then there is no hope left and they’ll have to make the switch to Foles. Philadelphia will be 3-5 if they lose to New Orleans and need to salvage the season in someway. NFC is tougher than usual this year and it will take at least 10 wins to have a remote shot at making the wild card. 

Ace: One of the big surprises in Week 8 was the first game of the week, Tampa Bay at Minnesota. The local media was talking about how it would be a cakewalk for the Vikings, but instead a Tampa Bay team that is looking to make a name for itself in the NFC South dismantled them. Your Atlanta Falcons are 7-0, and the Bucs are in 2nd place at 3-4.

Do you think they can make a serious run at a Wild Card spot this season or do you think next year they will be bigger threats? Are you buying into Josh Freeman as a QB and this suddenly more competitive team?

Allen: Tampa Bay is going to compete, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. They went out and spent big money this off-season. You look at pickups like Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, which are paying off big time. We did hear yesterday that Nicks is gone for the season but he was a huge upgrade for them. Then you look at players like Eric Wright, who has been burnt in coverage consistently and is now facing a suspension. They’ve had some miscues but Tampa Bay spent well not to mention drafting Doug Martin, who looks like the second coming of Warrick Dunn for them. The issue with Tampa Bay is the defense is awful and allows too many passing yards. In a conference with quarterbacks like Manning, Rodgers, Ryan, and Brees among others it will be a serious issue. Tampa Bay seems to be a year away from the playoffs but they’ll be competitive through out the year. They could win around 7 games and cause a few more upsets. The offense is definitely more explosive, which they missed severely last year with nobody being a game changer for that team. Mike Williams is having a bounce back year thanks to Vincent Jackson taking the attention away from him and now he’s turning into an explosive player again. As for Josh Freeman, he still needs to be more consistent. Let’s not forget about his horrid game against Dallas where he completed only 35 percent of his passes. He still has some things to improve on but he’s on the right track so far. Tampa Bay is definitely more competitive and will start opening more eyes in the NFL but this team is still a year away from the playoffs. If they were in the AFC, they could sneak in but this team isn’t good enough to reach ten wins in a very talented conference.

Allen: Since we are just about hitting mid season, I'm starting to look at the playoff picture a bit. It may be too early especially with the NFC and their plethora of great teams, but the AFC seems to be wide open.

What two teams have opened your eyes and make you believe that they'll make it in the wild card in a very weak AFC wild card battle Right now the current teams are two major surprises in the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins. What teams would be your picks right now.

Ace: One of those two teams will be there after this weekend, the Colts and Dolphins face each other this weekend and the winner will control its own destiny as the #5 seed. Will that team be my pick? I'm not sure, but let’s start from the bottom and I'll tell you who won't make the playoffs. There are seven teams that I do not see making a run towards the playoffs and they are Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Tennessee, New York, Oakland and Buffalo. Some of those teams have had some nice wins, but none of have done anything for me that have stood out that screams they're a playoff team. There are five teams that I see in the field of six. Of the five, three are division winners. They are Houston, New England and Denver. The other two teams will be battling for the AFC North and a wild card that's Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Both teams have been bit hard by the injury bug and Pittsburgh is looking older on both sides of the ball. I would lean towards Baltimore right now because they should bounce back this weekend after a loss to Houston, there was no way Houston was going to lose that game. The final playoff spot will come down to four teams: Miami, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Diego. I believe it will be in that order. Miami has been in every game this season and with a solid core of head coaches and young players, they may have the tools it takes to get in. The winner of the Miami/Indy game will control their destiny. If they lose again, I would take the Cincinnati Bengals out of this conversation, but I still think they have loads of talent and could make a run. I don't think San Diego will be there at the end of the season. This team is way too inconsistent. You can go from looking dominating one week, an another week lettingCleveland put up seven points and still lose to them. When it boils down to it though, the winner of Miami/Indy Sunday should be the wild card team, but again, someone could make a run and totally throw that all off.

Allen: The Pittsburgh Steelers will eventually get their spot back. They finally look mostly healthy even though Troy Polamalu remains injured. At this point, I look at him as a complete non-factor going forward. If he comes back, it’s a bonus but otherwise I’m not counting on him to produce if I’m a Steelers fan. Pittsburgh might have finally found a running back that can produce and stay healthy in Jonathan Dwyer. He looks like their version of Willie Parker with his speed and elusiveness. If they can continue to get some ounce of a running game, they’ll be very dangerous offensively. Ben Rothlisberger is quietly having an excellent year and Pittsburgh has a nice trio with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Heath Miller. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but Pittsburgh is going to be in the playoffs and may be possibly even take the division from a Ravens team that seems to be declining. The AFC is so weak this year that it’s tough to pick another one but I’m going with a team I praised a few weeks ago in the Miami Dolphins. San Diego looks so lost right now that I couldn’t see them making another December run like they always do. Cincinnati is too limited on offense and allows too many rushing yards. Indianapolis could make a run but their defense is right behind New Orleans as the worst defense in the league. Miami just seems like the most disciplined team that can sneak in with 9 wins with a great rushing attack and a solid defense.

Ace: Since you covered the AFC a bit, lets move on over to the NFC. It’s still anyone’s game but if the playoffs were to start today, your Falcons would be the top seed and the Bears would get the second bye with the number two seed. The other division winners would be the Giants and 49ers and wrapping up the Wild Card spots would be the Vikings and the Packers.

Are these the six teams that you see representing the NFC in the playoffs or are there other teams that you see making the NFC's field of six?

Allen: I’m convinced that every team you mentioned will make it except the Vikings. Atlanta is a lock, San Francisco is a lock, and the Giants are most likely a lock to win the division. The reason I say most likely is because the Giants are so inconsistent and could lose it but they’ll still make the playoffs. Green Bay and Chicago will battle for the division but regardless they will be locks to make the playoffs. Minnesota is a good young team but they have too many flaws right now. The offense was exposed for being a two-man offense in Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. If you double cover Harvin and at least hold Peterson from big gains, the Vikings offense is below average and can be stopped. The defense is also decent but the secondary is still shaky to me and the tackling seems to be a major problem for the Vikings. The team that I would replace them with is going to be shocking considering I’ve been quiet about them for most of the season. Right now, I’ll go with the Seahawks for the simple fact that they are consistent and seem to be on the right track despite their loss. It’s a risky pick but Philadelphia is too much of a train wreck right now to choose. Dallas was a team that I heavily considered but they are another team that I’m not sure that can get together. With the home field advantage, they could win enough games then a few games on the road to win enough. A great running game and a pass rush could do wonders for a team, we’ve seen in the past with several wild card teams. I’m not convinced taking the Seahawks but they seem to be headed in the right direction. Detroit could be considered but with that division and how shaky the defense is, I’m not buying them at all to make the playoffs.

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

Considering Denver's easy schedule the rest of the way (only Baltimore would be considered above average) Do you see the Broncos being a top seed in the AFC and possibly reaching the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning's first year as their quarterback?

Allen: I’m starting to believe in Denver as a legitimate threat as every week passes by. Peyton Manning has gotten back into the groove, even though he always seemed like he was back. I’m not going on a tangent but give credit to Atlanta’s much-improved defense for giving Peyton a tough time. Denver’s defense is starting to step up after having some issues in the first few weeks. The pass rush duo of Miller and Dumervil are making more players along with the young secondary. They are making plays all around against great quarterbacks like Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees. Willis McGahee hasn’t hit a decline and is still moving very well for his age. Demetrius Thomas is starting to become a top ten receiver in the league especially with how well he moves after the catch. He’s becoming tough to cover with how athletic he is and his size. Denver has built a great team all around and Peyton has shut critics up such as myself. I’m not sure if they’ll be a top seed because its not like Houston has a really tough schedule. They may have Chicago and New England left but nothing else really stands out. I’m leaning towards Denver competing with New England for a 2nd seed at best because Houston seems too good right now to falter. As for the Super Bowl, Denver can certainly make it. They have the right balance on offense and defense to do it compared to Houston, which doesn’t have many weapons to throw to and New England, which has an average defense at best. Denver may not have the record to prove it but they may be the favorites to make it out of the AFC. I’m still conflicted on who’s the top team in the AFC but there is no denying that Denver is a Super Bowl threat.

Ace: This is a great question. Before the season, I wasn’t buying into the hype at all. I had Denver as a playoff team, but nothing more than that. Denver is the clear cut favorite to win the AFC West and with Baltimore’s defense living in the intensive care unit, they could be the favorites to finish with one of the two best records in the AFC with Houston. New England is their only threat, and if they end up with the same record, it goes to New England based on head to heads. Like you said, he’s got weapons with McGahee and Thomas. Eric Decker is looking like a great WR as well. Aside from Houston, there’s really no favorite coming out of the AFC. The Patriots and Texans have both been exposed and the teams really fall off from those two. If I had to pick a team to represent the AFC it would be New England, Houston or Denver. Those three are the most complete.

Ace: This is Week Nine of our ‘Elite Football Mind Challenge’. After going 5-0 in consecutive weeks, Allen now sits at 27-13, while I went 4-1 and lost another game and sit at 25-15. Here we go!

Arizona (4-4) at Green Bay (5-3)

Green Bay had an ugly win at Lambeau last week, but they face a Cardinals team that would be lucky to put up 3 points this week. I think Green Bay’s offense comes back to life with Jordy Nelson back in the lineup. Green Bay wins it’s 4th straight and sits alone in 2nd place going into their bye week.

Dallas (3-4) at Atlanta (7-0)

Is there a bigger Jekyl/Hyde team than Dallas? I think this will be a close game, but ultimately, Atlanta comes out on top.

Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3)

Miami won 6 games last year and Indy won 2, to think that both teams are 4-3 and one team will leave this game at 5-3, I don’t think anyone predicted that. I like the Colts attitude and that they’re playing for their coach and Miami is a scrappy team. I’m going to take Indianapolis because they are 3-1 at home.

Pittsburgh (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2)

Pittsburgh struggles at home, but now that Baltimore seems to be in the fetal position due to all their injuries, this is Pittsburgh’s time to shine. I think Pittsburgh wins knowing that they can steal the AFC North crown if they can put it all together.

Philadelphia (3-4) at New Orleans (2-5)

Both these teams were favorites going into the season and both are playing terribly. New Orleans is 5 games behind Atlanta while Philly is 3 back of New York. Philadelphia with Michael Vick and Andy Reid need this win more than anything. I think they get it done because New Orleans defense is dreadful. Philadelphia wins

Allen: I’m on a roll with these picks, but nobody should be surprised.

Arizona (4-4) at Green Bay (5-3)

Arizona is on a 4 game losing streak and they get treated with a trip to Green Bay. Green Bay didn’t look great last week but with Jordy Nelson back, I’m sure they’ll be back to firing on offense. Green Bay wins in a possible blowout. Who would have thought Arizona misses Kevin Kolb.

Dallas (3-4) at Atlanta (7-0)

I’m expecting Dallas to give Atlanta everything. If Murray plays, you may be looking at a possible upset. Dallas is better than advertised and matches up well with Atlanta. If this game were on the road, I’d pick an upset because Dallas is so due for a big win. The game is in the Georgia Dome and Atlanta rarely loses in there. Atlanta wins a close one.

Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3)

Indianapolis is overrated to me. They could easily be 2-5 if it wasn’t for late comebacks against Titans and Packers (remember that one Ace). Miami seems to be more legitimate and I’m not sure how they stop Reggie Bush. Miami makes more stops and gets the pivotal win. Miami prevails.

Pittsburgh (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2)

Its rare that Ace and I agree on an upset pick, but this is a rare occasion. Giants are due to lose especially at home where they are known to drop a few games. Pittsburgh seems to be riding on some momentum and I’m not sure how the Giants will stop Rothlisberger. I’m aware of the Giants pass rush but Rothlisberger is making great decisions all season long. Pittsburgh gets their statement win of the season in an upset.

Philadelphia (3-4) at New Orleans (2-5)

The game of underachievers is on national television? That’s a shame but we should see loads of points. Even though Eagles defense has been underperforming this year, they’ll make enough stops in this one. Michael Vick will have a good game because when you play New Orleans, you can’t help but throw for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns. Philadelphia wins in a shootout.

Ace: At this point of the article we normally wrap it up, but let’s take a look back and see our preseason awards and playoff teams and see how much we like them right now, through Week 8. Check out our preseason picks from our from August 29th

Ace: Taking a look back at my preseason picks to make the playoffs, the only two teams I’m not comfortable with areKansas City winning the AFC West andPhiladelphia winning the NFC East. The Bears and Broncos might not be Wild Card teams, but they’ll be in the playoffs. When it comes to any of my surprises, Seattle was a team I had as the #6 seed, it’s still possible, we’ll just have to wait and see.

When it comes to the awards, I believe that Aaron Rodgers is still capable of making a run at the MVP, but I think that it’s Peyton Manning’s to lose. He leads the league in passer rating, has 2,100 yards passing, 17 TD’s and 4 INT’s. Percy Harvin has been a freak this year and definitely deserves Offensive Player of the Year credibility. JJ Watt has been a beast so far, if he keeps it up, it’s his. The rest of the field plays out differently. It could be RG3 to win Rookie of the Year but it could be his teammate Alfred Morris who wins the award. He’s 3rd in the NFL and only 58 yards behind Adrian Peterson in rushing. If Morris runs for over 1,400 yards and RG3 comes back down to earth a little bit, it’s Morris not Griffin who wins the award. The rest of my awards are up for grabs. Harrison Smith could win, and should win DROTY, he’s been very good and is a tough defensive back for the Vikings, should he increase his stats, he’ll win it. My surprise teams are surprise teams for a negative reason, Kansas City was supposed to be contending for a division title and Carolina was supposed to be making a push at a Wild Card spot, both teams sit at 1-6. We’ll touch on these awards again in 5 weeks, lets wait and see how much they change.

                                                 The Ace’s Midseason Awards

NFL Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, Denver

Offensive Player of the Year: Percy Harvin, Minnesota

Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Watt, Houston

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Washington

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Harrison Smith, Minnesota

NFL Coach of the Year: Joe Philbin, Miami

Biggest Surprise (Player): Peyton Manning, Denver

Biggest Surprise (Team): Kansas City and Carolina

Allen: So far the only thing I’m totally off on was Kansas City, which is a complete disaster at the moment. Denver fans, I apologize for leaving your team off. Denver is very good and I should have known better. San Diego and Philadelphia look shaky right now, but you can’t rule them out yet. Everything else is looking pretty solid minus a few changes in the seed placements.

As for the individual awards, you know it’s almost impossible to predict those. Right now, Matt Ryan still reigns supreme especially after his performance against the Eagles. Tom Brady is next in line as top quarterback in the league, so he remains in his spot as offensive player of the year. Unless an injury happens, JJ Watt won’t move from defensive player of the year spot with the way he’s playing. The same can be said for Robert Griffin III, who can be only held back by his receivers these days (9 drops?!). Chandler Jones has been as good as advertised with six picks. Hey Jets fans, nice job drafting Quentin Coples over Jones. That is looking really good so far isn’t it? Mike Smith is easily the pick for coach of the year for simple fact that nobody expected Atlanta to be this good. The surprise player award can go in so many different directions but I’m giving it to Alfred Morris for the fact that I had no idea who he was until Week 2 and that he’s 3rd in the league in rushing. The biggest surprise is another award that is pretty loose on who you take, but I’ve been so impressed by the Dolphins that they get my pick. Nobody saw Miami winning more than 5 to 6 games this season.

                                                   Allen’s Midseason Awards

 

NFL Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Defensive Player of the Year:  JJ Watt, Houston Texans

Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Defensive Rookie of the Year:  Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

NFL Coach of the Year:  Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

Biggest Surprise (Player):  Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

Biggest Surprise (Team):  Miami Dolphins

Allen: Other than playing against guys in fantasy football that put up at least 150 points against me consistently in my money leagues, I can’t complain about football. It has been an excellent year and it makes even better than the NFC is filled with so many great teams. It will be a war to see who comes out of there in the playoffs. AFC still has some great teams but the decline after Pittsburgh is remarkable. I’m a fan of what Miami is doing, but they aren’t much of a threat even if they make the playoffs. I’m going to let Ace finish up the column because he had a great experience last Sunday going to the Packers game. Before that, I’m just stoked to see the Falcons get a prime time game. Whenever people ask me, what’s your favorite time to see your team play. I’ve always said Sunday night because that’s where the best teams are scheduled to play. Sunday night was made to put great matchups and we should have a good on Sunday regardless of Dallas record. It’s also good for fans because they haven’t really seen much of Atlanta other than making Peyton Manning look silly. Enjoy football fans watching the best team in football right now play on the big stage. I’m going to enjoy it very much.

Ace: I'm still getting my body back to the shape it was prior to Green Bay, here is my diet (combined with a lot of alcohol) from this past weekend. Saturday I had Burger King, Hardees and Texas Roadhouse. Getting back from the bar I got Subway. Sunday I had McDonald's, Pizza at Lambeau and Taco Bell. Monday I had McDonald's and Godfathers Pizza. I'm typing this getting and I'm getting a stomach ache thinking about it. Aside from running into MD Jennings of the Packers at Texas Roadhouse, it was a pretty tame trip. The friends I was with made the trip a super fun time. the game itself was a little disappointing because the Packers didn't play the greatest, but their defense kept them in there for the win. They should head into the bye week at 6-3, which aside from a bad call and a terrible second half 6-3 could easily be 7-1, we won't play that game though because the second half of the season has each team in the NFC North playing five divisional games apiece. The North and a Wild Card spot should come down to Green Bay and Chicago, it's not my homerism for the Packers, it's just a fact when you look at the schedule. I'm glad my buddy Allen and all of our East Coast readers are in good shape after Hurricane Sandy. I'm in Minnesota where 1 inch of snow puts everyone in a tizzy and if it rains, people forget how to drive. I couldn't even imagine the residents of this state being in a Hurricane. Check out last nights Macho Men Radio as we talked more about our Green Bay trip and looked at the NFC North. We'll be back next week to discuss Week Ten! The season is half over!

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.