I thought after watching the games on Sunday, Houston is clearly the most complete team in the NFL right now, the Giants are the most resilient, the Redskins might be the most promising and the Patriots are the most confusing in my mind. This continues to look like an 8-8 type league. But somebody has to start emerging soon.
Hey how ya doin? I was wondering how you thought my Lions might do tonight?
I'm really struggling with figuring out this game. I think there has to be a huge sense of urgency from the Lions and this is a game they can not afford to lose. But they have to run game and unless their pass rush can really pressure Jay Cutler, he can pick them apart on the back end of their defense. I just love the opportunistic Bears defense right now. I have been told the weather is very iffy for tonight and that could mean the Bears run game may be the key. Detroit is another one of those teams that I look at and really want to like, but something just seems to be missing.
Can we just say the Bills are done for the season? They just lost a heart breaker in a defenseless game.
I'm not sure we can say they're done, because nobody is emerging in the AFC East. While we would think the Patriots would run away with this division, I'm not sure that would happen. If you're a Bills fan I know it's frustrating because you see the talent and enough playmakers to keep them in games and yet, I don't see them winning the games they're supposed to win. Having said that, they're a team that can all of a sudden turn things around and at least be in the hunt.
There are mixed reviews on the career potential of Andy Dalton. What do you see?
He's going to have some bumps in the road, because he's still a young guy. I love his skill set, but he just doesn't have a lot of weapons yet. When he can't get the ball to AJ Green, which is what happened Sunday, this offense is in real trouble. I think the run game has stalled which limits his playaction. And he has also made some bad decisions. But I think this is a Bengals offense that can still evolve into a pretty good group. But at this point, you would have to call them disappointing.
Hi Gary - which of the middling AFC teams do you think has the best chance to pull ahead of the pack as the season progresses?
Well, Houston is already there, so we won't include them. I think you look at Denver who is getting better every week. By the time we get to the postseason, if Peyton has the chemistry with his WRs that I think he will, they'll be tough to beat. And I also think the Patriots will get their act together. They're not perfect, but they have a lot of playmakers. The teams we usually put close to that elite category are Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Diego, but I think they're all in trouble. I don't see a positive turn around.
Do you think RG3 should be in the running for league MVP so far?
Probably not. I think the Rookie of the Year is something to look at. But I don't think they're winning enough yet to merit that consideration. I love watching him play and I think he'll be great, but I would not put him on the level of an Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Tom Brady or Eli Manning right now.
How much fun is it to see Griffin and Manning trade punches at the end of a close game?
I think it was great and I think that's what we're going to get used to. The great thing about RGIII is he can create plays in so many ways. I love the fact that they've cut down his designed run plays, but he's still making a lot of runs on scrambles. With this running game getting better each week, I see 2 things from him that excite me: a really nice playaction package off of his bootlegs and rollouts and I also think he throws a really nice deep ball for a young guy. He's not just an athlete playing QB, he's a QB that happens to be athletic.
How does Stafford do tonight? Thanks Gary!
It depends on what kind of protection he has. The Bears are not going to try and trick you. They'll stay in their Cover 2 zone most of the night and they will try to get to Stafford with the front 4 and 7 in coverage. If he gets good protection, he will have some holes to exploit, but those are some very tight windows. If the pass rush gets to him, that's when the Bears are most dangerous, because with the safeties playing deep, the CBs are excellent at jumping routes and taking chances. That's when those big turnovers are created.
I thought the Pats would pound the Jets with their hurry up offense. Did NY have a strong defensive game plan that made NE adjust or did NE just stay with a more conventional approach?
I think the Jets made a decision not to come after Tom Brady with a lot of pressure. It seems like they only sent 3-4 rushers a lot of the time. When that happens, Brady is usually really good at picking defenses apart. And the Pats also stayed fairly committed to the run game. When they do that, they're usually very effective. I thought both teams fought really hard. To be honest, I was surprised that the Jets hung in there as long as they did. When I look at them, I just don't see very many explosive weapons. I looked at this game as a pleasant surprise for how well the Jets played and a little bit of an alarm that the Patriots didn't put them away.
It feel so early to ask this but Is it safe to say that the Eagles season rests on the outcome of this Sunday's game against the Falcons?
I think that's probably a very fair statement, for more reasons than the record itself. They could be 3-4 and still have a chance to get in the race. But so many people are really going to look at them closely to see what changes they've made during a bye week and what kind of improvement they've shown in the last few weeks. I can not remember a team so intent on self-scouting and making such dramatic changes during a bye week as the Eagles. I'm interested in seeing if they really did make changes or if it was lip service. Even though Atlanta has an elite record, they are certainly not unbeatable. But this would be a very nice and necessary win for the Eagles.
Bears key to a win?
I think they have to get off to a little bit of a fast start, which has not been their identity this year. I think they have to protect Jay Cutler and not allow the Lions pass rush to create turnovers. If Cutler plays a clean game, the Bears will win. This key could change if bad weather becomes a factor, which would certainly favor the Bears and their run game over Detroit, which virtually has no run game.
Gary, it looks to me like Christian Ponder is in a slump now. What do you think he needs to focus on to take the next step in his development as a quarterback?
He's not close to the player he was early in the season. He's making some bad decisions that we did not see earlier. In all fairness, the first month of the season, the coaches were very conservative with him and did not try many high risk passes. With AP running so well, that will probably continue. But if Ponder continues to play the way he has the last two weeks, defenses are going to throw everything in the box to stop AP and dare him to beat them in the passing game. That could be the key to this Minnesota offense. I don't think he's as bad as he's played the last couple of weeks nor as good as the first month.
If the Cowboys beat the Giants this week are they right back in the thick of things? How well has their defense played?
Yeah, I suppose that's true. When I watch them each week, I still see a team that doesn't have a great identity. I think the team we're seeing now is what we'll see all season. One week they'll look really good and tease us and the next they won't. The key is when they're not playing a good game, they still have to be good enough to beat the lower level teams like we saw yesterday. They can't afford to lose to any of the teams they're clearly better than. If I were a Cowboys fan, I would be really concerned about losing my center on Sunday. I thought he was a real key to an improving interior line on offense. That could be a big deal. I just don't think we'll see a lot of consistency with this Cowboys offense.
There's nothing like an old fashion backyard brawl in the NFC North. I think this game will be very entertaining, because Detroit has to have it. From a Bears standpoint, I think this will tell us a lot about them in terms of whether they are elite or just a contender.