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December 17, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Gary Horton

Gary Horton
  (4:04 PM)

Hello! I thought with the great slate of games on Sunday we would really know a lot about these teams heading close to the playoffs. But just the opposite happened. We are more confused than ever. I was shocked at how one-sided some of these games were. This playoff race will go right down to the wire!

Timo (San Diego)

Gary, should the Niners take more positives or negatives out of last night's game? Almost blowing a 31 point lead in one quarter???

Gary Horton
  (4:05 PM)

I think they take more positives. Even though they let the Pats back in the game, they beat an elite team in December on the road in bad weather conditions and that is not easy to do. They were resiliant, their young QB didn't hurt them, and they will come away from this game feeling like they can beat anybody at any time.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Happy Holidays Gary - In yesterday's games both Big Ben and Eli threw horrible picks due to well disguised defenses. Have defensive game plans adjusted better to the many pass heavy offenses as the season has progressed?

Gary Horton
  (4:07 PM)

Yes, that is probably a really good point. Defenses have a book on Eli and Big Ben. But it is important to note that both of these guys take risks and throw into coverage more than you think. It's disguised because they make a fair share of big plays. Some of these INTs come from guys jumping routes. Both guys on film seem like they are locking into receivers more than in the past.

Lucio (Houston)

Have you ever seen a 3 players from the same draft have seasons like A. Smith, Watt, and Miller? Who would you pick for DPOY?

Gary Horton
  (4:09 PM)

You are right. They are outstanding young players. They are all complete players. Not just pass rushers. I would pick Watt as DPOY just because of his versatility. He can play outside and inside and we know he tips passes and forces fumbles. I watched him on film today and he is almost unblockable one on one. It's really hard to separate these guys because they are complete guys with great motors. We are lucky to get to watch them every week.

Lewis (Michigan)

Hi Gary, Detroit has too much talent to take a shallacking like the one they took to Arizona. Is Coach Schartz's head on the chopping block after such a lackluster effort?

Gary Horton
  (4:10 PM)

I didn't think so until Sunday where they didn't even show up. When they cannot dominate the worst OL in football, something isn't right. Stafford to Megatron is all they have right now. The coaches will get through this year I think, but there will be a tremendous amount of pressure next season to be a playoff team.

Watson H. (Kansas)

What do you make of the rushing, receiving and sacks records all potentially be broken in the same season?

Gary Horton
  (4:12 PM)

It's amazing that it is all happening at once. It says a lot about the talent in this league right now and the quality of play. You have to love all three potential records being broken, but Peterson is the one that shocks me. He is a medical marvel. He does things on film athletically that you would never guess. He is just a great great story. I think what is so impressive is these guys are chasing absolute legends... and may pass them.

Michael (Cincinnati)

Was yesterday's beating by the Redskins as bad a coaching miss match as it appeared?

Gary Horton
  (4:15 PM)

I don't think so. Until yesterday, Cleveland had been playing well. Shurmer and his staff was doing a good job. Washington is just a better team than we think. They are getting hot at the right time. When you watch the Browns on film, they have some things to be excited about. They have guys to build around.

Michael (Cincinnati)

Gary, Does Brandon Weeden's poor performance yesterday warrant serious discussion as to who starts this Sunday in Denver? 75% of Browns fans I know want to see Colt McCoy with this years group. Set us straight!

Gary Horton
  (4:16 PM)

You could go either way on that discussion. One one hand, you could say Weeden needs all the work he can get. But on the other hand, with the Browns out of the playoffs, it would be nice to see what they could get out of McCoy. Is he a solid backup, or could he compete for the job next year? Or is he a guy you might try to get something for in a trade if he plays well? I don't think this staff would start him, but the idea has some merit.

Paul (Denver)

If the Bears miss the playoffs, does Lovie Smith deserve to retain his job? 0-7 in Dec the past two years. 1-7 in his past 8 versus Packers.

Gary Horton
  (4:18 PM)

This is an organization that doesn't like to change. I think he would probably survive this year. But there is great disappointment in this team falling apart. They have problems in so many areas. They are also not a young team. Not only do they have weaknesses, but there window is closing. Cutler and Marshall are about all they have. They don't look like a competitive team to me, unless the defense is creating turnovers in bunches.

Alex (Anaheim)

Will the Jets actually claim a playoff spot after looking so dismal for a while?

Gary Horton
  (4:19 PM)

I don't get it, this talk about the Jets still being in it. To be honest, I think they will lose to Tennessee tonight. But in this crazy NFL, anything can happen.

Gary Horton
  (4:20 PM)

I just see a team really short on playmakers.

Thomas (Austin, TX)

Gary, what did you think of Pete Carroll's explanation about the fake punt?

Gary Horton
  (4:22 PM)

I didn't have a problem with it. I think Pete is a coach that is going to keep his foot on the peddle maybe more than some. But this isn't high school. The other team needs to stop it. That play will not only help Seattle in terms of their special teams, but it forces future defenses to take notice. I don't think he's trying to offend anyone, I just think he's an aggressive coach.

Gerald (Knoxville)

After yesterday have the Falcons shut up all their critics? That was as dominating of a performance as we have seen all season not just from them but from anybody in all phases of the game. Falcons are going to be a very tough out in the postseason and playing in Atlanta is one of the toughest venues to play in the league.

Gary Horton
  (4:23 PM)

I'm probably one of the critics and it made me shut up. I think it will send a message to some, but the biggest message was to themselves. That they can beat an elite team in a game that counts. They will take that away from their win over the Giants. Having a positive mindset in January in Atlanta is huge.

Keith (Indiana)

What do the Colts need to do in their rematch with the texans in 2 weeks?

Gary Horton
  (4:25 PM)

The Colts learned the Texans are a more complete team. The Colts have been on a great run in recent weeks, but they are coming back to reality. As great as Luck has been, he makes his share of passing mistakes and that needs to be cleaned up a bit.

Chris (MPLS)

Make your pick, Peterson or Manning, for Comeback Player of the Year?

Gary Horton
  (4:26 PM)

I think one will be the MVP and one the Comeback Player of the Year. What makes it difficult is look at both of these teams if they didn't have these guys. They wouldn't even be competitive. It is the toughest decision we have seen in a long time, to decide this question. I wish they could both get co-MVP and co-Comeback. The similarities are striking.

Nolen (Canada)

Who wins the NFC East?

Gary Horton
  (4:28 PM)

I still like the Giants. As bad as they looked on Sunday they are still a veteran team that can rebound and turn things around. Their remaining games are both winnable. Having said that, I could also see the division coming down to the winner of the DAL-WAS game in Week 17. I don't think a Wild Card is coming out of the NFC East.

Tim (DC)

Didn't Denver make the playoffs last year with Tebow at QB? How can you say they wouldn't even be competitive without Manning????

Gary Horton
  (4:30 PM)

They did with Tebow, but I don't think it was because of him. They played well in a lot of areas and he was a compliment. I just think they are so different with Manning and the ceiling is so much higher. But your point is well taken. I probably am drinking the Kool Aide because I am amazed at how much improvement they show on a weekly basis as the chemistry improves. I watched the film from Sunday and it is shocking how Manning is throwing to spots even before his receivers come out of their breaks. That is so hard to defend. You are right, Tebow was a great story a year ago, but I don't think it could happen again.

Deven (Western NY)

If you were the Bills GM, what would you do?

Gary Horton
  (4:32 PM)

I think they have some pieces in place. They have more playmakers than you might think. They need help in the passing game and on the OL. They have to decide if they have their QB of the future. This is not as bad a team as a lot of people think in terms of personnel.

John (California)

Is Phillip Rivers done in San Diego?

Gary Horton
  (4:34 PM)

No, not at all. I think he will still be an outstanding QB with a new coach. Rivers is a student of the game, amazingly competitive and I don't see them getting anybody better. I would like to think this year wasn't a true example of how good he is. I think he will rebound. A lot of his problems are the lack of a run game and one of the worst OL's in football. If those improve and he gets more passing weapons, watch out. This offense could get back on track quickly.

Sean (Colorado)

Though they are as flashy on offense as last season's 15-1 team, do you feel this Packers' team is actually better suited for an off game by Rodgers and, thus, a more effective playoff run? Seems having to grind every week keeps everyone on their toes and the improved pass rush and defensive backfield play make them dangerous for any game, anytime, any place. So long as it doesn't come down to Crosby!!

Gary Horton
  (4:36 PM)

I think with Rodgers running the show, they are certainly capable of winning it all like they were a year ago. They just can't afford an off day by Rodgers. They have no run game. The OL has injury issues. They are not consistent on defense. Yet having said all that, if the passing game is clicking they can beat anybody. They continue to be a flawed team like they were a year ago.

Sean (Colorado)

Stafford has had a season to forget. After being acclaimed as one of the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the league, are there any real concerns long-term, ie- the lazy throws, bad form, misreads, to change the projection of him going forward?

Gary Horton
  (4:37 PM)

I don't think so. Keep in mind all of his production is without any run game where defenses know exactly what he is going to do. He has one guy to count on - Calvin Johnson - yet their production is off the charts. A better run game would give Stafford play action and that could do wonders for his production. No question he is a guy you can build aroud.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Will RGIII help save and resurrect what has been Shanahan's fading/tarnished legacy the past several years, post-Elway?

Gary Horton
  (4:39 PM)

It certainly has helped. I still think Shanahan would have gone down in the record books as a great coach even without this success. The way he has adjusted the offense to RG III's skills has been terrific. I would change the question to what has RG III done to Washington and that fan base? They are more energized than we have seen in a long time. This is a fun organization to see have great success. They guy they are building around is going to be good for a long time. The NFL is a better league when the Redskins are relevant.

AJ (Oakland)

Gary, the Chiefs desperately need a QB. Yet, there are no Lucks or RGIII's in the draft. Do they take the best player available with the first pick and sign a bridge guy like Alex Smith?

Gary Horton
  (4:41 PM)

It will have a lot to do with a new coaching staff if there is one. I could see a scenario where they trade the first pick for additional picks and load up with good young rookies. The problem is, you don't right now have a guy that teams would trade up for. It's still very early to predict that. The Chiefs are a team that need more than just one player.

Michael (New York)

when megatron ends his career will he be better than jerry rice

Gary Horton
  (4:43 PM)

It's a fair question. Especially in today's pass happy NFL. He has a strong-armed QB and will probaby post great numbers every year. He has tremendous size. I think he should be even more productive in the red zone. The key will be can he stay healthy and do it for a long time like Rice? He appears to have the character and work ethic to put up the numbers. We'll just have to see.

Gary Horton
  (4:44 PM)

Keep in mind, MegaTron plays in a dome. That means bad weather is not as much of a factor in a lot of his games.

Michael (New York)

do you think kirk cousins could be a above average qb in the league right now.

Gary Horton
  (4:45 PM)

I do. I really like what I see. He's in a tough spot, stepping in for RG III. But I think he could develop into a solid starting QB. I'm not sure he could be an elite guy, but I watched him closely yesterday and I like his movement out of the pocket and his ability to run the bootleg. If you build around his skills, he could be very successful.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Would Mark Sanchez have more success in an offense that plays to his strengths like rolling out and throwing on the run or is this season indicative of the kind of QB he is?

Gary Horton
  (4:47 PM)

I agree that when you can roll him out and get him on the edges he is probably better. But a guy with his experience shouldn't be making the mistakes he makes. He throws into coverage, the ball sails on him and he doesn't always read defenses. In fairness to him, he has almost no weapons in the passing game and a mediocre run game. I suppose you could wonder if he would be better with a better supporting cast.

Randy (Rand WV)

Why doesn't Carroll get more respect for the geat young team he has built in Seattle? They were a laughing stock when he took over and he has built a true contender.

Gary Horton
  (4:50 PM)

I agree. Nobody turned over their roster more than the Seahawks did in Carroll's first couple years. He has a strong feel for personnel and they have tinkered with the roster to get it where they want. He probably doesn't get a lot of sympathy because he does his thing his way. He doesn't really care what anybody thinks. And probably still some bitterness about the way he left USC. But he is a great motivator and has a great football mind. This is a dangerous team to face in the playoffs. And I think his players really enjoy playing for him.

Gary Horton
  (4:52 PM)

Thanks for all the great questions! A lot of folks aren't excited about tonight's MNF game but I think it is interesting. The Jets still have a chance to get in and they are always an interesting story, like them or not. I think we still have some compelling matchups the next two weeks. We're almost back to the drawing board in terms of what we really know about these playoff contenders. Take care and we'll talk again next week!