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January 14, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Gary Horton

Gary Horton
  (4:03 PM)

I think we finally hit a weekend where the games met and maybe even exceeded our expectations. If you're a football fan, I don't know how you can come away from the divisional weekend with anything but thinking this is the greatest sport in the world.

Khris (NY)

Why did Manning QB knee with 31 sec left in the fourth quarter instead of going for a hail mary or get into field goal range?

Gary Horton
  (4:03 PM)

I think John Fox is a conservative coach by nature and probably didn't want to risk a turnover and figured he would just start from scratch. I don't know if you should ever do that with Peyton Manning. How many times have we seen him get into position to win games with little time left?

Krishna (Los Angeles, CA)

Which game had the better ending: Atl-Sea or Den-Balt?

Gary Horton
  (4:05 PM)

That's a tough one, but I would say Denver-Baltimore, just because of the drama of two overtimes. Some huge plays, some positive, some negative.....but as I'm saying that, I was also captivated by Atlanta's and Seattle's capability to come back. That was dramatic also. There were a lot of players that made a lot of plays under tremendous pressure.

Jumpin' (Atlanta)

The Eagles are interviewing Brian Bilick. Was the T formation even in use when he was last a coach? Don't the Eagles look silly talking to this many people?

Gary Horton
  (4:07 PM)

Well, I think there is probably different ways of approaching getting a new coach. Some organizations have a feel for what they want and don't have a drawn out process. Some teams use it to get a handle on who is in the league, who is hot, who is smart, etc. A lot of people felt that Al Davis used to use the interview process to try and find out good football information about the other teams; interviewing guys he wasn't going to hire, but pick their brain and get good information. I happen to think that at some point you talk to so many people, the writers start to get nutty and it looks like you can't make up your mind. But I'm sure the people in Philadelphia decided that going in they wanted to interview every possible candidate. So I don't think it's a case of they can't find anyone they like.

Paul Mathless (Potomac, MD)

Q.: What's even dumber in the NFL than the tired old Gatorade dousing? A.: Calling a last-second timeout to "freeze" a kicker. Am I right, guys? The rules should be changed to protect coaches from their own stupidity. Wonder what Pete Carroll thinks.

Gary Horton
  (4:08 PM)

I agree with you. Everybody knows it's coming. To me, it doesn't make any sense. It's a rule that should be amended.

Gary Horton
  (4:09 PM)

To me, it almost looks high school-ish at times.

Alex (Anaheim)

Do the Ravens have another big win in them?

Gary Horton
  (4:10 PM)

I think it's going to be really tough to go to New England and face a team that is that hot. They ahve to be tired from a long, emotional game. The Pats team that I saw on Sunday is playing like a well-oiled machine. I think it's really going to be an uphill battle for Baltimore to beat them.

Dave (Charlotte)

If I told you that an NFL QB's record was 9-11 in the post season and 8 times he lost the first game in the playoffs (twice as many times as the next clostest QB), what would you say? Someone has to admit that Peyton is overrated when it comes to the post season.

Gary Horton
  (4:12 PM)

It's really hard to come to that conclusion, although your statistics back it up. I just think circumstances change so much from year to year. The QB gets all the glory, but he also gets all the blame. I just think the year that he just completed was so impressive and such a great story that it's hard to fault him for that loss. If they don't allow that long touchdown pass to tie the game, which he had nothing to do with, I would be talking today about Brady v. Manning this weekend.

Brian (NH)

Joe Flacco can't play good 3 weeks in a row can he? He is due for a dud of a game.

Gary Horton
  (4:13 PM)

I really liked this weekend that Ray Rice became more involved in the gameplan with 30 rushes. I also like that Flacco found the deep pass again to Torrey Smith, which seems to have been missing the last couple of weeks. However, we know this Patriots defense, while not elite, will give him some new wrinkles and they seem to be a group that force mistakes. I think Baltimore's worst nightmare is for the Patriots' quick offense to score a couple of quick TDs and force the Ravens into passing mode. That's when mistakes occur.

David (Idaho)

In retrospect, do you think that the unorthodox offense that Colin Kaepernick ran in college (the pistol offense), was what caused him to fall to the 2nd round when he got drafted? Because everyone can see that he all of the tools; speed, height, and a cannon for an arm, that all teams covet.

Gary Horton
  (4:16 PM)

I think that we're just starting to grasp now about how well these running QBs can adapt to the NFL. I think what we're seeing is that so many offenses in college are similar to what Kaepernick is running now that NFL coaches are adapting their offenses to the college game, rather than making the college QB adapt to the NFL. I think what we're seeing now is a lot of biases that we have aren't really that important. Russell Wilson is 5-11 and all of a sudden now we don't even talk about his lack of size, but on draft day it was a big deal. However, NFL defensive coaches are very very smart and when they have the whole offseason to really break down the lead option, look for it to be less successful a year from now. All you have to do is look back at the Wildcat and how it fizzled.

Gary Horton
  (4:16 PM)

I hope it's not the case, because I love the creativity of these offenses.

Dave (FL)

If you are the Patriots offense, don't you make Ray Lewis cover Hernandez/Welker/Woodhead? Ray is good but he's getting old and tired.

Gary Horton
  (4:18 PM)

I think you are exactly right. As well as he's played the last couple of weeks, coverage is not his strength. New England did a great job against Houston of getting the backs on a linebacker in coverage, whether it's coming out of the backfield or flexing. I think we could see Brady throw a lot on first or second down when Baltimore has their base defense on the field, including Lewis. That's when they can get him in coverage. In pure passing situations, you could see the Ravens going to their sub packages and maybe not having Lewis on the field. But I think that is something that Belichick will look at.

Mike (RI)

Can the Pats win without Gronk? They did go 4-1 without him this year and you could say 6-1 because he didn't show up for the Miami game and he only played a few minutes yesterday.

Gary Horton
  (4:20 PM)

Well, it certainly hurts because he is such a big target and so great at yards after the catch. What I thought was interesting on Sunday was the fact that they did not change their personnel groupings at all with Gronk out of the lineup. They used their 2 TE-plus sets 54 times, if I remember right. They may not have great pass catchers at TE other than Hernandez, but I think we will see the same groupings. They will continually look for great matchups as they did with Houston.

Jerry (chicago)

If you had to pick right now who do you feel the Bears will get as the Head Coach?

Gary Horton
  (4:22 PM)

I'm sure if you talked to them, they would tell you they have a specific plan and they are just trying to be thorough. But we're getting close now to the Senior Bowl and you need a head coach in place so he can start to put a staff together. These teams that wait so long run the risk of losing assistants that they would like to have. The Bears and Eagles have had a lot of time to get this right. Although, I think in the Eagles' case, they were enamored with the big college names and losing them probably slowed down the process.

John (Baltimore)

Is there a rule that the defense has to be set or can the offense (Patriots) just snap the ball whenever they feel like it?

Gary Horton
  (4:23 PM)

I think as soon as the official blows the whistle for the clock to start, they can go any time they want to. It just looked to me like Houston wasn't ready. The officials have to place the ball down and start the clock.

Ben (Los Angeles)

How do you think the Ravens can upset the Patriots?

Gary Horton
  (4:25 PM)

This becomes a huge ball control game. Ray Rice has got to have a lot of touches. They have got to convert on third down. Time of possession is a huge deal, because Baltimore can not score enough in a fast paced offensive game with Tom Brady. The way to beat this offense is to have Brady standing on the sideline and limiting his possessions. That means ball control and a clean game by Flacco. But I don't know that the Ravens can come in and control a game like this. Brady and this offense are just too good. I don't think this is the elite Ravens defense that we have seen in the past years.

Tarek (NYC)

For all the talk of Party in the NFL we have 3 of the same 4 teams in the championship games as last year and only 3 teams have gone to the Superbowl from the AFC since 03 (colts, Pats and Pitt) no much parity there.

Gary Horton
  (4:26 PM)

I think there is parity because more teams are now involved in playoff races later in the season and that makes for very competitive races. But when we get to the playoffs, the cream rises to the top and we understand why these teams are here every year, they just know how to win in January.

tippy (Michigan)

Why did Atlanta elect to squib kick instead of kicking deep with only seconds left. Seattle was ready for it and it could have cost them the game?

Gary Horton
  (4:28 PM)

I think it was a huge blunder and either one of two things happened. Either the kicker misunderstood and thought it was an onside kick instead of a squib or he just mishit the ball. What they wanted to do was not kick it deep and let Seattle set up a return, but a low line drive where there wasn't a lot of room to run. When I saw that kick, I thought it was a huge play. I could see Russell Wilson completing a couple of quick passes and getting them into a position to score.

Matt (VA)

Who do you like this weekend and why?

Gary Horton
  (4:30 PM)

I like the Patriots over Baltimore. Although the more film we watch this week, that could change. I just think Tom Brady is in a zone now, his defense has improved and they are actually showing a run game. I don't know where there glaring weakness is right now. I think San Francisco-Atlanta is a lot harder to figure. I think the 49ers is the most complete team left in the playoffs. Yesterday in Atlanta, the crowd that's not usually a factor, was. That could factor this week. I probably pick SF over Atlanta, but not with confidence. Probably the difference is that Atlanta has played against the read option this year against Cam Newton and Russell Wilson and they have not defended it very well. That's not very good news with Kaepernick coming to town.

Gary Horton
  (4:31 PM)

I hope we have two competitive games this week to match the intensity we saw last weekend. I think we have maybe the four best teams still in the playoffs, although from a really selfish standpoint, I would have loved to have seen another Manning-Brady matchup. But that's not going to happen. These are well coached teams with a lot of veteran players. I think we're looking at a terrific Super Bowl.

  (4:34 PM)

Thanks Gary!