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July 8, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Gary Horton

conner (iowa)

do you think the nfc west will have 3 playoff teams?

Gary Horton
  (4:03 PM)

I don't think so. There is no question in my mind that San Francisco and Seattle are both elite teams. I believe they both have a chance to be in the Super Bowl. I really think St. Louis is on the way up, but I think it's a year early for them, especially since they have to play SF and Seattle twice, each. The NFC West has gone from the worst division in football to maybe one of the best. It seems in recent years we've always talked about the NFC East being the best division, but it looks like that's shifted now.

Alex (Anaheim)

Who is the strongest overall team on paper?

Gary Horton
  (4:05 PM)

Right now, I'd look at Seattle, San Francisco, and probably Denver as probably the three teams with the most weapons. I would be surprised if any one of them would not play up to our expectations. Obviously, there are several other teams that are good, but I don't know that they are elite. They could certainly get into the Super Bowl mix. I look at a team like Houston. Some team always emerges that we're not talking about.

Ben (Waco, Texas)

Do you think Matt Schaub is a Top-Flight QB? (I do)What do you think the Texans chances of winning the Super Bowl this year is looking like

Gary Horton
  (4:06 PM)

As we just mentioned, I think they're right on the edge of being an elite team. They're in a winnable division. I do like Matt Schaub a lot, especially when his run game is going well with Foster. He's good in bootlegs and roll outs. I would expect the Texans to make a deep run into the playoffs. As I look at it right now, their biggest rivals of stopping them from getting to the Super Bowl might be the Broncos. I would have said the Patriots, but they have so many other things to deal with, you don't know where they'll be.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi Gary, The St. Louis Rams are asking for $700 million in renovations for their stadium, their lease runs out in 2014, will the Rams pack and possibly head west or stay in St. Louis and settle for something less?

Gary Horton
  (4:08 PM)

I haven't followed it closely enough. I'm sure there will be a threat of them going out west. But the one thing we have to keep in mind is L.A. has had so many chances to put something together to bring in an NFL team out west and they just haven't done it. I don't think they're even close to getting a stadium deal. It's very difficult to see a team try to move there when there's nothing in place for them. It looks good on paper, but I just don't see anything getting done to allow the Rams to make a move.

Gary Horton
  (4:09 PM)

If L.A. had a stadium or if they at least had a plan, there are several teams that would have probably considered moving, starting with San Diego, but that's not the case.

John (Cleveland OH)

One more question. The Browns keep saying that Brandon Weeden will have to fight for his job. But besides a slim chance to me with Jason Campbell it would seem the Browns are going to hand Weeden the job. Do you see it that way?

Gary Horton
  (4:10 PM)

I would be very surprised if he didn't win the job, because I think he has the best skill set. I think he will really fit better in this new offense that will have more vertical passes and seam throws under Norv Turner. He did not seem like a good fit in the West Coast offense from a year ago. While I think he will be the starter and they want him to flourish, I think this is a one-year deal for Weeden. If he doesn't do well this year, they will start over in the offseason.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Gary - if a team was only good on one side of the ball which would allow them to be most competitive - offense or defense?

Gary Horton
  (4:12 PM)

That's a tough question to answer, but I would have to think offense in today's wide open NFL. We see so many innovative offenses and spread packages that are so difficult to defend. I just don't see that many shut down defenses any more. This has become a throwing league with great QB play. I believe that's what the league and fans want and that's what they're getting: a wide open, entertaining product.

Athens tn [via mobile]

what will tenn. football team look like this year? what should i expect from them?

Gary Horton
  (4:14 PM)

I think they're an interesting team. But in my mind, they need to really commit to the run game and take some pressure off of Jake Locker. I believe their defense will be improved. If they can run the ball effectively to set up play action and if Locker can take his game to the next level and avoid mistakes, I think they'll be right in the AFC South race. Houston is the front funner, with Jacksonville way behind. But I think Tennessee and Indy will compete for playoff positions. I think they expect to be good.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Hi Gary - are there any AFC teams that have the potential to compare to SF and Seattle if not this season then going forward? I'm thinking if their young QBs can make steady progress that the Dolphins & Bengals have a chance to become solid contenders for a while.

Gary Horton
  (4:16 PM)

I think the only team right now in that category are the Denver Broncos. I do agree with you that Miami should be improved and that Ryan Tannehill should be really good this year. The Bengals should be favored to win the AFC North. They look the most complete they have in several years. But neither one of those teams look complete and they're both in divisions that will beat each other up. I look at the AFC and I see interesting teams. I see improving teams. But I don't see elite teams. We've never gone into an NFL season with so many teams having a chance to be successful. This looks like a wide open race to me.

Gary Horton
  (4:17 PM)

One of the big reasons is that teams that have always been powerhouses in the past, like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, maybe even New England, now have their own concerns and issues to deal with. They don't seem to have the elite status as they have in the past.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi Gary, Victor Cruz, $45-$46 million / 6 year contract signing give the Giants an edge in NFC East this year and years to come?

Gary Horton
  (4:19 PM)

It certainly gives them a chance to have a better passing game, but they still have to get Hakeem Nicks done one of these days. But getting Cruz locked in for a long time will certainly make Eli Manning happy. I also see the Giants, however, with a lot of other issues. Their OL is aging. Their once dominant pass rush is less effective. Having said that, I don't see another elite team in the NFC East. They can be right in the middle of things. I think this division could be something like a 10-6 winner. I would be surprised if two teams make the playoffs from the NFC East.

Jersey city (Jersey )

What do the chiefs have to do this year to make the playoffs

Gary Horton
  (4:21 PM)

They could be a surprise team in the AFC. They have better players than people realize. They have six Pro Bowlers. They have a terrific run game in Jamaal Charles. They have good defensive players. Now, they have the potential for a great OL. They have the perfect QB in Alex Smith to run this offense. The biggest change we'll see this year is less mistakes and turnovers. They'll be fundamentally sound. I could easily see them going to 9-7, 10-6, especially with San Diego and Oakland in the same division.

NIAGARA FALLS NY [via mobile]

WHO WILL BE STARTING QB FOR BUFFALO BILLS

Gary Horton
  (4:24 PM)

I feel like they might give the job to EJ Manuel and just live with his up and down play. This is a new coaching staff. Not much is expected. Why play Kolb when you know he's not the long term answer? This is not a team this year that's going to make the playoffs, probably. I could see the coaches declaring him the starter early. I remember a year ago, Seattle had Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn compete for the starting job all through training camp and Russell didn't really claim the job until late. That cost him a lot of reps that would have been beneficial in August. It wouldn't shock me for the Bills to look at that situation and say let's give the snaps to the rookie and get him as much experience as possible. But that's just a guess on my part.

Sean (Colorado)

The 49ers and Seahawks are being touted as the frontrunners, rightfully so, but are prognosticators sleeping on Green Bay? Along with the game's best quarterback, they have an elite receiving corps and cornerback depth to go to battle with. Also, they should see noticeable improvement in their running game, pass blocking and pass rush with the offseason additions/changes. Enough to slot above Seattle?

Gary Horton
  (4:28 PM)

You know, you might be right. Certainly with Aaron Rodgers, you always have a chance. Green Bay has sort of fooled me a little bit the last few years, so I probably have a more wait and see attitude. But they do have some young defensive players who should start to get them better production. Their whole key for doing better is the running game. If they can have any sort of balance to get defenses to play honest and get Rodgers some help, they will be an elite team. I just don't think you can consistently win with only one dimension to your offense. They will be fun to watch.

Sean (Colorado)

Speaking of the Chiefs, do you expect Alex Smith to perform better under Andy Reid than he did in San Francisco? While he was fairly efficient, the Niners didn't exactly put the game in his hands as much as the Chiefs may be willing to do.

Gary Horton
  (4:30 PM)

I think he'll be terrific in this offense. It's a West Coast scheme, designed to get the ball out quickly. It puts a high premium on short throws and accuracy. Those are all great Alex Smith traits. I think it's important to remember that he has a terrific running game with a really improving OL. That's going to set up nice playaction. I just look at Smith as a guy who's not going to make a lot of mistakes. The Chiefs will not beat themselves. I believe their biggest improvement will be on their turnover-takeaway ratio.

Gary Horton
  (4:31 PM)

We're about two weeks out from training camps starting. I'm sure everybody is getting excited. It seems mindboggling that the Hall of Fame game and ceremony is less than a month away. That's something we can all look forward to and hopefully get past all of the negative stories that we've had to deal with recently.