Hang on folks. We'll have Gary in a couple of minutes.
We've got Gary!
What about those Panthers Gary! Defense was outstanding, and Cam played much better in the 2nd half. What surprised you the most about this game?
I have been watching them a lot on film in recent weeks. I really see a team that's starting to get better. You're right, it all starts with the defense and the front seven. What surprises me is that they beat the 49ers at their own game, they out-physicaled them. That's a huge boost, when you can go on the road against an elite opponent and play that well. I love the way Cam Newton is playing. He's letting the game come to him. This is going to be a team that nobody wants to play as we get closer to the playoffs.
Gary, with the upsets that have taken place in Week 10, do you think this means that the teams are more "evenly matched" than before? I especially thought the Rams and Jaguars victories were particularly eye-opening.
There are different ways you can look at it. Some weeks I think we've vastly overrated some of these teams that we thought were going to be really good. Other weeks, I think it's a credit to the league that mediocre teams are still playing hard this late in the season and competing. I think injuries have a lot to do with it. I have become convinced that if you don't have your QB, you are in real trouble in this league. It's passing heavy league now and you can not mask the inability to be able to throw the ball well.
gary, how to figure the cowboys. they score a ton against Denver and then in the same sort of shootout with NO they score 17? their defense seems OK one week and then takes a siesta last night?
First of all, their defense has been awful in recent weeks. When a team gets behind early, they often abandon the run game and become one-dimensional. That may be an excuse for Dallas, because I think they abandon the run game too early no matter the situation. But I don't have an ansewr for how poorly their offense looked, especially their passing game. Although it looks to me that when you play aggressive cover schemes with their receivers, they struggle to get off contact and separate. I thought yesterday a lot of times they just didn't work to get open. But I don't know if I've ever seen a team that will go into a game and you have no idea what you're going to get sometimes. Usually it's on defense, but on Sunday it carried over to the offense.
The Colts beat 3 top teams.. 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos. Do you see them as a Super Bowl Contender without Reggie Wayne?
No, I don't really. I love Luck. I think they're a gutsy team with a lot of character. I think their blowout loss to St. Louis on Sunday was just one of those bad days. But I think not having Wayne really hurts them in terms of depth and I think when Luck needs a big play, especially on third down, I'm not sure he has that guy. My biggest disappointment for the Colts is they're not running the ball as well as we thought by now. Without Wayne, this should be a good, physical, grind it out offense and I don't see it yet. I think they're a playoff team, but I don't know how deep they can go, unless that run game comes around or if they develop that quality second receiver behind Hilton.
Hi Gary - are we beginning to see the more successful D's catching up with the high octane O's with physical, athletic and disruptive front 7's?
A good pass rush will always neutralize a good pass offense. For example, when you look at Foles in Philadelphia, if he has time to throw the football, it's like a 7-on-7 practice drill. But when he's pressured, it's a different story. The problem for defenses is if they come after these QBs with a lot of pressure and don't get there, they are sitting back on man to man coverages on the back end and good QBs can really exploit that coverage. I think you have to mix things up. But I do think that all of the spread looks we saw a year ago have leveled out now.
Do you think anyone can beat the Saints in the dome?
Oh, I think it's critical for two teams to be at home in January -- New Orleans and Seattle. The Saints are a totally different team when they are indoors, because of their sophisticated passing game. I think if they are forced to play outside in the cold, we won't see the same offense that we're used to seeing. Although, they ran the ball extremely well on Sunday, which has not been the case. That could bode well for playing outside in colder weather.
The performance by Mark Ingram last night against the Cowboys was extremely impressive. After all the bumps in the road for Ingram do you think he might finally be hitting his stride?
I thought he ran very hard. He ran with emotion. I think that rubbed off on his entire team. In all honesty, some of his big runs were the result of huge holes, where he did not have to break a lot of tackles. Though I don't think you can minimize this run game looks like it has the chance to give them great balance. The good thing for the Saints is they also have Thomas and Sproles. So, their run game has a lot of versatility, if Payton will commit to offensive balance.
Gary - has Seattle established itself as the NFC favorite or are we looking at any one of 5 teams (NO, SF, CAR, DET) with a chance to represent the conference?
I think all of the teams you mentioned are very evenly matched. I think Carolina has now joined the party, based on what we saw Sunday. As we already mentioned, Seattle as home is going to be tough to beat, especially if they get Percy Harvin back. All of these teams have really emerged. I think the NFC race in the next two months will be really terrific. It sets up the playoffs really well.
What's the verdict on Terrel Pryor after a half season worth of starts? Has he or could he still earn a shot to be the QB of the future?
To me, he still looks like a really good athlete playing QB. I don't know if he can ever turn into a consistent enough passer to get the job done. But he is certainly capable of creating enough big plays, because of his speed. I still think the Raiders have to look for a franchise Qb. I just don't think it's Pryor. But maybe I'm wrong.
Could Zac Stacy be a top 10 back next season?
I don't know if he's a top 10 RB, but I really like what I'm seeing. He runs with power. He seems to read the defense and make the right cut. I like his moves in the open field. And, he does some little things, like changing hands to protect the ball or clutching the ball with both hands when he's about to get hit. Those are nice qualities for a young guy.
Can New England keep up with Denver in a potential AFC Championship game?
A few weeks ago, I would have said no. But now that they have Gronk back, I like this team a lot better. I know they have holes on defense, but I think they'll have enough balance on offense down the stretch. With Gronk dominating the middle of the field, it will finally open things up for those young WRs on the outside. We will see a different offense the rest of the season. I do not think their margin of error is as big as it used to be. I think it would be beneficial for them to play at home in the playoffs. Denver would be their most likely opponent in the AFC championship. In fact as you look at all of the teams right now, it looks most of the power has shifted to the NFC. Without many elite teams in the AFC.
A lot of people are probably not overly interested in tonight's Miami-Tampa Bay game. But I think if you look beyond the X's and O's, it will be interesting to see the character of these teams. If they have the ability to put all of the distractions behind them. With Tampa Bay just trying to get a win and Miami trying to stay in the playoff hunt. Both teams have something to play for on a national stage. We may see a little better game than people anticipate.
How about looking ahead to next Monday night -- New England against Carolina? That should be a good one.