Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

November 18, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Gary Horton

Jim (Memphis)

Can Carolina slow down Gronk tonight?

Gary Horton
  (4:05 PM)

I have watched a lot of film on both of these teams in the last couple of weeks, and Gronk totally changes this New England offense. He can threaten the middle of the field and it now gives those young WRs one on one matchups on the outside because of the attention Gronk gets. However, as good as the Carolina LBs are, they have had some problems covering pass catching TEs. I would look for Brady to really look to get Gronk on a LB tonight instead of safeties. This is a different offense with him in the lineup. And, with this great pass rushing Carolina front four, Brady must get the ball out quickly to avoid getting hit.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Hi Gary - has the babying of young QB's almost made it impossible for the Jets to bench Geno Smith without long term repercussions? Just seems like he needs to sit and watch for a while if he has any chance of becoming a consistent, solid QB.

Gary Horton
  (4:07 PM)

The problem with the Jets is they don't have a viable option. If they had a solid veteran that they trusted backing him up, it might be a different story, because you can sell the fact that they're in the playoff hunt. I totally agree with you that he looks totally lost right now and the mistakes that he continues to make are surprising and they need to limit what he does to safe passes and the run game. What's most disturbing to me is he is sloppy with his mechanics and he doesn't take care of the football. He looks good one week and lousy the next.

Tim (CLT)

Gary, how do you see tonight's game unfolding? I am worried Carolina is a bit too hyped up and may be nervous in primetime, whereas the Pats are used to this environment - plus they are relatively healthy on offense with Vareen, Gronk and Amendola.

Gary Horton
  (4:09 PM)

I think Carolina is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think they welcome this opportunity. Remember, they won a tough game at San Francisco, so New England is not going to scare them. We know how confident and talented they are on defense. Their offense is really growing on me. I know they have a run game, but I like how Cam seems comfortable in this offense. The coaches have simplified his reads. I think Carolina will play under control. In my mind, this game comes down to the trenches, can the Pats' OL control the Panthers' DL?

Steve (Charlotte)

How will the Pats attempt to slow down Carolina's offense? All week I've only heard about Car D vs Pats O, the other side of the ball is not getting as much attention.

Gary Horton
  (4:13 PM)

I think the challenge for the Pats is to stop the Carolina run game. They have three backs who are talented and can be very physical. We know that New England has taken some hits on defense, especially inside, with the loss of Wilfork and Mayo. I could see Carolina pounding the football early to keep Brady off the field and that could set up really good play action.

Alex (Anaheim)

Is the Giant defense for real at this point?

Gary Horton
  (4:14 PM)

I like the fact that their pass rush seems to have come alive in the last couple of weeks. But I don't think they are dominating at all, nor will they be. They have some problems on the back end of their defense. And they faced a Green Bay offense that wasn't what we are used to seeing. You have to like the Giants for their tenacity. But even though they're close to being in the playoffs, they're still not a very good team.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Was the Ahmad Brooks penalty yesterday really a penalty, or simply some home cooking? There was no helmet to helmet contact, slap to the head, or horse collar. What can a defender do at this point? Is the league being over legislated?

Gary Horton
  (4:18 PM)

At first I thought that it was a good call and that was an illegal hit. But the most I watched the replay, I really thought he was going for his neck and not his head. We have to keep in mind that Brees is not a 6-foot-5 QB. I came away with the feeling that the defender was actually trying to avoid a hit that would result in a penalty. This is a huge problem for the NFL right now, because I think players are absolutely confused about what they can and can't do regarding hits.

Lucio (Houston)

Were you suprised that Kubiak benched Keenam for Schaub yesterday and are the Texans really this bad?

Gary Horton
  (4:20 PM)

I was very surprised that he benched Keenum. Even though he's not perfect, I saw somethings that give you promise. Like it or not, we know who Matt Schaub is. The Texans must make a decision on whether Schaub is the future or not, and that includes looking at Keenum. The Texans are a shock to me in terms of how they are playing. Even though they've had some injuries, this has been a really good football team with a lot of elite players. They just seem to have lost all of their fight. When I watch them it looks like they are just going through the motions. I don't get that because this is a quality organization.

Tom (DC)

is mccown playing cutler out of a job? or with they go right back to cutler once he fixes that ankle/groin?

Gary Horton
  (4:22 PM)

It's still Cutler's team, but I think McCown really makes it interesting. The thing that makes him unique is the coaches can give him their entire playbook, because he is so familiar with this offense. I think we gave to be very careful about getting too excited about a backup QB, but I have to admit when I see him play, he really shows signs of being a really good player. Depending on how long he plays with Cutler hurt, this might be a tougher decision than people thought. I don't think the Bears are close yet to thinking McCown is their QB of the future.

Aaron (Leesburg, VA)

Any clue what Jim Schwartz was thinking calling for a fake FG instead of going up by a touchdown?

Gary Horton
  (4:24 PM)

The Lions continue to really confuse me. When you think of the bigger picture, this is a division that has been theirs for the taking, with a lousy Minnesota team and Chicago and Green Bay dealing with injuries, especially at QB. By now, Detroit should have run off with this division. But it seems like every year we look at them and their talent and yet they tease us and they don't play up to expectations. There is no way they should have lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday. If they're not careful, Green Bay and Chicago are going to be close enough to make this a real race when they get their QBs back.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi Gary, The Panthers have a 4 game winning streak, 3 teams with 6-4 records behind them in the playoff standing and playing some great football. How well do they match up with New England tonight and should they make the playoffs have far can they go?

Gary Horton
  (4:26 PM)

I think they matchup very well, because they have good versatility on both sides of the ball. We know about their front seven, but they also have a good run game. I think they have a QB that is really maturing. They can be productive in a lot of ways and they are playing with confidence. I think they have the best wild card team right now. It will be very competitive in the NFC as we go down to the wire. When you look at it, there are probably 6, 7, 8 teams that all have a chance to make it to the playoffs, even though most of them are certainly not elite. This looks like a year where 10-6, 9-7 are probably really good records.

Aaron (Leesburg, VA)

Is Mike Shanahan gone after this season?

Gary Horton
  (4:28 PM)

I know he will probably take some of the heat, but I think there are reasons that Washington is struggling. I think their defense really lacks personnel, especially on the back end. I think RG III not getting any real work in the offseason has been a real factor and I think just now he's playing his way into shape. They have a run game they can count on next year. With a good offseason, he will return to form. But the Redskins also have a lot of contract issues with veterans that they have to deal with. I can't imagine at this stage that they would make a change and start over. I think they feel, especially in the NFC East, that they are close to being right in the middle of things.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Gary - are Atlanta and Houston in a good position to dramatically improve next year - they both will be drafting very high in a deep draft, they will have strong core players still on the team and a coaching staff that has won in the past?

Gary Horton
  (4:30 PM)

I would like to think that this year is an aberration for both of these teams. One of those years where whatever can go wrong did go wrong. Regardless of a high draft pick or not, I agree with you, that they will both be back with very strong teams next year. Atlanta especially has a lot to build around. Houston has a challenge to figure out what to do with the QB position. But other than that, both of these teams don't have major weaknesses that they have to rebuild.

Gary Horton
  (4:31 PM)

This should be a really intriguing Monday Night Football game. I think it is a great measuring stick of where both of these teams are right now. It wouldn't be shocking to see a repeat of this game in January.