(Editors Note: With Boardwalk, Treme’ and the NFL, Sunday nights are plentiful with viewing options. Thankfully for us, our guys— Vinnie Goodwill, Nubyjas Wilborn, Brandon Scott, J.R. Gamble and D.K. Wilson—stayed focused on the games.)
Question No.1: Offensively, we sorta know what the Falcons bring to the table. Defensively, however, they’ve been significantly better than in previous seasons. Point blank, is their D elite?
D.K.: Elite defenses stop the run AND the pass and Atlanta is near the bottom of the NFL in rush defense. They're second in the league in interceptions (behind Chicago) and tied for first in forced fumbles. As long as they continue to force turnovers they'll compliment their potent offense. But they'll have serious troubles versus disciplined teams that stress offensive balance.
Vinnie: You can't be elite if you're last in the league against the run. Now, are Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson elite? Damn straight. Could they beat Green Bay if Aaron Rodgers (The future GOAT) has an off day? Yeah. But could they contain the likes of Marshawn Lynch going EA Sports on them? Or San Fran or Philly (If Andy gets a brain)? Until then, still pretenders. Yup, a 5-0 team that reminds me of the 94 Sonics.
Nubyjas: You are what your record says you are. So let’s give them some credit. In each of their wins the defense held it down in huge 4th quarter situations. If you ask Cam Newton, Matt Cassell, Peyton Manning, & RG3 they’ll tell you the Falcons are real. They’re not elite yet but they are on their way.
Brandon: Careful not to overplay that “run defense” critique. In four of the five wins, Atlanta played KC, Denver, Carolina and Washington. All have solid to elite rushing options. Still beat ‘em. Thing about the Falcons' defense: all they need to do is stay off the field so that O can go to work.
J.R.: The Chargers are 15th in scoring. Kansas City is 19th. Carolina is 27th. Next week’s opponent Oakland is 30th. What elite offense has Atlanta squashed? Ha! I’m not giving the Falcons defense its own nickname yet. Get back at me on Week 10 and 13, when a pissed off Mr. Brees is calling signals.
Question No.2: I picked Green Bay to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I’m not ready to throw the towel in on that pick yet, but, clearly, they struggle to stop teams. With players like Tramon Williams, BJ Raji, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews III; can anyone explain what the deal is with the Packers defense?
D.K. Too many Packers defenders seem to think they can win games with their reps and the "G" on the side of their helmets, instead of winning through their performances. You can't have eight prepared players and three who appear nonchalant. The past two seasons a 21-3 halftime lead meant the Pack was about to blow you out. Now, they're allowing rookie QBs to look like all-pros.
Vinnie: Last year's defense was bad; leading the league in takeaways was like dating the not-so-cute chick who did everything right. Cooked, cleaned, stood in line on Retro Jordan release days. You just weren't taking her out in public. Now, an exotic defense that relies on takeaways isn’t getting any. Considering they've used their first six draft picks on D, it'll be a little time before this girl becomes presentable again, let alone cute.
Nubyjas: Packers have always been known as an “opportunistic” defense. This means they get lucky and have some bounces of the ball go their way. That may work for a game or a season but eventually the well runs dry and the Pack looks real thirsty right now.
J.R.: For most teams winning a Super Bowl is like having a black President—It won’t happen again anytime soon. The football Gods can be cruel and confusing (ask the 07’ Pats or the 98’ Vikes) and this Packers defense may have peaked. Charles Woodson has played so long --God bless his Heisman soul – that he’s lucky his brain isn’t mush.
Brandon: You're not about to handle up in this league just because your names ring out. Having said that, it really goes to show you how wild it is that the Packers have been this damn good with so many weaknesses. It's an all-or-nothing defense, so a sketchy performance here or there is to be expected.
Question No.3: So anyone feel like going back on those RG3 over Luck debates? I mean, he just had a thunderous game.
J.R.: The Colts gave Luck the bucks, and his size was a major factor. Indy craved John Elway-type longevity, not a Bo Jackson flash of greatness. Luck hasn’t gotten RG3’s hype, but he’s taking all the hits. He’s quietly breaking rookie records and like the famous Glad trash bag commercial -- "Hefty, hefty, hefty. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy" --Luck’s proving bigger is better.
D.K. In an earlier Nickel, I wrote that both RG3 and Andrew Luck will be just fine and are perfect for their respective teams. I stand by that observation. But it cannot be stressed enough that the Weatherspoon cheap shot should have resulted in a penalty and ejection. Here's to hoping Weatherspoon's pockets are a good $25K lighter next week.
Vinnie: Just because I thought RG3 could be a little better than Luck doesn't mean I think Luck is on some Ryan Leaf stuff here. Dude brought it in the second half. Do we take points away because it was against a league-worst defense? No, but it's part of the story, and can we give Reggie Wayne some love? Luck showed some real mental toughness, which in addition to his ahead-of-his-time physical gifts, can only bode well down the road.
Nubyjas: Andrew Luck was impressive today. I still like RG3 a little bit better but as I’ve said before, both guys are the perfect guy for their team and cities. NFL just might have its Bird versus Magic match up with these two guys.
Brandon: Aside from the inevitable Luck/RG3 comparisons, think of it in the context of Indy dumping Peyton Manning because they believed that much in Luck. And really, Luck’s been NFL-ready for like two years. It’s not going to be a one-or-the-other situation with these two former Texas prepsters. Now what y'all know about dem Texas boyz? *Pimp C voice*
Question No.4: Kansas City QB Matt Cassell was showered with derisive cheers after leaving the game with a head injury. It was a home crowd, at that. Imagine yourself in that situation -- at a game, where fans cheer for a player's injury. What would you do: 1. Say something; 2. say nothing; or, 3. leave altogether?
D.K. In a situation like Matt Cassel's unfortunately you have to take the good with the bad. You're the QB; you'll be cheered vociferously and booed vehemently. But the way Matty Melted Ice has played so far this season, Chief's fans will remain far more interested in missing KC's offense and buying popcorn while hearkening back to the days of Len Dawson and Otis Taylor, and James Brown doing the popcorn.
Nubyjas: I wouldn't say a word because fans are insane. I’m not going to end up like Christian Robinson of UGA who had his house vandalized after a loss, or the 49ers fans that were shot in Applebees. Do I even have to remind you about Giants fan Brian Snow?
Vinnie: See I wouldn't be so diplomatic. In today's world where anyone with an opinion can express it, I'd be asking those fans how pissed they'd be if a player left their team "for the money”. Also, I'd politely tell them to direct their anger to the former Boy Wonder, Scott Pioli. Why isn't anyone calling for his head?
Brandon: Wait, did I miss something or is Matt Cassel still making over $5 million a year to be anywhere from mediocre to bad at his job? If I'm Cassel, I'm more worried about this injury, because it's not like dude's got ultimate job security. But as long as the check's in the mail, joke's on the fans.
JR: It wouldn’t bother me. Enduring stupid fan behavior is part of the game. Like rapper Keith Murray said: “It beez like that sometimes.” It’s not like Cassel has a broken neck. Besides, KC fans used to cheer Cassel when he was a poor man’s Tom Brady. Now he’s playing more like Tom Tupa, but still getting paid like Tom Jones.
Question No.5: Speaking of RG3, he also absorbed a head injury. Mild concussion is the diagnosis. He caught it trying to extend a play and not going out of bounds. Even though it’s a major part of his game, would you encourage him to run less?
D.K.: Atlanta LB Sean Weatherspoon meant to take out RGIII. If you caught the game's end you caught Weatherspoon doing a grotesquely lascivious dance directed at the Redskin fans. But take away Kyle Shanahan calling spread option plays and RGIII doesn't run that much at all. Time for Little Shannie to let RGIII run a grown-up NFL offense instead of his version of Baylor's spread-pistol.
Vinnie: "Running less" means he doesn't get that huge chunk of yards last week in the hurry-up against TB that set up the game-winner and I know he said he wouldn’t change. BUT, he's gotta be more careful out there, even if he's headed to the sideline. There's a middle ground, RG3. Find it. Taking these hits continuously means he'll just be NFL Rich when he can NFL Wealthy (i.e. Brady, Manning). Tell em, Rock
Nubyjas: RG3 is no Mike Vick or Randall Cunningham for that matter. Griffin is a pocket passer who just happens to run a 4.3 40yd dash. He’s fine all he has do is watch out for the hook.
Brandon: I don’t have a problem with RG3 running as much as he needs to, and the cheap shot isn’t shaking me either. But if “running” quarterbacks like Griffin would learn to slide, or stop embracing violent contact, that there would be smooth. We already know Michael Vick can't do it.
J.R.: No cheap shot on RG3. More like a welcome to the NFL helmet hug. RG3 is a lion. But he’s built like the Tin Man. The NFL is not the Big 12 and Weatherspoon is not some linebacker from a D-1 doormat. Could it be suspect field vision that left a dazed RG3 pondering in true Madden 92’ fashion -- “Where’d that truck come from”?