NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly column featured on TJRsports.com. Allen and The Ace are big time NFL junkies and are Falcon and Packer fans, respectively. Each week the guys will ask questions and discuss the previous week’s games along with picking the Top 5 Games of the Week!

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18

Ace: Welcome to Week 15 of the NFL Season! We’ve got three more weeks of the season left and here is what we know for sure: Indianapolis lost but won the AFC South, the Broncos and Seahawks have both clinched playoff spots. That leaves 4 spots left in the AFC and 5 in the NFC. New England and Cincinnati can wrap up their divisions in the AFC and the NFC will remain tight. There were blizzard like conditions in many of the contests on Sunday afternoon and from a fan perspective it was fun to watch a little sloppy football, but from a fantasy football perspective, my two early exits from the playoffs do not like the snow at all. The Matt Flynn led Packers defeated your Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in what I hope will be the last time we see anyone not named Rodgers starting for the Packers. The Packers defense stepped up (well, based on their performance over the last five weeks, they did) and they ran the ball a lot, which is what they needed to do to win.

Allen: Indifference is a fitting word for the Falcons at this point. As long as they play hard, I can’t complain even when they lose although they should have won like last Sunday. You nailed it on the head, when it comes to the blizzard like conditions. The Lions-Eagles game was pure entertainment. From Calvin Johnson’s helmet being covered in snow on one occasion to LeSean McCoy running wild, that game was absolutely insane. As for the fantasy aspect of it, I have two words for you and that is Josh McCown. Shout out to him for helping me win all four of my first round games. What a stud, along with those stud receivers.

Ace: After losing to the Jaguars for the second time this season, Houston fired Head Coach Gary Kubiak on Friday after 8 seasons with the team.

It’s part of the business, but who do you see being out of a job when the season is over in 18 days on a day dubbed ‘Black Monday’?

Allen: Leslie Frazier has to be a lock at this point. You can’t lose that many close games, along with having a bad record and expect to come back. In the NFL, you need to win close games in order to make the playoffs and then eventually to win a championship. They have blown leads against Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, and now Baltimore in dramatic fashion. I’m certain that he’ll be replaced by the end of the year. Obviously the team has quarterback issues and the secondary is a complete wreck, but you can’t lose so many winnable games.

Mike Shanahan is another easy choice. His team has clearly quit on him for the past few weeks. He’s causing unnecessary stirs at press conferences about benching Robert Griffin. There clearly needs to be a new regime in Washington. Why bother keeping around a stubborn coach, who reportedly wanted out last year? You don’t always believe in all news reports, but it’s pretty clear to me that he doesn’t want to be the coach of his franchise any longer.

I’ll still pick Greg Schiano, even though Tampa Bay has played better recently. There are too many burnt bridges that he has caused in the locker room. Even though Mike Munchak doesn’t deserve to be fired, he will be the last coach that won’t survive. Tennessee seems ready to rebuild. They have a solid defense, but a new coach, quarterback, and running back seem to be on their wish list. Rex Ryan and Mike Smith will be fine, although they are two coaches that will certainly be on the hot seat in 2014.

NFL Story of the Week

Rob Gronkowski went down with a torn ACL and MCL on Sunday’s game against Cleveland. New England was probably the favorite to meet Denver in the AFC Championship Game. Will this injury prevent New England from getting a first round bye with Cincinnati only one game behind holding the tiebreaker? What do you think the chances are of New England advancing in the playoffs without Gronk?

Allen: Without Gronkowski, the Patriots lose all hope in trying to defeat the Broncos again. Even though Julian Edelman was the leading receiver in that game, Gronkowski commands most of the attention. When you play New England, you create a game plan to contain him. Now that he’s gone, the attention is now towards Edelman, Danny Amendola, and two rookies. Amendola has trouble staying on the field, while both rookie receivers have had stints in Tom Brady’s doghouse this season.

I do believe that they’ll drop to the third seed. Both teams will finish 11-5, but Cincinnati owns their tiebreaker from their win in week five. Brady will struggle throwing against the Dolphins and Ravens, who have two of the better pass defenses in the league. With Steven Ridley’s fumbling issue, they can’t even establish much of a running game at this point.

It’s a shame because New England was really on a major momentum swing. They beat Denver and their fans started to believe that they could be back in the Super Bowl this year. After I was saying all off-season that New England fans need to temper their expectations, it seemed like a good possibility that they can beat Denver once again in the AFC championship. Now they seem like a team that can win one playoff game at best.

I’ve never seen a football player as talented as Gronkowski deal with so many major injuries. Everyone finds him to be entertaining; along with being the second best tight end in football. It’s really unfortunate to see him go down with another major injury. You can expect New England to draft a tight end this upcoming year, due to Gronkowski being injury prone. For the sake of the franchise, let’s hope the pick can be as successful “on the field” as Aaron Hernandez was.

Ace: Tom Brady has probably had his most difficult season of his Hall of Fame career this year due to the depleted wide receiving corps of the New England Patriots. Take this into account. I wrote this during our first article of the 2013 Pre-Season:

The Patriots lost players that contributed to 303 of the 402 receptions, 3,425 of the 4,844 receiving yards and 19 of the 34 touchdown receptions. If you take away tight end Rob Gronkowski (55 receptions, 790 yards and 11 TD’s in 11 games played) you leave 44 receptions for 629 yards and 4 touchdowns by players on the Patriots roster from last season.

Danny Amendola has had injury problems this year and on Sunday the Patriots were without Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson which lead to the leading receiver for the Patriots on Sunday being running back Shane Vereen with 12 receptions for 153 yards. New England has definitely played with a next man up mentality when it comes to the wide receivers but Tom Brady has shown frustrations with, more than likely, the inability to build a rapport with his receivers due to constant change.

New England will miss Rob Gronkowski considerably down the stretch. He returned to the lineup during Week 7 and in seven games he has caught 39 passes for 592 yards and 4 touchdowns. Brady loves to go to his tight ends and with the loss of Gronk, it leaves Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan as the only healthy tight ends on their roster.

New England is still the obvious favorite to finish with the #2 Seed, but if they slip up at the Dolphins, at the Ravens or home against Buffalo to end the season, they have a chance of dropping out of the #2 Seed and letting Cincinnati take it from them, if Cincinnati wins out. I’ll never bet against a Bill Belichick led team, especially with Tom Brady as his starting quarterback, but Cincinnati has been playing well as of late and could wind up being a favorite in the AFC, aside from Denver. The Patriots will have a roster of receivers who have not been in a playoff atmosphere before and that could prove to be detrimental to Brady and the Pats.

Allen: I don’t think we’ve ever seen a Super Bowl champion become such an afterthought a year later like the Ravens have. They are on a three game winning streak and seem to be doing just enough to pull through late wins.

Do you see them holding on to the sixth seed and if so, could they be a dark horse in the AFC? 

Ace: I’m not positive they will. In my mind it will come down to the Ravens and Dolphins as the Wild Card winner. San Diego and the New York Jets have an outside chance, but here are the remaining opponents for each of those teams:

Baltimore (7-6)            at Detroit, vs. New England, at Cincinnati              

Miami (7-6)                 vs. New England, at Buffalo, vs. New York Jets    

San Diego (6-7)           at Denver, vs. Oakland, vs. Kansas City                  

New York Jets (6-7)     at Carolina, vs. Cleveland, at Miami                         

Judging by those opponents, I’d pick Miami to win the 6th wild card. The Ravens might not win another game as they’re playing three division leading teams. Miami has a very good shot to knock off New England and have two fairly easier games against their divisional opponents. There’s a chance the wild card winner will have 8 wins, possibly 9.

I’ll be pulling for the Ravens on Monday night and if they can upset the Lions, I’ll be ecstatic as a Packers fan, but that could give them the bump they need to advance in the playoffs. Those four teams are facing some tough challenges and one win by either Baltimore or Miami might put them in the playoffs and pit them against the Patriots or Bengals. I don’t think any of those teams are equipped to make a run deep in the playoffs, but that was probably said about the Ravens last year too.

Elite NFL Mind Challenge

Not as many great matchups this week, but these should involve playoff teams! I was perfect last week at 5-0 and you went 4-1. Our tied record now turns into a 1 game lead by me. I sit at 45-23 and you are 44-24. So-so matchups this week…lets pick them!

The Ace’s Picks

San Diego Chargers (6-7) vs. Denver Broncos (11-2)

The final Thursday night contest of the season, thank goodness. I love football, but from a fantasy perspective, I hate the Thursday games. With that being said, I think that San Diego can give Denver a bit of a scare, but ultimately, Denver will outscore San Diego because they are better.

Winner: Denver Broncos

New England Patriots (10-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-6)

New England was held scoreless in the first half against Cleveland and had they dropped that game, Cincinnati would be in control of the #2 seed in the AFC. The Dolphins will give the Patriots a tough test, and could go the way of the fish, but I see Tom Brady and his new favorite target, Shane Vereen having a big game.

Winner: New England Patriots

Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) vs. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

This pick is as of 2:30pm/CT on Wednesday, December 11th. Aaron Rodgers took reps with the first team offense but still hasn’t been medically cleared. With that being said, Dallas won’t roll over like they did on Monday night against the Bears, but their defense is horrible. Regardless of who’s starting at QB or Running Back for the Packers, I think they’ll put up points. Will it be enough? I don’t know. I’m not going to pick against them if there’s a chance of Rodgers playing.

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)

The Bengals know that New England losing a game stands between them and the #2 Seed in the AFC. Cincinnati has a favorable schedule with this game, home against Minnesota and Balitmore while New England faces Miami, Baltimore and Buffalo. If one of those teams do them a favor, they’ll have a first round bye. Cincinnati wins in a low scoring affair.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

Baltimore Ravens (7-6) vs. Detroit Lions (7-6)

After splitting overtime games against Cincinnati and Chicago, the Ravens are winners of four of their last five games. They hold the #6 Seed in the AFC. On the other side, Detroit has gone 2-3 during the absence of Aaron Rodgers and no longer have a strangle hold on the NFC North. I might be going with my heart on this one, but Baltimore goes into Detroit on Monday night and wins a close game. Jim Schwartz’s seat starts to get warm.

Winner: Baltimore Ravens

Allen’s Picks

San Diego Chargers (6-7) vs. Denver Broncos (11-2)

San Diego has become a respectable team again. They’ve played hard this year and Philip Rivers has been rejuvenated. I’m expecting San Diego to keep it close for three quarters, before Von Miller forces a turnover to break the game open. Denver’s offense is unstoppable and will only be more dangerous, with Montee Ball hitting his stride.

Winner: Denver Broncos

New England Patriots (10-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-6)

Here comes the upset pick of the week. New England’s passing attack flounders without Gronkowski and Miami’s defense leads them to a scrappy win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Ryan Tannehill continues to quietly put together a solid season. He may end up being a special quarterback, if management restructures the offensive line for next season.

Winner: Miami Dolphins

Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) vs. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

This pretty much rides on Aaron Rodgers. If he plays, then my pick is changed. If Matt Flynn plays as expected, Green Bay can’t hang in a shoot out. As bad as Dallas defense is, Flynn has poor pocket awareness and can’t handle pressure. With Eddie Lacy being banged up, Green Bay’s slim playoff hopes will fade away unless Rodgers manages to play. Tony Romo will bounce back and have another tremendous game.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)

I may be riding the home teams too much, but Cincinnati is vulnerable. Without Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, this defense isn’t as dominant as they once were. The secondary has issues and the pass rush isn’t as good as it was last season. Ben Roethlisberger has played outstanding for the past month and that shouldn’t stop here. Pittsburgh’s playoff chances may be done, but this team never quits.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Baltimore Ravens (7-6) vs. Detroit Lions (7-6)

This game is such a mismatch. Baltimore will have to go one-dimensional on offense without any running game. Joe Flacco in a hostile environment dealing with Detroit’s pass rush? I don’t like the odds, along with their secondary having any chance in containing Calvin Johnson. Detroit will make a statement and prove that the loss in Philadelphia was because of the brutal conditions.

Winner: Detroit Lions

Allen: The schedule is pretty weak in terms of high profile games. I’m looking forward to seeing how Dallas recovers from that embarrassing performance against Chicago. They still control their own destiny and have a favorable schedule to end the season, but the entire defense really needs to get it together. Baltimore against Detroit is a pretty solid Monday night matchup, considering how terrible some of the Monday night games have been. We may possibly see a close game for once on Monday night. It’ll be the last opportunity because we all know that San Francisco is going to make a mockery of Atlanta on Monday night in Week 16. Anyway enjoy the week, whether it’s real life football or fantasy football. I’ve got five out of my six fantasy teams playing in the semifinals. Matthew Berry, you can bow down to me.

Ace: My team is clinging to life, but again (as of 2:30pm/CT on Wednesday, December 11th) regardless of the quarterback for the Packers on Sunday, I still think they will win. It will be a matter of who will score last because both defenses aren’t the best. I’ve already determined that next week when I start Macho Men Radio our intro song will either be ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus if Aaron Rodgers plays and/or the Packers win or it will be ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ by Simple Minds if they lose. In regards to your fantasy dominance, I salute you, sir. Josh Gordon has killed me in fantasy the last two weeks and I play him in another league this week. If I can make the championship game in three out of my five leagues, I’ll be very happy with my work this season. As for Matthew Berry, I think either of us could take his job. If you want to go with a real expert, go with Paul Charchian of FantasyVictory.com. He’s the only fantasy expert I go by, aside from @PocketSeagull of TJRSports.com! Enjoy Week 15!

You can follow Allen on Twitter @Allen_Strk and The Ace @TheAce18

You can hear The Ace on Macho Men Radio with C-Mac every Tuesday night on BlogTalkRadio at blogtalkradio.com/machomenradio