Bill Jones: Don't the stats show that home teams make just as many false start penalties as the road teams? I assume that would be the most obvious consequence of the loud road environment.
Nate Jackson: On a Friday practice before a road game, coach Shanahan had speakers brought out to the field that blasted brain-piercing white noise so we could work on our silent count. You have to expected to not be able to hear anything.
Jeff Webb: Is it cut and dry that the Patriots and Ravens will meet in the AFC Championship game? Broncos and Bengals backed into the playoffs, Big Ben is beat up, and Texans either have an inexperience QB or one that likes to give up the ball.
Josh Levin: The Pats and Ravens are the rightful favorites in the AFC, but I do think the Steelers would have a good chance to take out New England. Pittsburgh beat New England earlier this year, you might recall.
Jeff Webb: That is true, but I don't see the Steelers beating the Patriots with Charlie Batch, but the way that Big Ben toughs it out, I expect him to play on one leg. The run game, that's another story. Can Isaac Redman do a serviceable job?
Pat Stack: I think Redman can get the job done. I also thought John Clay had a pretty good game against Cleveland.
Josh Levin: The Steelers are more of a passing team than a running team, so as long as a) Roethlisberger is reasonably healthy, and b) they can present at least a minimal threat in the running game then they'll be OK. Well, at least they'll be OK against any team except the Ravens.
Nate Jackson: Make it into the playoffs and anything can happen. I think the Pats are vulnerable. And so are the Ravens for that matter. We could see a Bengals/Broncos AFC championship game.
Nate Jackson: Although very unlikely.
Nate Jackson: I think the Ravens are lined up to lose their divisional round game. Their defense is teetering at the wrong time and their offense is a bit disheveled.
Joel Barker: Why do Tebow's religious demonstrations get so much attention in a league filled with guys dropping to a knee after scoring a TD, or pointing to the sky after a FG?
Josh Levin: Tebow's religious demonstrations get so much attention because Tebow wants them to get attention and the media/public obliges. No other player has made a pro-life Super Bowl ad.
Nate Jackson: It’s just lazy journalism if you ask me.
Pat Stack: Josh, who I know in real life, and Nate, who I don't: Why is there so much debate over whether Eli Manning is an elite QB? My theory is that it's based entirely on his appearance: he's a dorky-looking guy who's personally and professionally in a "little brother" role, so even with a Super Bowl and numerous high-pressure wins, there's still this vibe of questionable success around him. Is there some way he can finally shake this? If he retires tomorrow, does he go to the Hall of Fame?
Nate Jackson: What is an “elite” quarterback anyway? We hear it so much and it’s kind of crazy to me. All NFL quarterbacks are elite in my book, but we feel we need to create a special list of the most specialist of them all. And it’s up to the experts to decide. But the experts have a vested interest in who they decide is elite. It’s all very strange.
Josh Levin: Hey there, Pat Stack. I think you're on to something with Eli's appearance. And it works the other way, too—I feel like at least some of the idea that Mark Sanchez is a solid NFL QB comes from the fact that he's so damn handsome. But back to Eli: I don't think there's much doubt any more that he's elite. He's pretty much vanquished that over the last few seasons. Don't think he's a Hall of Famer yet, though. In this pass-happy era, you're going to have to put up some pretty huge numbers to stand out from the pack.
Pat Stack: Perhaps I'm still hung up on this image because my non-NFL-fan wife always refers to him as "little Manning," and when he gets a win, she reacts in much the same way as when a puppy completes a new trick.
Brook Corwin: If the Lions pull off the upset, will we have to endure a week's worth of puff pieces on how they're lifting up the spirits of a depressed city? Have we moved on from that cliche by now?
Josh Levin: You won't see those Lions-uplifting-a-depressed-city storylines until Detroit makes the Super Bowl. At that point, with two weeks between games, the puff pieces would roll out like crazy.
Jeff Sobieck: If Scheffler scores a TD this week, which silly ass dance will he pull out of the bag?
Nate Jackson: Ha! Your guess is as good as mine, Jeff! Hopefully something New Orleans themed. It’s pretty awesome that he's doing it though.
Bill Jones: Why is the Saints D not better? They have a lot of high draft picks and relatively high profile free agents on that side, so it isn't like they haven't invested in it. Is their talent-evaluation skill only working for offensive players?
Josh Levin: My theory on that—and I'd be interested in Nate's take—is that the Saints don't have playmakers on defense. They have a bunch of really solid guys (Will Smith, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, JoNate Vilma) but nobody that an offense really has to fear or has a knack for creating turnovers, someone like Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs or Troy Polamalu. They had that during the Super Bowl year with Darren Sharper, but they haven't had it since. And since Gregg Williams loves to blitz, they're susceptible to giving up big plays. If you blitz and don't force turnovers, that's a bad combo.
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