FOX NFL Sunday Roundtable: Who rules NFC South?

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Every week, the experts of FOX NFL Sunday will candidly reveal their observations and make their opinions known as they prepare for their top-rated pregame telecast — seen each Sunday at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT. We'll share with you some of the highlights and observations from Curt, Terry, Howie, Jimmy and Strahan grabbed from their weekly conference call with insider John Czarnecki and pregame show producer Scott Ackerson.

This week, Czar probes FOX NFL Sunday on the new favorite in the NFC South, where the wildcat offense will go in 2009 and whether or not Brett Favre got pushed too far in New York last season.


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    Czar: "OK, we're going to pick all the division winners on Sunday. Who do we like in the NFC South?" Terry Bradshaw: "I like Atlanta a lot. First of all, I like Matt Ryan. He played solid all year long as a rookie a year ago. Carolina does nothing for me, New Orleans always breaks my heart, and Tampa Bay changed all their coaches. I know Howie's family really likes Carolina, but I think Jake (Delhomme) makes too many mistakes. Atlanta has a better balanced attack with Michael Turner."

    Michael Strahan: "The Bucs can bring Jeff Garcia back if they want. Unlike Terry, I have a good feeling about the Saints because we all know they have a great offense. I love Gregg Williams coming in to coach the defense there. Atlanta, yes, I like the quarterback, but I'm not excited about their defense. Who else can get to the quarterback beside John Abraham? And, who knows, maybe Ryan has a sophomore slump? I'm going to go with the Saints because I know they can score and Williams will have the defense hustling and flying around." TB: "I may change by Sunday after listening to Michael." Jimmy Johnson: "I'm kind of like Terry in liking Atlanta. But a team that nobody gives a lot of credit to that has won a lot of games and always plays solid defense and runs the ball is Carolina. The Panthers could sneak in there. Tampa is a lot better than people think, but I guess they are going to be one notch above horrible." TB: "What is one notch above horrible ... would that be terrible?" JJ: "I still have reservations about the Saints. So, I have Atlanta and Carolina at the top." Howie Long: "I think Atlanta, because I think Ryan will have an even better year at quarterback. Tony Gonzalez will help him a ton and their wide receivers are better. The offensive line is stable. Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood are really good. "Now, they did blow up their defense a little bit. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I agree with Michael that Gregg Williams will have an impact on the mind-set on that defense. They gave up so many big plays on that defense last season. Plus, like Minnesota, the Saints have two starting defensive linemen who could end up serving four-game suspensions depending how that judge's ruling turns out." (Editor's note: A federal appeals court issued a ruling Friday that will prohibit the NFL from suspending the Vikings' Pat Williams and Kevin Williams.)

    Czar: "Brett Favre said this week that maybe he shouldn't have played at the end of last season because his arm was killing him. Do you believe the Jets made him play hurt?" TB: "I'm not sure that is the case at all. I remember when I tore the ligament in my throwing elbow and I was talking to (Steelers owner) Dan Rooney and he says that I always play hurt. I tried to explain to him that it was killing me. In this case, Brett's reputation precedes him. I don't honestly know whether they believed him or not. But Brett has a history of playing in pain." JJ: "Does anybody believe that before the Jets lost three of their last four games that Brett said he would be happy if Kellen Clemens played ahead of him?" HL: "Don't tell me that you guys are shocked that people would ask a player to play hurt. Jimmy, when you coached, did you ever ask someone to play hurt? (Laughter) I don't know if the Jets pressured him to play. I also don't think that Favre would have been happy to have Clemens playing ahead of him."

    Czar: On Sunday's show, Jimmy is going to break down the success of Miami's wildcat offense and its growing popularity. Where is this offense heading in '09? JJ: "I really like this offense, and Miami had a lot of success with it last season. I think 17 NFL teams ran it once or twice last season and think even more will try it this season. It forces teams to practice against it, and that's why we will see it more and more this season." TB: "How dangerous would the wildcat be if teams could actually find a running back who could throw the heck out of the football?" JJ: "Terry's right. Most running backs are very limited in the passing game and are very average throwers. But defenses also can't play coverage against it, and it leaves the passing game wide open. Michael Vick will be interesting in it, but watching him in preseason, he's a world away from being the player I thought he'd be. He's so far away. It may not work in Philly until maybe toward the end of the season. Still, this is going to be the greatest thing for Donovan McNabb and the regular offense. Teams getting ready to play the Eagles will only have so much time to prepare against McNabb and his conventional pro style offense because they will be spending so much time on Vick and the wildcat." TB: "The next thing we will be seeing is coaches looking for running backs who can really throw the football. If they can find one, it will drive other teams crazy." JJ: "I couldn't have run it with the Cowboys, because Emmitt Smith wasn't a great passer. He would have been the perfect back, though, taking the pitch on the option run. You have to have the right personnel and your team has to have some depth at running back." HL: "I'm sure Troy (Aikman) would have loved that offense." TB: "I think Howie is thinking Troy might have gone into the tank on you." HL: "What I'm also saying is that Chad Pennington was the perfect guy to handle running that kind of offense. He didn't mind lining up outside as a wide receiver. A lot of NFL players at the skilled positions were quarterbacks in high school. But who knew Ronnie Brown was left-handed until he ran out and gashed New England throwing the football and running the wildcat offense last season?" MS: "I think you all know how thorough Tom Coughlin was as head coach. I can remember in meetings he would prepare us by saying to remember that a certain player could run a reverse on us and we (the defensive players) would always say in unison, ¿He used to play quarterback in high school.' Coughlin always reminded us that any skilled guy in the NFL had the ability to throw the ball." TB: "When we practiced with the Steelers, I know our receivers worked on passing in practice. Throwing on the run, stuff like that. We had it in case Chuck (Noll) would ever want to use that particular gadget play. We never did, but it was part of practice." JJ: "One of my Super Bowl years, when we only carried two quarterbacks, I had plays for Emmitt to take a direct snap and also tight end Jay Novacek in the shotgun because he had done some of that in high school." TB: "Tom Matte of the Colts was good at running this offense because he was a very good runner." Czar: "I thought Miami drafted Pat White just to run the wildcat?" JJ: "I heard he's fallen off the radar and they can't really use him as a second quarterback because he can't run the conventional offense as well as Chad Henne does. Henne is the team's backup quarterback. White is working on it, but I guess he's miles away from running it on Sundays." HL: "Miami uses everybody but a backup quarterback in the wildcat. I guess that's why I think Vick is the perfect guy. I agree with Jimmy that Vick didn't look all that good in the preseason. But what happens in the middle of the season and he does look better? Does it end up throwing off Donovan McNabb's rhythm? What I mean is that he's a traditional quarterback making those plays. In Miami, a running back throwing the ball is no threat to the quarterback. What will a successful Vick do to the psyche of your quarterback?" JJ: "But the really advantage of having Vick is that now you don't have to make a substitution. The Eagles can still use McNabb as a receiver, but having someone like Vick is really going to screw your defense up. I think every team is going to be running this offense in some form or fashion. It will be successful if the teams are efficient and if they run it well. It's not a gimmick offense. It's a great short-yardage goal-line offense. If you could run the wishbone, it would be successful, too. I think it is a great offense for running the football. I will say this, though, about Vick. He looked awful running the options in the preseason. He pitched the ball before he was really pressured. The Eagles also ran a quarterback sweep with no blocking, but overall the wildcat is fundamentally sound." HL: "I don't think Miami has scratched the surface with this offense. They ran it 90 times last season and gained almost 6 yards a carry. I think they had 3.4 yards a carry out of the pro style offense. Baltimore shut it down, but Baltimore would shut down Miami regardless of what offense they were running. It had nothing to do with the style of offense."

  • Tagged: Falcons, Bengals, Cowboys, Titans, Chiefs, Rams, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Redskins, Steelers, Brett Favre, Tony Gonzalez, Kerry Collins, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Plaxico Burress, Roy Williams, Albert Haynesworth, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Crayton, Matt Cassel, Brandon Jacobs

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