Every week, the experts of FOX NFL Sunday reveal their observations and opinions as they prepare for football’s top-rated pregame telecast — seen each Sunday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT.
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We’ll share some of the highlights from Curt, Terry, Howie, Jimmy and Michael grabbed from their weekly conference call with insider John Czarnecki.
Czar: What does Matt Schaub’s loss for the rest of the season mean for the Houston Texans?
Jimmy Johnson: With their schedule, they will still make the playoffs. I just think they will be bounced out of the playoffs pretty quick.
Terry Bradshaw: I’m not that sure about that, Jimmy. I’m probably the only one who likes Matt Leinart. Gary Kubiak has that offense moving down in Houston. I don’t think Leinart will hold them back a bit. I think he will be fine.
JJ: Well, we’ll find out.
Curt Menefee: Anybody like Tennessee to catch them? They are only one game back in the loss column.
TB: I don’t think so because Houston’s defense is better. Looking at their schedule, too, they should have three easy wins left on their schedule.
Howie Long: Wade Phillips does have that defense playing well, plus they do run the ball extremely well. Leinart, based on all the injuries that Schaub has had this season, has been getting a lot of practice time. I know what Terry is saying, but to tell you truth, I’m really interested to see how Leinart does. It’s going to be interesting.
TB: If he really wants another starting job in the NFL, this is his chance to show how valuable he can be to a team. He only has a one-year contract with them, so this is his chance to get more money or get another opportunity to be a starter. Plus, Tennessee has a much tougher schedule with Atlanta and New Orleans still on it.
Czar: Any final opinions on the failed fourth-and-1 gamble by Falcons coach Mike Smith last Sunday against the Saints?
JJ: I actually didn’t mind the decision to go for it. But I don’t like going for it after using a timeout. It’s the same thing that Bill Belichick did in Indianapolis and didn’t make it, either. I say if you are going to go for it on fourth down, I think you have to give your quarterback a two-way option on it. I want a run-pass call with the quarterback.
HL: Had the Falcons thrown it in the flat, it was wide open.
JJ: The Saints were completely loaded up front, so give your quarterback a chance to try something when you’re faced with a defense like that.
TB: A bootleg by Matt Ryan was wide open.
JJ: Number one, I didn’t like the play call. And I definitely don’t like it after a timeout. I mean teams practice fourth-down plays all week long in practice. You should be prepared to run the plays that you practiced. By calling timeout, you are simply helping the defense prepare for what you are going to run.
HL: If the Falcons would have leaked one receiver out or like Terry said, if they would have bootlegged Matt Ryan, it was wide open on the outside for either play.
JJ: I don’t mind Smith’s thinking. He’s right. If you punt the ball to Drew Brees, he’s liable to put his team in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
HL: What was really surprising to me, too, was that the Falcons, who were playing at home, got beat off the ball.
JJ: That loss was a division-ender for the Falcons, but I still think they, the Lions and someone from the East are fighting for the wild-card spots in the NFC.
Czar: What are your thoughts on the AFC West?
JJ: Even though the Chiefs lost Matt Cassel, Kansas City really isn’t that good anyway. Oakland looks like they are going to win this division with the Chargers still having an outside chance.
TB: Kansas City is history. It looks like the Raiders because San Diego is struggling and has so many injuries. And who knows about the Broncos and that running game of theirs.
Czar: Do you think the Eagles are better off playing Vince Young than an injured Michael Vick this Sunday?
HL: I have to believe that Vick will play.
TB: If the ribs that are broken are low, it’s going to hurt him when he pulls that arm up to throw.
JJ: The bigger concern in Philadelphia is Andy Reid. It’s pretty ugly there right now. I don’t know that he’s fine. I just hope that he is. I hope that he’s around to fix this team. He still has the passion for it. I think he’s good enough to fix what’s wrong with this team.
CM: One bad year shouldn’t be enough to drive him out of there. But I remember when you left the Cowboys, you talked about everything does kind of run in cycles. And that players get tired of hearing the same voice, etc. Could that be the case in Philadelphia?
JJ: Al Davis used to say that 10 years was max for a head coach with one team. I think for some coaches it might even be less than 10 years. I’m not sure what it is. It could be that the players tune you out and sometimes it can be the coach and his staff getting a little complacent. They lose a little bit of your energy and enthusiasm for what they are doing. It can be hard when you are dealing with the same people all the time.
TB: I’ve always agreed with that 10 years stuff. I also think it takes a younger coach these days to put in all the time and put up with these players. But my impression of Andy Reid is if he did get fired there he would be someone that would probably clean up his reputation somewhere else.
Czar: Does everybody think the Packers are going to go 16-0?
TB: Let’s not forget what kind of year Tom Brady had in 2007 when he threw for 50 touchdown passes and how that season turned out for them. I’m not quite into this "greatest ever" stuff. But Aaron Rodgers is having a great season right now.
HL: The Packers defense did look better the other night against the Vikings and, boy, is Charles Woodson fun to watch. They are so complex on defense that they’ve struggled with blown assignments earlier in the season. They do need to keep Clay Matthews healthy.
TB: The only problem I see with Green Bay is when its defense is matched up against a really good quarterback with a smart offensive coordinator. I mean, that combination could take advantage of the Packers’ blitzing, aggressive style of defense. That’s when it’s 48-47 and it can get kind of crazy. And the other thing is I don’t see Green Bay always piling up these points. They are going to have a slip up.
JJ: They could have a problem when they go to the Giants. The one problem I see with their defense is that they are standing on the sidelines every game and watching their offense go up and down the field and scoring all the time. To me, there’s no sense of urgency with that defense that they have to win a 10-7 game.
HL: I wonder what that’s like.
JJ: It’s just human nature that the defense gets a little lax because they know their offense is that good. That said, I do believe that Green Bay’s defense is capable of winning a close game if they had to. Everyone is already comparing Rodgers to what Brady did that season. It’s very similar. I do believe that Rodgers is the better athlete and he could play in a lot of different systems. I think Brady is locked into what New England does and can do. He’s a stationary quarterback and needs to have five receivers going out.
Czar: The Cowboys have won two straight games. Have they turned things around?
JJ: With that team, who knows? They are beating bad teams and they have struggled against the good teams. They should have smooth sailing until they have to play the Giants.
HL: The Cowboys are set up to make a run at the division. Health-wise and talent-wise and schedule-wise they are in position. Are they consistent enough to pull this off? No. But this is how they have been the last couple of seasons. We have been having the same conversation for the last couple of years, saying how talented this team is.