(Editors Note: Oh, you still wish it was Sunday, too? Each Monday, five of our contributors weigh-in on the NFL. This week it's Nubyjas Wilborn, Michael Tillery, Richard Boadu, Jamar Hudson and J.R. Gamble. Down…Set…Go)
QUESTION 1: The Falcons are who we thought they were, with their first loss coming against the Saints on the heels of Roddy White's comments that the Falcons could go undefeated. What's it going to take for this team to win a big game, let alone a playoff game?
TILLERY: I expected the Saints to get up. Talent is not an issue with New Orleans…Bountygate was. For Atlanta, Matt Ryan has been a media darling since he was drafted. It's time for him to step up and win big games, or catch wreck from national fans and media like other QB's. The regular season is immaterial.
NUBYJAS: The Falcons have to find a way to run the ball. They have to score a TD instead of going out on 4th down against the terrible Saints D. But I won’t buy the “they are who we thought they were” narrative we’ll see this week in the media. Atlanta is still a viable Super Bowl contender and they’ll learn from this.
JAMAR: There are two takeaways from the Falcons' loss to the Saints. First, the Falcons still have to prove they can rise to the occasion in a big-game situation. Second, we shouldn't put the nail in the coffin on the Saints' 2012 season just yet. For Atlanta, it's easy to point the finger at Matt Ryan, but in a huge game where you can separate yourselves from the rest of the contenders, 46 total yards rushing will not get it done.
J.R.: Rowdy Roddy should know the NFL awards the last man standing, not the first one to kick up his kilt and proclaim greatness.Other teams in the NFC South started the season stuck on stupid, like they were blazing an L before class. This left the Falcons playing Solitaire and peaking too early. Tampa and New Orleans are now rehabbed and ready to flip a dirty bird or two.
QUESTION 2: The end of last season was full of hope for the Carolina Panthers. This year has been miserable, and got worse against Denver. Is this more of a sophomore slump for Cam Newton's Panthers or do they have deeper problems?
TILLERY: Williams is underutilized…hell Stewart and Tolbert as well. Steve Smith is a beast but besides him, who are those other guys? Carolina has deep field management (falls on Rivera) issues. Injuries are also a big problem. Go get Cam weapons like ATL did Ryan and revisit.
NUBYJAS: The Panthers have as much hope right now as the state of Florida has of getting their electoral process in order. Don’t blame it all on Cam. Panthers are a bad team and they aren’t well coached. It’s about time to set up the draft because their season is over.
J.R.: F.A.T. The Blind Rapper can see that Cam is playing an NFL game with a USFL team. Then again, Keith Byars and Herschel Walker would be legendary additions to a Carolina squad that lacks studs. We know what Cam can do. Let’s see what toys the new GM can provide for him next season.
JAMAR: As the face of the franchise, Cam is going to take most of the heat for the Panthers' struggles, especially after such a great rookie season. But the problems in Charlotte go well beyond Cam. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, once a viable 1-2 punch in the backfield, have been MIA, and Steve Smith can't do it by himself. It's going to take some building through the draft and free agency to make the Panthers relevant again.
BOADU: NFL defensive coordinators have had a year to look at the film on Cam and they've improved. Cam hasn't. Andy Dalton is in his second year with a 91.1 QB rating. Cam is at the bottom of the league with a 77.2 rating. The Panthers have deeper problems, but they should start with their self proclaimed Superman.
QUESTION 3: Mike Vick went down early against Dallas, and Philly saw the same problems offensively with Nick Foles at the helm — capped off with a sack-fumble the Cowboys returned for a touchdown. What else is wrong with Philly, and can Andy Reid fix it?
JAMAR: It's safe to say that the Eagles are a complete mess. It's unfortunate because many fans pull for both Andy Reid and Michael Vick. But the changes Philly made a year ago have not panned out and it's time to clean house and start over.
TILLERY: Hire Tony Dungy. He's mentored Vick. Give LeSean McCoy the rock 25 times and he's giving Adrian Peterson a run for MVP. Acquire offensive linemen by any means necessary. Draft, trade for or sign a big receiver, blitz more and fire special teams coach Bobby April.
BOADU: Philly’s defense is fast but too light, and gets pushed around easily. Andy Reid can't fix it because he's stubborn. Instead of giving the ball to LeSean McCoy, Reid would rather pass the ball 56 times a game with a CFL offensive line that offers less protection than a broken condom.
J.R.: At this point, Mike Vick doesn’t need mentoring, he needs a neurosurgeon. Next big hit, I’m expecting his head to come rolling off. This is a natural disaster Mother Nature has already fixed. You can’t make Vick younger and Andy Reid – a notorious failure in the clutch — is preaching to a room full of Helen Kellers. Put em’ both in a ship and exile them from Eagles Island.
NUBYJAS: Do you remember when people were arguing that Nnamdi Asomugha was better than “Revis Island”? I’m not sure how he’s regressed so much so quickly. Their roster is filled with too many has been, should’ve been, and guys who never were. Philly needs to purge and it starts with Andy Reid and Mike Vick.
QUESTION 4: Does the 55-20 beatdown the Ravens issued the Raiders say more about Baltimore or Oakland?
JAMAR: The Ravens' 35-point beat down of the Raiders proves that Oakland is as bad as we thought and is nowhere close to being a contender. For Baltimore, the offensive explosion shows that Joe Flacco & Co. can put up points at a high level. With Ray Lewis out and the Ravens' defensive aging, the offense may need to carry the team at times. They proved on Sunday they can do it.
TILLERY: Baltimore is talented on both sides of the ball, so 55-20 games will happen if they catch you tight with Rip Van Winkle. Oakland seems to be sleep every week. So talented yet so inept. Doesn't matter who the coach or players are…in recent times…the Raiders seem like a straight circus.
BOADU: As a lifelong Raiders fan, this score is more of an indictment on the Raiders. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the dopest average team in the NFL, hung 42 on the Raiders last week. What Flacco & Co did was no surprise. The Raiders are just getting warmed up, wait ‘til Drew Brees gets ahold of them next Sunday.
J.R.: Al Davis must be rolling in his grave. Not even his death could save the city of Oakland. If it wasn’t B-More laying a team-record fifty-five on the Smokeland Faders, then it would be some other “legit” team in the playoff thick, seeking a quick lick. Oakland’s an NFL no-man’s land rife with chaos and uncertainty.
NUBYJAS: If you’re under the age of 30 you probably have no clue about the “Just Win, Baby!” era. Long gone are the days of “Autumn Wind”. What was once a strong, proud, and defiant franchise is now nothing more than a distant memory like VHS.
QUESTION 5: The defending Super Bowl champs have now lost two games in a row, the second a 31-13 shellacking at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Their upcoming schedule is brutal (Green Bay, @Wash MNF, New Orleans, @ATL, @Baltimore, Philly). Will the Giants stay on top of the always-intriguing NFC East?
TILLERY: Since Dallas won the NFC East in 2007 with a 13-3 record, the division winner has regressed and lost one game more each subsequent season…with New York winning last year at 9-7. Almost ensures the champ will lick wounds heading into the playoffs at 8-8. So, Giants should win, but truthfully, everyone is alive.
BOADU: The Giants are like the Boston Celtics, specifically built for the playoffs, so there’s nothing to worry about now. The G-Men will sneak into the playoffs as they did in 2007 and last year. Expect the rest of the NFL to have this look on their face when they find out the Giants are back in the playoffs.
J.R.: The NFC East is wild like Larry Davis. The early birds usually fall back to the pack and the late bloomers inexplicably rise in December. The Giants need stress to breed success. Entering last week they were a potential dynasty. Now they suck. Regardless of who emerges from this far-from-decided division, the victor will be battle-tested and dangerous as Dexter in the playoffs.
NUBYJAS: Can we stop referring to the NFC East as one of the toughest divisions in the NFL? Redskins haven’t done anything worthwhile since Joe Gibbs got into NASCAR. We’ve already addressed the pathetic Eagles and the Cowboys will have their typical December swoon. In spite of themselves, the Giants are the cream of the otherwise desolate crop in their division.
JAMAR: We've seen this movie before with this Giants. Every year it seems, Big Blue hits that speed bump in the middle of the season where they drop 2-3 games in a row. At 6-4, they still have a 2-game lead in the W column that won't be threatened as the rest of the division will be playing to see who'll reach the 6-10 mark first.