QUESTION No. 1: Dez Bryant dropped a potentially game-tying two point conversion. Is he the most unreliable elite receiver in the NFL?
VINNIE: The “Elite” category has no more than five names, and Dez ain’t one of them: Cal, Fitz, Roddy, AJ and Reggie. I would say Dez “went from top 10 to not mentioned at all” but that’s an insult to the original sender and receiver. He’s the perfect match for his quarterback, Mr. Romo – immensely talented but lacks a certain something that puts you over the top.
D.K.: Maybe Jerry Jones' considerable investment in Bryant and having the famed Cowboy wideout "#88" bestowed upon him was too much for a rookie needing to get his head and personal life together before being anointed as the team's savior. Dropping the two-points. conversion pass to tie the game overshadowed a 2-TD catch day.
BRANDON: Right now, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in Cincy is a better combo than Dez-Romo, so I’ll hold off on the hyperbole. But that dropped ball was another example of the Cowboys' inability to get out of their own way. Add this to the list with the botched hold and “icing” their own kicker.
NUBYJAS: Calling Dez Bryant elite is the equivalent of comparing DeShawn Stevenson to LeBron James. It just doesn’t fly. That being said, he did make some great catches in the game, but to be great he’s got to catch the ones that count the most.
J.R.: If Dez Bryant is elite then Harlem numbers boss Bumpy Johnson was Irish. Speaking of numbers, most elite wide receivers have had at least one 1,000-yard season. So, I'm not going to kill Dez "Scissorhands” for being who he is – Memphis Bleek in football pads, looking for that first hit-season. Dallas should regulate his manicures, too. First it was his attitude. Now his hands seem a bit rough.
QUESTION No. 2: Are the Ravens the most hip-hop NFL squad based on “swag” (forgive me for using that phrase) and personality? If not, then whom?
J.R.: Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may be the NFL’s equivalent to Jay –Z and Kanye West, but even the Throne Kings are getting old. And by the end of this season, they’ll be more like Too Short and KRS-1. These cats probably do more Anthony Hamilton than Cash Out. Have to give the edge to the Eagles. They are the NFL’s second youngest team, and DeSean Jackson is the younger money millionaire here.
VINNIE: Right neighborhood, wrong team. It’s the Steelers. Tough D (traditionally), all up in your grill to the point of calling them dirty. They got strut and sass without being too disrespectful. Reinvented themselves more times than Dr. Dre in the last 20 years, plus has there ever been a coach that WE'D want to play for more than Mike Tomlin? Brotha gets it done.
NUBYJAS: Ravens have all the old school elements of Hip Hop. Anquan Boldin would be the B-Boy, Joe Flacco at the helm as the M.C., would take the spray paint from Ray Lewis, Ed Reed on the ones and twos and John Harbaugh instilling the culture and understanding of the game.
BRANDON: Gotta say I'm surprised, fellas. I was expecting all of us to get this one right. It's the Saints, ya feel me? The New Orleans Saints. This sh*t with the bounty that the league pulled wasn't just lame – it lended an "us against them" ethos similar to some of our dopest music. Deep down, hip-hop heads want the Saints to take it to a higher level.
D.K. Wow, hip-hop and the NFL. I have to agree with J.R when it comes to the Ravens —- and the Eagles. I'd say Philly is a little New School dangerous, mental without borders. Edgy and unpredictable; as capable of the most exciting plays of the year as they are blowing a 4th quarter 2 TD lead. Perhaps a little like this group of chaps.
QUESTION No. 3: Russell Wilson! He's a dragon slayer with "good hair." He's out-dueled (in essence) Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. What's your takeaway from the game? Is it a Seahawks indicator or a referendum on the Pats?
NUBYJAS: I’ll start with a salute to the young boy Wilson. He’s becoming a real player with a bright future, who’s proving all the scouts wrong. That being said, the Pats aren't a very good team, right now, and it doesn't look like they will be at any point this year.
BRANDON: Seattle’s been dangerous all season, but let’s not act like this Hail Mary wasn’t REALLY an interception. Between that, the Cowboys being who they are, and the Patriots being no different than the Bills or Dolphins (at this point in the season), there should be plenty of questions floating around in the Boston area.
J.R.: At this point, the Pats are just another 3-3 team with suspect D. Pete Carroll played a hunch. His gut said Russell Wilson had the “it” factor. The Mugsy Bogues /Danny Devito /Chris Weinke of NFL QBs proved Carroll right, again. Wilson's “good hair” makes up for his lack of height. He probably drives a Porsche, too. Watch out! Napoleon’s looking to conquer the NFC West.
D.K.: The Pats need help. Belichick teams of old don't blow 11-point leads in the 4th quarter. Sure the Seahawks play well at home (click, "Tate 51 yd. catch"), but NE runs 80 plays to the Seahawks 47 – and loses?! The Patriots O-line and secondary are the final building point for the Bill Belichick. I just hope he has the stomach to make it through this year.
VINNIE: Indicator of the Seahawks. Pete Carroll gets this rep as this Hollywood-type coach; but he’s a defensive mastermind. From 27th in 2010 to 9th to 1st, beating up Rodgers in a win they stole and outsmarting Brady in a win they gangstered from the ultimate gangsta, Belichick. Russell Wilson, too short? “Good hair” looks tall enough to steal a win in January.
QUESTION No. 4: RG3 comes back from a concussion and goes coconuts. This comes a week after Andrew Luck carved up the Packers and a year after Cam Newton and Andy Dalton handled consistent biz in 2011. Should we recalibrate our expectations of rookie quarterback readiness?
D.K.: As long as NFL head coaches and their O-coordinators implement a bit of the college offense that put the rook on the map in the first place, first-year QBs can succeed. It also helps to have guys who can catch your passes, a good run game, a steady O-line, and a defense that can rise to the occasion.
VINNIE: College offenses have gone from three yards and dust to more spread principles, and pro offenses have adopted the progression, as well. Let's be honest here, too – Cam, Luck and RG3 are one-of-a-kind talents and with the short shelf life of coaches, sitting these guys or bringing them along slowly won't cut it anymore. Can you imagine if this guy was actually coached to be a QB before his 7th year in the league?
NUBYJAS: Expectations are about where they should be, right now. It’s been changing over the last fifteen years. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Mike Vick all got significant run as rookies. But for every one of them, we still have Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell. So it’s still “buyer beware.”
BRANDON: You’re always going to have somebody who doesn’t live up to the expectations. But, the game is tailored for the QBs to excel. The way corners can’t jam receivers up like they used to, the helmet-to-helmet rules and all the ways the league prefers to protect offensive players. It seems like strategically, the risk of putting a youngsta out there has never been lower.
J.R.: Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan already recalibrated the thinking in ‘08. Like the 46 Defense and the Wildcat, once the league discovered starting rookies worked, teams followed suit. But for every fresh-out-the-box rookie like Cam, there is a struggling Blaine Gabbert. More newbies are leading. They are unpredictably exciting, but they don’t win Super Bowls.
QUESTION No. 5: The Giants handled (and I mean HANDLED) the 49ers. The Packers treated the Texans like light (and I mean LIGHT) work. Oakland scared Atlanta. Seattle murked New England. Baltimore kept rolling. Who's the best squad in the league?
D.K. Short answer: none of the above. The Ravens lost their heart for the season. Atlanta has played a mediocre schedule. After clowning Houston Sunday night, it looks like Green Bay is the best team in the league, but their 3-3 record says no. The Giants rolled the Niners, but lost badly to Dallas. The best right now? Chicago at 4-1. At least they beat down the teams they're supposed to beat.
J.R.: NFL parity rules. The regular season is a dogfight to get to playoff paradise. The teams that shine in crunch time are experienced road warriors with dope QBs, and pitbull-vicious defenses. The Giants, Falcons, Ravens, and 49ers come to mind. The Packers are riding The GOAT, but they don’t want to see The Big Blue Beast in December. Whichever squad has the least injuries will be top shottas in the end.
NUBYJAS: The answer to this question will change more than Liz Taylor changed husbands. At this exact moment you have to take the Giants. They’ve shown they can win the games that count. I can’t say that about the 6-0 Falcons, yet.
BRANDON: We spent last week talking about the Packers' suspect defense, and that didn't necessarily change. But we learned that the Texans' offense could use some work. I'm rolling with the Giants – the one team that can say they own the San Francisco 49ers. Everybody's so big on strength of schedule. Who's got a better win than 26-3 in San Francisco?
VINNIE: I've been riding with Baltimore, but if "the inspiration" is done for the season, I'm gonna have to revise my pick. I loved how the 49ers do it, but they got rocked at the crib in a revenge game they clearly needed. Atlanta looks like the best team RIGHT NOW by default, but they're the paper champion all-stars. But, if this is January, the future GOAT (Rodgers! Rodgers! Double Check!) is the cat I won't bet against.