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NFL Mailbag: Is Oakland legit? How dangerous is New England?

If Roethlisberger misses 6 games, what do you think the Steelers record will be during that time? -Katie

Well, let me just start by saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers could do a lot worse at the backup quarterback position than veteran Michael Vick.

That being said, the loss of Ben Roethlisberger is still undoubtedly enormous, which is why I have Pittsburgh going 2-4 if he misses six games.

After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday Night against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers have four straight games against teams with winning records from a year ago, followed by a home game against the surging Raiders.

I have the Steelers losing to the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals while picking up wins against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders.

The Steelers have a 10-day break before traveling to San Diego for a Monday Night matchup with the Chargers. Phillip Rivers has to be licking his chops when he sees this Steelers’ secondary, expect him to turn to the air attack early-and-often with short accurate passes to eliminate the Pittsburgh pass rush.

Pittsburgh is 2-8 in Mountain and Pacific Time zones since 2006.

If Drew Brees doesn’t return to New Orleans, where do you think he will end up and where do you think he should end up? -Jay

Although I feel like Drew Brees will ultimately reach an agreement and stay in New Orleans, his possible landing spots could include some teams that are a quarterback away from being real contenders—St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Texans to name a few.

Who are the top two teams in each conference? –Rich

When you talk about the top two teams in each conference, you have to look at the top two quarterbacks—Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Whether it is the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots, when you have Rodgers or Brady under center, you have a chance to win every game.

For me, it already seems like New England and Green Bay are locks to at least be in their respective conference championship games, if they stay healthy of course.

More dangerous team – Patriots or Cardinals? -Tim

New England.

The Patriots have been there and done that, while the Cardinals are quietly becoming one of the biggest threats in the NFC.

However, I’m not ready to crown the Cardinals quite yet, considering the three teams they have defeated this season (New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco) have a combined record of 1-8.

The Patriots on the other hand, defeated a Roethlisberger-led Pittsburgh team and put up 40 points on the road to defeat Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills.

And of course, New England scored on every possession in their week three blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is impressive even if it’s only Jacksonville.

This sounds crazy but hear me out – is Aaron Rodgers on pace to become the greatest quarterback of our generation? -Wes

Not crazy at all, Wes.

Rodgers is just unbelievable, especially at home where he hasn’t thrown an interception since the 2012 season.

The way he dominates the game is unreal—and it became even more obvious when he scorched the Chiefs on Monday Night football last week with 300+ yards and five touchdowns.

However, Rodgers still has had his share of postseason disappointments. He has posted a 2-4 playoff record since winning his lone Super Bowl in 2010, although he was an onside kick recovery away from going to the title game last season.

I say Rodgers needs at least one more ring before we crown him the GOAT (greatest of-all-time).

Do you like the new extra point rule? -Richard

Personally, not a fan of the new rule.

Sure, it does make the game more interesting, but I firmly believed the extra-point was fine the way it was.

The point-after attempt used to be a sure thing—now it seems like the NFL is setting up kickers to fail, which is what Bengals’ kicker Mike Nugent said earlier this month.

I just don’t see the point in putting such an emphasis on kickers. If a team scores a touchdown and goes up 7-0, then the opposition scores a touchdown and misses a 33-yard extra point, the score is 7-6. From then on, the game is completely changed with decisions to go for two, or try another PAT—just ask the Detroit Lions and kicker Mat Prater in their loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

Count me out.

Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett? –Kevin

I like Brian Hoyer, mostly because I saw him win with the Cleveland Browns, which is something a select few have done in the past decade or so.

However, if there is a quarterback dilemma, I believe the Houston Texans need to go with Ryan Mallett—since it seems the Texans want him to be the quarterback of the future.

I think the real problem with the Texans is they are lacking a run game. Last week, Alfred Blue finally got going and Houston was able to avoid a fatal 0-3 start.

Whoever is under-center, they will definitely benefit from the return of Arian Foster in the backfield in the upcoming weeks.

Coach Bill O’Brien named Hoyer the starter for the opener against the Chiefs, but benched him after just one half of football.

What?

I just didn’t understand how O’Brien could pull the plug on Hoyer in his first game with his new team, especially since he didn’t perform that bad; 18 of 34 for 236 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

Mallett hasn’t been very impressive in his two starts, as well, completing just 53% of his passes for an average of 236 yards-per-game and a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

I say Hoyer, because he proved he can win games—but hey, that’s just me.

Are the Ravens really this bad? What is the problem? -Brandon

Well, thankfully for the Ravens, they were fortunate to pick up a huge road victory over the Steelers on Thursday, which avoided a 0-4 hole that would have been even harder to climb out of.

When I look at Baltimore’s first quarter of the season, it’s unfortunate, because they could easily be 4-0 at this point, losing by one possession in each of their defeats thus far.

One has to think it was awfully difficult for a team to stay out west for back-to-back road games to begin the season.

The Ravens desperately needed to get Justin Forsett going, which he did on Thursday with 150 yards on the ground in the win over Pittsburgh.

Fortunately for Baltimore, they have a very favorable schedule in the upcoming weeks. Their next two games are very winnable (vs. Cleveland, @ San Francisco), then after a Monday Night road game against Arizona, return home for three straight games against San Diego, Jacksonville, and St. Louis.

I’m trying not to get too excited, but my Raiders are actually looking legit. Yes? –Sal

After three weeks, the Raiders seem like the biggest threat to the Broncos in the AFC West, but don’t get too carried away yet.

Derek Carr is quickly developing into a franchise quarterback, which has to be exciting for Oakland, considering the signal-callers they have went through in the recent years. And Amari Cooper is looking like he has been here before, despite his rookie status.

After picking up wins against Baltimore and Cleveland, Oakland has a great opportunity to start 3-1 when they face the winless Bears this weekend in the Windy City.

Although their time may be coming, the Raiders still have yet to play a divisional opponent this season. The Raiders are 4-12 against the AFC West since 2012, but hey, maybe this team is different.

Who is the best 0-3 team and the worst 3-0 team? –Michael

If this was written prior to Thursday Night, my answer would have been the Ravens. But, considering they finally cracked into the win column, there are only three winless teams remaining in the NFL—and it would be hard to make a case for Chicago and New Orleans being better than the Detroit Lions.

I really can’t put my finger on Detroit. I really can’t.

The Lions are led by an above-average quarterback in Matthew Stafford, and he has a nice wide receiver duo in Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson to throw to. However, Stafford has just been taking shot after shot in the pocket, which has caused his health to waiver.

The Lions’ defense, once a fearful bunch, are obviously hurting after losing the Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the interior of their defensive line, to free agency this off-season.

Detroit has losses to, in my opinion, three good teams in San Diego, Minnesota, and Denver.

The Lions desperately need to get their ground game going. Joique Bell has been dreadful thus far, just 22 rushing yards on 20 carries and it seems the torch is being passes to rookie Ameer Abdullah, who has 154 yards-from-scrimmage and two touchdowns so far in 2015 while showing some promising explosiveness.

Although they may be the best 0-3 club, they now have to travel to Seattle on Monday Night and will, more-than-likely, fall to 0-4, which would just about crush any chance they have of reaching the playoffs for the second consecutive season—especially since they still have two more games against Rodgers and the Packers.

Worst 3-0 team has to be the Carolina Panthers.

Quarterback Cam Newton is working with limited offensive weapons after losing Kelvin Benjamin for the entire season, and you have to give him credit for it.

The running game is shaky at best with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert—and the defense is suspect, especially now that middle-linebacker Luke Kuechly will miss his third-straight game with a concussion.

So far, Carolina struggled but held on to defeat Jacksonville in week one and did enough to defeat the Texans and Saints, each by one possession.

Last week at home, the Panthers barely hung on against a Saints team that was quarterbacked by backup Luke McCown.

The upcoming month of action is going to determine if this Panthers team is for real. After a division game on the road in Tampa, they will stay on the road to face Seattle, followed by three-straight home games against Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Green Bay.

What’s interesting about the Panthers’ schedule is the fact that they will not play the undefeated Atlanta Falcons until weeks 14 and 16.

@scdermer4

Shelby Dermer

Shelby Dermer

Editor-in-Chief at Sports Grumble
Shelby is a junior studying Journalism at Ohio University. A graduate of Waynesville High School, Shelby did football and baseball play-by-play for Waynesville and had his own sports column in the WHS Spartacus Newspaper while also playing basketball for the Spartans. Now at Ohio, Shelby covers Ohio University Volleyball, Basketball, Baseball, and softball for Speakeasy Magazine where he is the sports' editor. He is an enormous fan of the NFL and MLB and writes Cincinnati Bengals/Reds articles as editor-in-chief of RiverfrontGrumble.com. Find Shelby on SportsGrumble.com, as well, where he also serves as editor-in-chief. Shelby is a frequent commentator on wellroundedpodcast.com discussing sports-related news. Follow Shelby on Twitter @scdermer4
Shelby Dermer

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