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Ask The Expert: Ashley Fox

Reggie Roberts: Since you live in Philadelphia, let's start with the 2-0 Eagles.  How does a team turn the ball over nine times in two games and still manage to be undefeated through the first two weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season?

Ashley Fox: Great question. It comes down to the fact that down the stretch, Michael Vick has led two game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. The Eagles have been able to move the ball. They lead the league in total offense, averaging 471.0 yards per game. But Vick has thrown six interceptions and LeSean McCoy, who fumbled just once last season, has fumbled twice in two games. I've got to think at some point the turnovers will even out. If so, the Eagles are going to be hard to handle. If they hadn't had three red zone turnovers against Baltimore last week, they might have handily beat a Ravens team I think could be in the Super Bowl.

RR: You have written extensively about the replacement officials.  What are your hearing regarding the NFL resolving this situation?

AF: I don't see this getting resolved any time soon, unfortunately. Both sides have dug in. The officials, who are part-time employees, want to continue to have a pension plan that most full-time employees in the league no longer have. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't going to cave on this, nor should he. In the meantime, we're going to have to continue to be subjected to games that more and more are getting out of hand because the players and coaches don't respect the replacement refs.

RR: Monday Night's game between the Falcons and the Broncos showcased Atlanta's defense forcing four turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the game.  What were your takeaways from that game and are the Falcons one of the top three teams in the NFC?

AF: Unfortunately for you guys, that game got overshadowed by the replacement officials performance. It was a signature win for Mike Smith and Matt Ryan, who was previously 0-3 on Monday night. I thought the defense played great. They disguised their coverages and clearly rattled Peyton Manning, which is tough to do. Are the Falcons a top-three team in the conference? I think it's early to say that, but they are one of four NFC teams that are undefeated, so that's a great start.

RR: Much has been written about the closing seconds of last Sunday's game between the Giants and the Buccaneers regarding the tactics Tampa Bay employed when the Giants were in their victory formation.  Any thoughts on that topic?

AF: I didn't like it. I understand new Bucs coach Greg Schiano is trying to instill a never-quit mentality in his team, but this isn't college. This is the National Football League. These players are professional athletes trying to earn a living. Eli Manning was going to take a knee. Everyone knew it. The game was over. Take your L and live to fight another day.

RR: Falcons QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with a QB rating of 117.6.  You saw the Falcons during the preseason and were at Monday Night's win over Denver.  What are your impressions of Ryan, who is in the midst of his fifth NFL season?

AF: He has been really sharp. He looks great physically. He seems to be in a good place mentally. I see a lot of similarities between Matt and Joe Flacco. They're both really coming into their own, with command of their offenses and a lot of talent around them. The thing about the Falcons is who are you going to double team? Julio? Roddy? The future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez? Matt has a lot to work with.

RR: Bears QB Jay Cutler has been in the news lately following his on-field antics after the Bears lost to the Packers at Lambeau Field last week.  Does Cutler need to apologize to his Bears teammates?

AF: Probably. It's not like he was perfect in that game. He threw four picks. Cutler has come under a lot of heat this week. I'd like to see his body language improve. The Bears have surrounded him with playmakers this season. You talk about Atlanta being a top three team in the NFC, I think Chicago could be right there, too. But the quarterback has got to be right and he's got to have the support of his teammates.

RR: There are lots of big games this weekend.  New England travels to Baltimore on Sunday night.  Who do you like and why?

AF: This should be a good one, the rematch of the AFC championship game that the Ravens almost won in New England. I like Baltimore. They're at home, where they have won 11 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL, and 16 of their last 17. In his last three games against the Ravens, Tom Brady has thrown seven interceptions. I'm picking Baltimore 30, New England 27.

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