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Ask the Expert: Jim Trotter


Reggie Roberts: You covered Sunday night's Falcons-Eagles game. What were your thoughts on the way the Falcons battled back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to pull out the win with back-to-back 80-yard drives?

Jim Trotter: I thought the Falcons showed a lot of moxie — and the offense definitely seemed to find its rhythm when it went hurry-up. One of the more interesting storylines to the season will be what identity the offense ultimately takes on. It is built to be balanced, but it also has a lot of quick strike capabilities with the addition of Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers. How coordinator Mike Mularkey handles this could go a long way toward determining what the Falcons do this season.

RR: Give us your take on the 2-0 Detroit Lions? Are they for real or are they the benefactors of a soft, early-season schedule?

JT: The Lions are for real. They have playmakers on offense (provided QB Andrew Stafford is healthy) and a physical defensive front. That unit should be even more formidable once Nick Fairley returns from injury. I had them making the playoffs in my preseason predictions, and nothing to this point has made me change my mind.

RR: Tennessee recorded their first win of the season by knocking off a very good Baltimore Ravens club to give rookie head coach Mike Munchak his first NFL head coaching victory. Can Tennessee be a playoff team in the AFC?

JT: I don't see Tennessee being a playoff team, although the one thing it has going for it is its division. Houston appears to be the class of the AFC South (although it got a break the first two weeks by having to face Colts back-up QB Kerry Collins and Dolphins QB Chad Henne), but the Texans still must show they're in it for the long haul. They started quickly last year and folded. The Titans' fate, in my opinion, is directly tied to the health of veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. If he stays healthy, they have a shot at competing for the division. If not, there will be growing pains with rookie Jake Locker.

RR: Carolina QB Cam Newton threw for only 400 yards for the second straight week, but the Panthers fell to 0-2 on the season with a 30-23 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Do the Panthers have enough around Newton to be a decent team this season?

JT: Depends on how you define decent. The Panthers focus this year should be on maximizing Cam Newton's development. Carolina is not a playoff team, but neither is it as bad as some would have you believe. Newton is a tremendous talent who doesn't appear phased by the transition from being a one-year starter in college. He should continue to improve as the season progresses, and that bodes well for the Panthers in the future.

RR: What is going on in Buffalo and how are the Bills 2-0 with their come-from-behind 38-35 win over the Oakland Raiders?

JT: The Bills would challenge for a division title in they were in the AFC West, but the AFC East is too, strong. Coach Chan Gailey is vastly underrated, as is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, running back Fred Jackson, and wideout Stevie Johnson. The key, though, could be the defense. The addition of rookie tackle Marcel Darius and the return to health of outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and free-agent signee Nick Barnett has given that unit an identity. Buffalo won't make the playoffs this year, but it will have a say in who does.

RR: Let's switch back to the Falcons and their win over the Eagles. Why are the Falcons so dominate at home in that Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan is 21-2 in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome?

JT: First off, you have to start with the fact that Matt Ryan is a damn good player. You don't have that type of success if you're mediocre. Secondly, there is talent around him. Thirdly, there's a comfort level at home. You're familiar with the field, the crowd is behind you, and you're not battling fan noise. To me, it's not rocket science.

RR: Can the Chiefs — who have been outscored 89-10 in their opening two games — get out of that 0-2 hole and make the AFC playoffs?

JT: No, the Chiefs are done. They lost their best defensive player (safety Eric Berry) and best offensive player (running back Jamaal Charles) to season-ending knee injuries in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. And in training camp they lost pass-catching tight end Tony Moeaki to a season-ending injury and No. 1 pick Jonathan Baldwin to a hand injury. It's a young team that faces 10 opponents who won at least 10 games last season. Playoffs? In 2012, maybe. But not this year.

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