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Ask the Expert: Kara Henderson


Reggie Roberts: How real are Jim Harbaugh's 3-1 San Francisco 49ers who just beat Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field to send the Eagles to a 1-3 record?

Kara Henderson: I interviewed Jim Harbaugh on Monday's Total Access, he says he's been impressed with what Alex Smith has done so far this season. What Alex Smith has done, is avoid the big mistake and manage the game for a top flight runner in Frank Gore and defense that is one of the best when it counts, in the red zone. Given the fact that they now have a two-game lead in their division, just four games in, and with no other team in their division really threatening, they're for real if they don't try to move away from this formula and Gore can stay healthy.

RR: Give us your take on what's going on in Dallas and the problems the Cowboys are having. Can QB Tony Romo get it turned around and lead the Cowboys back to the NFC playoffs?

KH: What a pendulum swing Tony Romo's season has been. They can certainly turn things around, but the other teams in the NFC may just be too good for Dallas to catch. The Cowboys back four needs to get healthy, the newly formed offensive line needs to jell as a unit, and Miles Austin needs to get back on the field, then it's on Romo's shoulders. The Cowboys have, as Jason Garrett lamented on Sunday, played really well at times. The fact remains, they are a few bad Romo decisions away from being 4 and 0.

RR: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers — through four games — has a 124.6 QB rating and his Packers have rolled to a 4-0 start. Do you see anybody in the NFC able to step up to challenge Green Bay at this point in the season?

KH: I wouldn't pick anyone over Green Bay right now and you would certainly be hard pressed to find any national pundits who would. They've earned that with their play this season. The Falcons should be glad about that, a little extra motivation going into the game Sunday night, as if the embarassing loss in the playoffs this past year isn't motivation enough.

RR: The Atlanta Falcons — preseason Super Bowl participants by several NFL experts — have gotten out of the gate rather slowly, but you know it's just a matter of time before head coach Mike Smith gets his guys rolling. Can the Falcons make a game out of Sunday's home match-up against Green Bay at the Georgia Dome where they are 21-4 since 2008?

KH: There's no doubt the Falcons have something special at home in the Dome and can make a game out of this one, but the offensive line needs to continue to jell in order to get the running game going and give Matt Ryan the time he needs to operate the offense. I was at the game in Seattle and the offense looked like it's old self in the first half, balanced and methodical. One half of good football is a start but certainly won't work against the Packers, particularly in the secondary. Tarvaris Jackson having the best day of his career is not what you want to see defensively with Aaron Rodgers as sharp as he is now and the Lions and Panthers' passing attacks on the back end.

RR: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the AFC thus far is how well rookie head coach Mike Munchak has his Tennessee Titans playing at this point. Is it really a surprise that Tennessee is 3-1 at the quarter mark of the season?

KH: There's a reason Matt Hasselbeck chose the Titans: They have a strong offensive line, certainly a rare commodity this season, one of the best backs in the game in Chris Johnson and a new head coach who preaches fundamentals and discipline. Add that to a top-10 defense in a division in which the landscape has changed with the loss of Peyton Manning, and it's not a shock they're playing well. They are one Hasselbeck pick away from being 4-0 and that was without Chris Johnson producing for the first three games and leading receiver Kenny Britt down due to injury last week. CJ seems to be hitting his stride coming off his first 100-yard performance of the year. We'll know a little bit more about them and the Steelers when they play this week. And if they can continue to build on what they've started, it's going to be fun to watch them battle Houston in division which will be their next game after the bye. And by the way, weren't first time head coaches supposed to have a rough go with no true offseason to speak of? Someone forgot to tell Munchak and Jim Harbaugh.

RR: San Diego QB Philip Rivers is off to a bit of a slow start, but all he does is win. Can Rivers lead the Chargers back to the playoffs?

KH: I don't see why not! The Chargers are used to getting off to a slow start and picking up steam. This season, even with Rivers not putting up the kind of numbers to which we're accustomed, they are 3-1 with the division lead. Rivers just needs to take care of the ball better with six INTs in the last three games. Granted, the opponents they've beaten have a combined 1-11 record, but beggars can't be choosers after the historically slow starts they've made a yearly tradition.

RR: Let's switch back to Atlanta. What do the Falcons need to do to slow down Green Bay's vaunted offensive attack on Sunday night?

KH: Since I get so many cliched answers when I ask the questions, it's my turn to give one back. The Falcons need to play 60 minutes of good football on both sides of the ball.

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