Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" -- and Insider -- Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, breaking down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
How much chance is there for the Colts to upset New England?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I think they have a legitimate chance. Andrew Luck has proven to us that he's not intimidated by any situation. What I really like about the Colts right now is how the coaches have changed things up on offense. In December, they realized that they're not the power run offense that they eventually would like to be. So, they went to a shorter passing game with more no-huddle and shotgun formations and uptempo playcalling. It really seemed to give them a boost and cut down on the number of hits that Luck took. I also think their defense is playing the best I've seen them play. This is not the best Pats team we have seen, but it may be the best coaching job by Belichick and a great year by Brady. But it is not a dynamic passing game. Injuries on defense cost them some of their best playmakers. I know they have been in this situation so many times and they are a smart veteran team, but I believe they are beatable. I don't know if the Colts will do it, but I don't think they're coming into New England thinking that they don't have a chance.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
Gary, of all of Marvin Lewis's playoff failures, this one stings the most. Somebody has to be accountable. Marvin has no question Andy Dalton is his qb. What do you question? Gruden and his playcalling? Something has to give.
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I think a lot of the blame has to go to Dalton. He made some throws that veteran playoff QBs should not make. It just didn't look to me like the Bengals had their foot on the gas pedal in this game. It seemed like the Chargers controlled the flow, which I don't understand. Cincinnati has too many weapons and too many elite players on both sides of the ball to let something like that happen. Having said all that, Marvin Lewis needs to back Dalton right now. This organization will look at everything, including the QB position. It is very easy for fans to want to replace the signal caller without realizing that anybody else available to them may not be an upgrade. I still think Dalton can be a fine QB, but he has to start coming up big in meaningful games. The Bengals remind me a little bit of Detroit. We want to love them because they are so talented, but eventually they always disappoint us.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - was it surprising to see run heavy game plans by the road(winning) teams in 3 of the 4 games this weekend or has this become somewhat of the norm come playoff time?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I think everybody feels that the ability to run the football at this time of year is very important. Partly because of weather situations and partly because a physical run game can control the flow and keep a more talented opposing offense on the sidelines. Of the four teams that won, San Francisco and San Diego have really run the ball well in recent weeks. The two other winners, New Orleans and Indy, have gotten surprising production from their run game lately, but that takes pressure off these QBs, it eats up the clock and it sets up play action.
mike from rialto [via mobile]
Can san diego run the call against denver's defense ?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
Denver's defense is not elite right now. They have not had great gap discipline against great run teams. What I like about San Diego's run offense is not only that they're productive, it's that they commit to it. Ryan Mathews workload has dramatically increased in recent weeks and now they've added Ronnie Brown to the mix. I believe we'll see a steady diet of these backs and not just a Rivers passing game. Most importantly, if they run the ball well in Denver, that means Manning has less possessions and he's watching the game more than he wants to.
Marcus Gilbert (Cordova, Tn)
Who is the blame in Green Bay. All this talk about Lewis lets hear about others coaches like MCcarthy. Who cant win anymore in the playoffs and barely made it.
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
It seems like injuries always seem to be a problem for Green Bay late in the season. Their backs were against the wall against a really good 49ers team. I think they have some work to do on defense, because their personnel is just not good enough. But this offense should be terrific next year. When you get into the playoffs, it's tough to win a game. To be honest, I was really surprised when they beat the Bears in Week 17. I think this is a resilient and tough minded team. They just lost a game to a talented opponent.
Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)
Gary is Indianapolis the better matchup for New England's Offense Considering the Colts Defense just gave up 44 Points to a Kansas City Offense that I don't think is very good at all?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
The KC defense that we saw at the end of the season and last weekend is not close to the unit we saw early in the season, partly due to injuries and partly due to inconsistent play. The Colts are certainly not a great group, but when you watch them on film, they are probably playing their best football in the last couple of weeks. They create turnovers, they play hard and they are pretty sound. I don't know if that's enough against this pass offense, but I think Tom Brady will struggle to generate any kind of explosive plays with the group of receivers he has now. If the Colts can force a lot of multi-play drives and test Brady's patience, along with getting to him with four-man rushes and no blitzes, they have a chance to be competitive.
Gary, I like to think the Niners are a much better team than when they last faced the Panthers. But can the same be said about the Panthers?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I think the game they played during the regular season was probably pretty representative of who these teams are. I watched them on film and these teams really mirror each other: strong running games, very physical defenses, athletic and young RBs and a very aggressive mentality. I think this will be a low scoring game, like last time. I think both defenses will be the story of the game and not allow huge offensive days. I probably like the 49ers for the mere fact that they've been on the big stage more and Carolina has not. If this one is close and comes down to the wire, I just have to think that SF's experience counts for something.
Chris (Latham, NY)
Is Phillip Rivers an elite QB?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
Oh, I have thought that for years. He has not had a good OL for a long time. He has not had the deepest and most talented group of receivers. I really think it hurt his production when the Chargers let Darren Sproles go several years ago. But he didn't complain. He single-handily kept this offense running. I like how he's embraced the new offense. A shorter passing game that protects real well and moves the chains. I love the way that Rivers has this team playing right now. I think they're playing loose and with more confidence than most people realize. I think they go into Denver without any intimidation.
Ed (Queens Village)
Which road team in each conference has best chance of winning this week?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
I think you'd have to pick SF as the most viable candidate to win at Carolina. While the other three teams -- NO, Indy, San Diego -- will all be underdogs. I probably like San Diego the best as having a chance at an upset. But I am also intrigued by the Colts at New England. I just don't see a way that New Orleans can win in Seattle.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Now that the Cardinals removed the mystique. Do you see the Saints leaving Seattle with a victory?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I agree with you about Arizona. I think losing at home probably effected the Seattle players. I don't think they expected that a team could come in and do that. I think Seattle is more physical. I think they're more talented, especially on defense. I think a big part of this game will be the crowd. As noisy as it will be, it's hard for QBs to call his plays and audibilize. We know a huge part of the Saints success is the Sean Payton-Drew Brees playcalling. If that's a problem, then it could lead to some mistakes and turnovers. I just think that this Seattle team has had time to re-focus and realize that a great season will mean nothing if they lose a game like this, one that they're supposed to win. They also know that beating New Orleans may give them another shot at San Francisco in the conference championship weekend.
Will Jerry Jones ever lose his ego and hire an actual football mind to run that organization again?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I think things will continue exactly as it is now. I think he loves the role that he is in. I think in his mind he really feels that he's good at it. That his ability to evaluate players and put a roster together is top notch. If you own the team and believe that, then you're not going to make changes. They have good players. It just doesn't look like they have enough of them. But they certainly keep trying to find the right combination.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I probably wouldn't tear this thing up right now. Even though Dallas has disappointed us, they're still close to being an elite team. Although, they have to improve on defense, and quickly.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
I hope that weather doesn't play a major role in games this weekend. Because these are such talented players and these games are potentially so good, you'd hate to see them played in anything but good conditions. So, hopefully we'll get some good, sunny days.