Fact or Fiction: Week 16
Will the Pats make the AFC title game? That's one issue our experts debate heading into Week 16.
Everyone has opinions about what will happen during the NFL season. And the predictions will either prove to be true or false.
So we've made four bold statements and asked our ESPN experts -- former NFL players Merril Hoge and Mark Schlereth-- whether or not they believe the statements will eventually become fact or fiction.
On which side of the fence do they sit? Click on the links below for their answers.The Eagles will still represent the NFC in the Super Bowl
The Patriots won't make the AFC Championship Game
Julius Peppers should win Def. Player of the Year
There will be at least one new coach in the NFC West next year
The Eagles will still represent the NFC in the Super Bowl Merril Hoge
Fact: The one aspect that's been forgotten in this entire situation is the presence of coach Andy Reid. He's an excellent designer of offenses and he'll make the right moves to keep this team explosive. This offense must be explosive to be successful because of the team's poor run defense. I expect Reid to find a way to keep this team balanced and still be able to quickly score so that opposing teams can't grind it out on the ground. Another reason why the Eagles should still make the Super Bowl is because of the poor conference they are in. The NFC simply isn't that good and this team should still be able to handle the teams they face.
Fact: The Eagles have home-field advantage in a weak conference and that may be all it takes for them to win. They still have some offensive weapons and they'll find a way to utilize them to make the Super Bowl. There's a sense of urgency on this team after falling in the NFC Championship Game three consecutive seasons. Quarterback Donovan McNabb will elevate his game and make this happen.
The Patriots won't make the AFC Championship Game Merril Hoge
Fiction: They will make it simply because they'll probably only have to win one home game to get to the AFC Championship Game. They're extremely difficult to beat in tough weather conditions and especially at home. The Patriots will be able to grind it out with Corey Dillon running the ball and they possess an excellent short-passing game that is an extension of their running game. Also, their defense is one of the best in the league and may be closer to being healthy come playoff time.
Fiction: The Patriots will have a home game before the AFC Championship Game and that'll be enough to get them there. This team is darn near unbeatable at home and I don't expect that to change. They are extremely resilient and find ways to win and they have Corey Dillon running the ball this season. That's a recipe for success.
Peppers should win Def. Player of the Year Merril Hoge
Fact: There isn't a more phenomenal athlete on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL. His athleticism is so great that it actually rivals Michael Vick's. There's no question that he deserves the award with the way he's elevated his game and everything he's done. Heck, the guy even plays on the offensive side of the ball and is as much of a matchup problem for defenses as he is for offenses. He's an excellent blend of speed and size that isn't rivaled in the league.
Fiction: As good as Julius Peppers has been there's been nobody better than Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. He's doing it all for the Ravens on defense and on special teams. Reed has had an amazing season and it's even more amazing that he's overshadowing linebacker Ray Lewis with his play. That's something not many people ever thought could happen, but Reed has been that good on the field.
There will be at least one new coach in the NFC West next year Merril Hoge
Fact: There's a good chance that the fired coach will be Dennis Erickson of the San Francisco 49ers. He has a legitimate gripe that no one on his staff should be fired because they were lied to by the ownership. This organization hasn't done anything to get better and isn't giving this staff the weapons necessary to win games.
Fact: If you roll the dice in that division everyone but Dennis Green is in trouble and that's the surprising part. Who would've ever thought that the Arizona Cardinals would be the stable franchise in any division? But the other teams in this division have either underachieved or have other internal issues that aren't allowing them to be successful. There's a chance that Green has seniority in that group next season.
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