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Ask PFW: Playoff push

Posted Dec 20, 2011

Questions in this week's PFW mailbag begin with New England's playoff possibilities.

Well now it is official. We are in the playoffs. And now that Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, we are the top seed right now. What do you believe are the Pats chances to get a #1 or 2 seeding and have that important bye week and home field advantage? Also with all the talk about Aaron Rodgers and Drew Breeze for MVP, and deservedly so, why not Tom Brady? He is having a pretty good year himself. Thanks! And love your question and answer session all the way from Canada's Arctic. Merry Christmas, Patriot's Nation!
Michael Jewis

Well, Michael, I’d say their chances are very favorable to keep the number-one seed. All they have to do is beat Miami and Buffalo at home these next two weeks. Miami is playing much better football of late, but the Patriots should still be able to pull out a victory. And Buffalo is in free-fall after a hot start.

New England knows what’s at stake. I expect them to take care of business and secure the top seed. That said, they need to take advantage of the home-field advantage, something they haven’t been able to do the past two seasons.

As for the MVP race, Brady is having a great year, and will receive some votes, but my sense is that most voters have already made up their minds. My guess is the award is Rodgers’ to lose.
Erik Scalavino


Unfortunately where I live, I don't get to see the Patriots play too often. But, I did see the [Broncos] game. I noticed that after the 1st quarter, the gap between the front 3 linemen widened considerably. And the linebackers seemed to play farther off from the line of scrimmage. Did this make the difference in slowing down the Broncos rushing attack or do I need to watch more games?
Sparky G.

Absolutely did. Good eye, Sparky. The Patriots started off in what has become their regular 4-3 front, but, as you saw, the Broncos ran roughshod over them in that first quarter. New England adjusted, going back to Bill Belichick’s preferred 3-4, and Denver was unable to counter-adjust. In the post-game locker room, several Patriots defenders acknowledged this fact and credited it with their turnaround.

But, yes, you should still watch more games, if you can. There are ways of doing so on-line, if you care to investigate that option.
Erik Scalavino


Hey guys, love this column. My father brought this up: Don't you see similarities (minus the atrocious defense) between this season and the 2003 season? Devastating loss to the Bills and Steelers, surprising release of a producing DB (Lawyer Milloy/James Sanders) at the start of camp and a WR playing CB (Troy Brown). I don't believe in superstitions but what do you make of all this?
Clarens Jarbath

There are some similarities, yes, but you and your dad are conflating the ’03 and ’04 seasons, Clarens. The big loss to Buffalo was in the ’03 opener. The release of Milloy happened that season, too, but the Pittsburgh debacle (Halloween night) was in ’04, as was Troy Brown’s conversion to defensive back.

The attrition in the backfield this year can be directly compared to that of ’04 as well, and in both seasons, New England won the Super Bowl. So, if I were you, I’d keep hope alive that history can repeat itself this year.
Erik Scalavino


Hi guys, always fun reading your thoughts. OK, so, I know the Pats seem a bit thin at WR. Is it crazy to think that they should target another veteran WR in Reggie Wayne? If Peyton [Manning] doesn’t return, Reggie may jump ship as well. He'll be 34 years old, but seems to have taken very good care of his body, and to go with it, two or three straight years of 100-plus receptions.
Steve DeMoura

Wayne is in a contract year, and has had three 100-plus-catch seasons in his previous four campaigns. This year, though, he’s well below that pace, yet his average per grab is about the same.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen in free agency, particularly with Wayne, as there are a lot of variables to consider. What type of contract will he demand? Will he feel loyal to the Colts? If Indy drafts Andrew Luck and parts with Manning, will Wayne be more willing to leave and take less from another team?

Whatever unfolds, I’d rather see the Patriots target a younger player or players at the position. If they do and Wayne is still available at the right price, then I’d consider adding him for experienced depth. Otherwise, I’d look elsewhere to upgrade New England’s wide receiver position.
Erik Scalavino


If a QB is running an option and gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage, is it a sack or TFL?
Garrett Stewart

Interesting Tebow-related question … we’ve seen this in the past with Wildcat offenses, where a non-traditional QB takes the snap and is downed behind the line of scrimmage. In those cases, I believe the official scorers have ruled it a sack, reason being they consider the person who handles the snap to be the QB.
Erik Scalavino

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