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Ask PFW: An early offseason

Questions about the Jets game, the draft, and the looming suddenly-upon-us offseason dominate this week's mailbag.

What did you think of the Jets faking injuries during the game? It seemed like pretty much every time the Pats started using the hurry up and got a drive rolling along, a Jets player would get "injured," only to come back in two plays. The Jets would have time to sub and make adjustments, and those drives all stopped short. I'm not trying to blatantly hate on the Jets, but when that exact scenario happens three times, something's obviously going on. Is there anything a team can do if they think their opponent is feigning injuries to get time to adjust during drives?
Sam Frankel

It's hard to know what's real and what's not in these situations. Need I remind you of the famous goal-line stand in Indy when Willie McGinest made the game-saving tackle on fourth down? He could easily have been accused of faking an injury a couple of plays earlier when he limped off the field, only to return and burst into the backfield, then sprint down the field with his hand raised in celebration. It works both ways, you see.

But to the most recent game, against the Jets. The most memorable of those examples came at the end of the fourth quarter, right before the two-minute warning, I believe, when New England was driving. The "injured" player actually gave the Patriots an extra time out, in effect, yet the Gillette Stadium crowd erupted in boos. From our vantage point in the press box, Team PFW felt that gave New England an advantage. They were low on timeouts and got an unforeseen moment to plot their next moves. Maybe the fans were booing the individual player simply because he was a Jet, but it seemed to us like they didn't fully consider the bigger picture.
Erik Scalavino

Despite all of the X's and O's, the game came down to one basic fact, the Jets wanted the game more than the Patriots. The Jets looked confident while the Patriots looked hesitant. Do you think the tact of not letting the players respond to the trash talk, and benching Welker at the beginning of the game as punishment for the clever jab he took at Rex Ryan hurt the Patriots mind set heading into this game?
Gary Goldstein

I actually think the Patriots were wound too tight this week, and historically, they don't play well when they're like that (see Super Bowl XLII). All week in practice, the mood was very serious and business-like, with little of the normal fun and exuberance that has marked most practices this season. Maybe there was just too much inexperience on this roster to handle the pressure as a team. Whatever the reason, the Patriots weren't themselves Sunday night, and that's what cost them the game.
Erik Scalavino

How would you feel about the NFL sanctioning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to a team when one of its members goes off on these profanity laced tirades that I then have to try and explain to my grandchildren. Let the affected team hold the penalty to use at their discretion, i.e., right after the team scores, let the penalty come in to play and nullify it?
Brian Sprague

That's a slippery slope you're proposing, using penalties like challenge flags. Not sure I'd be on board with that, but the NFL did take action following the furor over Jets Week III and the incendiary comments it generated from the Florham Park area of New Jersey.

When Bart Scott said Wes Welker's days in a uniform were "numbered," the league told teams that such talk better remain that way… just talk. Such comments could be taken into consideration when doling out fines for illegal hits that occurred in the ensuing game. It may not be exactly what you're looking for, Brian, but it's a good move by the league.
Erik Scalavino

We fans have been obsessing over the 'game' like everyone else this week. If we are overpowered by it, how do you all 'escape' from being engulfed by it? Is there no escape?! Please help! I'll send the therapy check later!
Kristen McDuffee

I can't speak for my colleagues, Kristen, but I deal with it by reminding myself daily that there are so many more important things in life. And that, win or lose, the players still are comfortably paid, meaning most of them probably take these losses to heart a lot less than the average fan does. It's still difficult, but keeping perspective certainly helps. That's my two cents… but feel free to send your check (for more than two cents, please) addressed to me at Gillette Stadium, One Patriot Place, Foxborough, MA, 02035.
Erik Scalavino

Hey thanks PFW for answering my question. You guys do a hell of a job every year. WHY DOES IT HURT SO BAD WHEN THE PATS LOSE? :(
Kevin Johnson

That's what happens when you care passionately about something or someone. It's a completely human response… Seriously, are there any trained professionals out there who can tell me how much to charge for these amateur shrink sessions? Lucy van Pelt charged five cents. Maybe I'll start there.
Erik Scalavino

Just wanted to throw this out there for fun (and it's not in reaction to the Seahawks record). What do you guys think of the idea of the playoffs being re-seeded to be NFL-wide? Not only would this leave the possibility that two teams in the same conference could play in the Super Bowl, but it would make the whole playoffs between the conferences. Teams would qualify for the playoffs the exact same way as they do now. And then after the last regular season game (with appropriate tie-breakers) all teams that qualified for the playoffs in today's system (including 2 wild cards from each conference) would be seeded 1-12. The top 4 teams would get byes and the top 2 teams would get homefield advantage(obviously the only way the top two seeds could meet would be the Super Bowl). I think it could be neat to see both conferences facing off in the playoffs and having the "true" top two teams against each other in the Super Bowl. I think today's system is fine and I have no problems with it, but maybe a once every 3 or 4 years thing.Nathan F.

It's an interesting concept that's been posited before, particularly over the past decade, when New England and Indianapolis were far and away the best teams in the league. AFC title games were more like Super Bowls, many people said. There is something exciting about the prospect of seeing the "consensus" best teams squaring off for the Lombardi Trophy, so, I think it warrants further discussion and examination. Not sure how high on the priority list it will be this offseason, though, given the uncertainty surrounding the labor situation.
Erik Scalavino

Seems like most people figure [Fred] Taylor and [Sammy] Morris are done with the club. Do you think there would be merit in signing Ricky Williams? He's getting up there in years but he's still a solid downhill runner who'd be a nice complement to BJGE and insurance in case of injury. He knows the AFC East defenses. And I don't think his price tag would be out of reach.
Bob Lee

No interest on my part, Bob. You're right, there needs to be some turnover at the position, but a youth infusion is what I would prescribe over a past-his-prime back with considerable baggage. I'd prefer looking elsewhere in free agency and in the draft, obviously.
Erik Scalavino

I was just wondering what you thought about drafting Mark Ingram. I am by no means an Alabama fan, but I think he would do well with the Pats. You could have the Law-Firm and Ingram wear down the defense, while [Danny] Woodhead runs to the outside. I don't want to see the Pats waste a first rounder on him, but if he is available in the second or third round, I don't see why not go for him. Also, what do you think are the top three needs for the Pats? I would have to say OLB (someone to rush the passer), Defensive Line and Offensive Line. Let's face it guys like Matt Light, Stephen Neal and Dan Koppen aren't getting any younger and it would be nice to have some good young talent to groom.
Michael Hobbs

I heard that the Patriots have two picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft. Is that correct? Also what specific needs may we be looking to fill next year? My thoughts on needs are defensive end (we have to get pressure on the quarter back) corner, and then both offensive and defensive line.
John Shaw

With New England's season having just ended, Andy Hart and I haven't had a chance to begin our annual in-depth draft studies and analyses just yet. We need a little time to decompress from the season just ended. So, I would just be giving you a superficial opinion of Ingram – or any other prospect, for that matter – at this stage, Michael.
Ingram, though, might not be available as low as the third round, but I could see him slipping to the middle of the first round, where New England has Oakland's pick at 17. Team PFW (Paul included, even though he refuses to attend Combines) is lukewarm on Ingram, based on what we've watched of him over the years. Great college back, no doubt. But we have our concerns about his viability as a pro. Again, that could change once we scout more thoroughly, but it's just too soon to say with any certainty.

John, you heard right… the Patriots actually had two picks in each of the first four rounds of the 2011 draft: their own selections, plus Oakland's first (17 overall, for Richard Seymour), Carolina's second (33 overall, from a trade in last year's draft), Minnesota's third (from the Randy Moss trade), and Denver's fourth (from the Laurence Maroney deal). Then they pulled off the Deion Branch trade and gave up one of the fourths. By the way, New England's first-round pick will be the 28th overall, as there are four teams left in the playoffs and the Patriots are the highest seeded team to have exited from the Divisional round.
Erik Scalavino

What players did the Jets end up getting with the draft picks the Patriots sent them to get Bill Belichick? Must have been a steal. Also, what players did the Patriots end up getting with the picks the Jets sent them for Bill Parcells? Thank you.Steve Ouellette

The Jets actually traded that pick (the 16th overall in 2000) to San Francisco to move up to the Niners' spot at 12. With that pick, New York selected University of Tennessee defensive end Shaun Ellis, who's been a mainstay on the Jets D ever since.

For Parcells, the Patriots received four draft picks: a fourth and a third in 1997 (which were used on Michigan o-lineman Damon Denson and Iowa running back Sedrick Shaw, respectively), a second in '98 (Wisconsin wide receiver Tony Simmons), and a first in '99 (Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer).

So, from a draft standpoint, the Jets got the better player, but New England got the better coach. The Patriots won three Super Bowls with Belichick, the Jets none with Parcells.
Erik Scalavino

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