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Ask PFW: Believe the hype!

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Both Pats and Jets were good and lucky this season, but in the end, all that luck would evaporate for one of these teams who may finish with the second best record, but face a daunting climb from a wildcard spot. Sure hope it isn't us.
Seth G.

This is more a comment than a question, but I'll roll with it anyway. I agree that the loser of Monday night's came could face a daunting task in terms of entering the postseason as a wild card team. That means not only playing an extra game, but also potentially playing three playoff games on the road. It was a road the Patriots couldn't quite handle back in 2006, and I'm not sure this very young team is ready to do it either. That's why I think Monday night is a borderline must-win game for the Patriots. Take care of business at home and you set yourself up nicely coming down the stretch. Lose to the Jets for the second time this season and much of the hard work that's gotten you to a 9-2 mark at this point could go out the window. Can the Patriots go on the road as a wild card team in the postseason and still make it to a Super Bowl? Sure. Will they? I'm not so sure. The best path to a February spot in Dallas starts with a victory Monday night in Foxborough.
Andy Hart

Hello PFW greeting from Africa! (yes, believe it or not I am a New England Patriots fan here in Nigeria lol) and I really appreciate all that you guys do in keeping Patriots fans up to date on all things for the team. I am really pleased at how the team has played so far, but some of my friends are discouraged because they believe that the Patriots have been getting "lucky" and they do not think that the Patriots can take on the Jets (I think that it will come down to the Pats and Pets in the AFC championship). How do you guys think New England matches up with New York? I know we may have trouble with their explosive offense (especially with Holmes) but I think offensively we stand a chance (Revis and Cromartie are a bit overrated) your thoughts? Thank you again from Nigeria!
Jonathan Ogunyemi

I have to say, right now, I still think the Jets are the more physically talented team. But I think the Patriots are the better football team. Offensively I think the Patriots will have to work for what I get, but I like the matchup with either Wes Welker or Deion Branch on Antonio Cromartie. I don't think he matches up well with smaller, quicker receivers. I think he's a bigger corner who does better against bigger receivers, see: Randy Moss. I think Darrelle Revis is legit, and will take away pretty much whoever he covers or whatever side of the field he's on. But the other matchup could be huge. I also like the tight ends down the middle for the Patriots. This all assumes the offensive line can protect and give Tom Brady time. Also, I think Danny Woodhead will mix in some change-of-pace plays out of the backfield. The Patriots defense is where I have my concerns. The biggest issues I see are Dustin Keller over the middle and Santonio Holmes on his intermediate routes. This pass defense has given up too many plays in that area and I think Holmes is a very talented player. Overall I think this game will be a dogfight. I think the Patriots offense and Jets defense are both going to make their plays. I think it will be decided by the others sides of the ball. Will Mark Sanchez continue to make plays late as he develops as a quarterback? Or, will Devin McCourty and the Patriots young secondary continue to make key plays at key times and get turnovers? The matchup of Sanchez' passing game with McCourty and Co.'s pass defense will decide this game.
Andy Hart

On kick-offs the Lions were consistently getting towards a 40 yard line, while we couldn't get to 20 yards. They had a wall of blockers, while we had two guys in front of Tate. Is that an area of concern?
Kelly Snider

Yes. And yes. Both areas were an issue against the Lions and a bit of an issue in recent weeks. The coverage will be challenged by Brad Smith and the Jets. Prevailing wisdom was that Pierre Woods was brought back to help the coverage units. From what I saw in Detroit it hasn't paid off yet. The coverage units don't have as many proven core special teamers as has been the case in the past. There are no Larry Izzos on the roster. Probably no one even as proven as a Sam Aiken. There are a lot of young players, some of which are at least contributors on offense/defense. It's an issue that bears watching.

As for the kickoff returns, Tate simply isn't doing as well as he did earlier in the year. I know there is a lot of scheme and blocking that goes into it, but I think much of it also falls on the returner. He seems less decisive in recent weeks and has been dancing and moving too much for my liking rather than simply hitting it up there as fast as possible. Obviously he's proven he has the talent and makeup to be a good returner. He was very good early in the season. And maybe the blocking hasn't been as good of late. But I'd like Tate to watch some tape of how he ran early in the year and get back to that aggressive, decisive, speedy style.
Andy Hart

Belichick in the past has sort of shied away from a player that can do just one function. Also, Brady does not continue to trust and throw to a player that keeps dropping the ball when thrown to. (Remember Watson?) Week after week Tate continuously drops balls thrown directly into his hands/chest etc. On a lot of those drops the defender wasn't even that close. Tate has successfully returned kick offs, which is nice, but that's one function and other teams are adjusting to that. What has happened to this other kid, Price? He had great accolades in analysts' write-ups prior to the draft. Could he possibly do any worse?
Dana Sullenberry

This is a very sullen email. But I can't argue with some of your logic. I've never been a big believer that Tate was going to be a go-to guy as a receiver. I've just never seen the type of route running or hands that I think are needed to be a great receiver in the NFL. Even in college he was a returner first and then got hurt as he was seemingly developing into a top option as a receiver at North Carolina. Price is seemingly having a red shirt year. He's not yet been active on game day and spends much of his practice time running the scout team for the defense. He comes from a college offense that didn't prepare him well for what he's had to digest in New England and somewhere in the middle of camp he seemed to hit a wall in his development. He's still trying to catch up from that. At this point, unless injury bugs hit the receiver position, I'm not sure we're going to see much from Price this season. I still have hopes for his career, but his rookie season is starting to look like a wash.
Andy Hart

I was wondering. CFL team practice at their home fields and fans are allowed to come by a watch them I wonder if that is the same with your team. We are Pats fans and going to be in town and wonder if possible if there is a way we could see a practice, not a whole practice but we will be there in your store shopping and a quick stop by would be a Christmas bonus to my boys? Do you have a set time they practice? Thanks so much for your time.
N. Delsordo

Sorry, but practices during the season are not open to the public. Heck, the media only gets a 15- or 20-minute window to watch which usually only entails stretching and maybe on drill. Sorry to disappoint you. But enjoy your trip.
Andy Hart

I think by now it is obvious that Tate can be almost anything except a reliable third receiver. Why not give Hernandez that role? He dropped some balls too, but I think that's being a rookie. He can get behind the safeties fairly quickly and does well after the catch.
Sean J.

Not sure exactly what you mean by giving Hernandez the third receiver role. He's played a ton this year, most of that action split out wide as a receiver. He's second on the team in receptions. While he may not always start games, or line up in three-receiver sets with Deion Branch and Wes Welker, I think Hernandez is this team's third receiver and has been since the season began. He's caught a lot of balls as a rookie and shown the ability to run after the catch. He makes some plays down the field, but certainly isn't the type of field-stretching presence that I think many hoped that Tate would be on the outside. He just doesn't have that type of skill set. But he's clearly a key part of the passing game, and probably will be for years to come.
Andy Hart

Watching the Lions game, I just realized that our top three offensive players (Brady, Branch and Welker) are all running around on reconstructed left ACL's. Odd no? These guys are amazingly resilient.
Jonah Wexler

That certainly is food for though. Probably as much a sign of the times and the number of ACL injuries we see these days as anything else. Not sure what to make of it. And I'd rather have some food to eat than food for thought. No offense. I'm still cranky that I missed out on Thanksgiving dinner and didn't get one of my favorite foods on the planet – a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving. Woe is me.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, just a curiosity question. How can a QB have a perfect passer rating if he had incomplete passes? At what point do incomplete passes start affecting the QB rating? Logic would dictate that with everything else being equal, a 78% completion rate should have a lower passer rating than an 80% completion rate. Same should also hold true for number of TDs, pass attempts, etc. I am not a statistician, but the rating seems to have major flaws. They need to fix it or get rid of it. Keep up the good work.
Patrick Connolly

I won't pretend to understand the NFL's passer rating formula. I know touchdowns are good. Interceptions are bad. And quarterbacks are rewarded for longer throws more than shorter ones. Oh, and for some reason 158.3 is perfect. Beyond that, I'll simply paste the league's description of the passer rating system below and let you people decipherer it for yourselves. Good look. You'll need it. The following is taken from the NFL's 2010 Record and Fact Book:

"The NFL rates its passers for statistical purposes against a fixed performance standard based on statistical achievements of all qualified pro passers since 1960. The current system replaced one that rated passers in relation to their position in a total group based on various criteria. The current system, which was adopted in 1973, removes inequities that existed in the former method and, at the same time, provides a means of comparing passing performances from one season to the next.

It is important to remember that the system is used to rate passers, not quarterbacks. Statistics do not reflect leadership, play-calling, and other intangible factors that go into making a successful professional quarterback. Four categories are used as a basis for compiling a rating:
—Percentage of completions per attempt
—Average yards gained per attempt
—Percentage of touchdown passes per attempt
—Percentage of interceptions per attempt

The average standard is 1.000. The bottom is .000. To earn a 2.000 rating, a passer must perform at exceptional levels, i.e., 70 percent in completions, 10 percent in touchdowns, 1.5 percent in interceptions, and 11 yards average gain per pass attempt. The maximum a passer can receive in any category is 2.375.

For example, to gain a 2.375 in completion percentage, a passer would have to complete 77.5 percent of his passes. The NFL record is 70.55 by Ken Anderson (Cincinnati, 1982). To earn a 2.375 in percentage of touchdowns, a passer would have to achieve a percentage of 11.9. The record is 13.9 by Sid Luckman (Chicago, 1943). To gain 2.375 in percentage of interceptions, a passer would have to go the entire season without an interception. The 2.375 figure in average yards is 12.50, compared with the NFL record of 11.17 by Tommy O'Connell (Cleveland, 1957).

In order to make the rating more understandable, the point rating is then converted into a scale of 100, with 158.3 being the highest rating a passer can achieve. In cases where statistical performance has been superior, it is possible for a passer to surpass a 100 rating. For example, take Peyton Manning's record setting season in 2004 when he completed 336 of 497 passes for 4,557 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. The four calculations would be:

—Percentage of Completions—336 of 497 is 67.60 percent. Subtract 30 from the completion percentage (37.60) and multiply the result by 0.05. The result is a point rating of 1.880. Note: If the result is less than zero (Comp. Pct. less than 30.0), award zero points. If the results are greater than 2.375 (Comp. Pct. greater than 77.5), award 2.375.

—Average Yards Gained Per Attempt—4,557 yards divided by 497 attempts is 9.17. Subtract three yards from yards-per-attempt (6.17) and multiply the result by 0.25. The result is 1.543. Note: If the result is less than zero (yards per attempt less than 3.0), award zero points. If the result is greater than 2.375 (yards per attempt greater than 12.5), award 2.375 points.

—Percentage of Touchdown Passes—49 touchdowns in 497 attempts is 9.86 percent. Multiply the touchdown percentage by 0.2. The result is 1.972. Note: If the result is greater than 2.375 (touchdown percentage greater than 11.875), award 2.375.

—Percentage of Interceptions—10 interceptions in 497 attempts is 2.01 percent. Multiply the interception percentage by 0.25 (0.503) and subtract the number from 2.375. The result is 1.872. Note: If the result is less than zero (interception percentage greater than 9.5), award zero points.

The sum of the four steps is (1.880 + 1.543 + 1.972 + 1.872) 7.267. The sum is then divided by six (1.211) and multiplied by 100. In this case, the result is 121.1. This same formula can be used to determine a passer rating for any player who attempts at least one pass. Forty-eight qualifying passers have had a single-season passer rating of 100 or higher."

Got it?
Andy Hart

Hey guys, thanks for all the great work you put in over the holidays. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! The Pats sure made my day. Now, on to the Jets. Great matchups and coaching, this should be an excellent game. 10 days to prepare. This should be some of the best football of the year. I'm really looking forward to it! On a lighter note, can you explain to me, in football terms, the difference between a Damien Woody, Woodhead and a Woody Johnson? Thanks.
Heremey the Great

Not sure I get the question. The first is a former Patriots offensive lineman who now plays for the Jets. The second is a change-of-pace back who is one of the great surprises of the 2010 Patriots. The last is the owner of the Jets who, in my opinion, we saw way too much of in HBO's Hard Knocks. Three very different guys. Not sure why you'd bring them up in the same question. That's a real head scratcher. So right now, I'm scratching my head.
Andy Hart

With the Pats having a lot of picks on this draft do you think they will address the pass rush? But I really think they need help in the secondary. There is always someone being moved around and we don't have those solid corners anymore like the Laws and Samuel.
Aaron Holly

I do think the pass rush is a huge priority. The team needs to get a legit edge rusher so it can stop experimenting there with guys like Kyle Arrington. The name I've been throwing out is now suspended North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn. He's a freak athlete that I have to do more research on, but would seem to be able to fill the role. Whether it's him or someone else, I do think one of the first couple picks will have to be used on a pass rusher. The cupboard is pretty much empty right now.

As for cornerback, I don't think it's a huge need. Last year's first-round pick, Devin McCourty, is having a very good season and is drawing Rookie of the Year consideration. Darius Butler was benched, but he's in just his second year as a second-round pick. Kyle Arrington has been OK as a second-year player. Leigh Bodden will be back next year. Jonathan Wilhite has been OK. The Patriots have drafted defensive backs in the first two rounds in each of the last four years. Hopefully some of the guys that remain (former second-round pick Terrence Wheatley has already been sent packing) will develop into the core of this secondary for years to come. So with the need at OLB/pass rusher, wide receiver, running back and offensive line, I don't think cornerback will be a priority next spring.
Andy Hart

No one leads a football team like Tom Brady. I just read here on Patriots.com where Tom came in at halftime and started doing what Tom does best. Lead. Whether it is "motivating" a fellow player at the top of his lungs for making a bad play, celebrating a good play or congratulating a player for making a critical play at the right time. Tom knows how to lead, period. This is his best year as a Patriot. The Super Bowls happened years ago and are not important to the current team. Coach BB knew that when he had all the past memorabilia removed at the start of this year. This is his best year as a coach and this is definitely Tom's best year as the leader of the Patriots. When are we going to hear about him being considered for the 2010 NFL MVP? I think he deserves it more this year than 2007. Thanks Tom.
Craig Walker

Brady has been considered a leading MVP candidate for most of the season. In fact Peter King named him his fictional midseason MVP. Brady has been even better since then as he's transitioned into the post-Moss era on offense. I'd say he's the leading candidate right now, followed by San Diego's Philip Rivers. Brady would get my vote and will get plenty of the real votes once the season is over. He's had a great year and continues to show his versatility as both a leader and a playmaker. No quarterback has proven he can win in more different ways with more different teammates and types of teams than Brady has over the years.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I gotta say that our defense at times looks great then at times it looks like it has more holes then Swiss cheese. Anyway, I wanted to talk about Kyle Arrington. I know he's no Champ Bailey or Asante Samuel, though he has shown good signs since being a practice squad player. I was wondering do you see him here for a while seeing Belichick likes him and he is starting to develop? I was just thinking he'd be good along with McCourty, Bodden, Himself, Wilhite for CBs, what do you think??Steve DeMoura

As I said in the previous answer I think the Patriots may have the pieces in place for a decent young secondary with the potential to be very good. Arrington has been a pleasant surprise. I don't think he's been great, and has certainly given up his share of plays. He's a physical player. He contributes on special teams. He seems to work hard and have a good attitude. Heck, he's even been used as an outside linebacker as a pass rusher in recent weeks. If that doesn't say he's a Bill Belichick Patriots-type player, I don't know what does. Put that all together and I do see him sticking around for a while. Ideally he'll probably been in a backup/special teams role with McCourty and Bodden as the starters. But he still could be a contributing part of the team in the future.
Andy Hart

Hey PFW I really hope you guys post my question because I don't know if most of Patriots Nation is aware of the fact that Brandon Tate was selected ONE PICK ahead of Mike Wallace (who is an absolute BEAST right now) man how nice would he look in a New England uniform? He would be the ultimate deep threat replacement for Moss. Now I understand that Brandon Tate missed most of last year with an injury, so this is essentially his rookie year...but man would it be nice for him to produce the way Wallace did this year and last for Pittsburg. Your thoughts? Do you guys agree? Or do you think I'm being a little over dramatic and should Brandon Tate more time to develop?
Daniel Ewing

Looks like Tate's drop in Detroit and failure to contribute with any consistency on offense is starting to draw the ire of fans. Wallace has been far more productive for Pittsburgh. That's not even up for debate. It looks like he's going to be the far better NFL receiver. But let's not give up on Tate just yet. He's already proven he can have a big impact as a return man. He's still raw as a receiver, and I'll be honest in my assessment that I have my doubts about his long term potential as a receiver. But he's still less than a season of action into his NFL career. He's earned enough confidence to get on the field and have Brady throw him the ball. That's a good sign. Now he just needs get open more often, catch the ball when thrown to him and be more consistent. Forget about going back and seeing who the team could have had with its picks in past drafts. It's a miserable game to play. Plus, think of how many teams can do that with a sixth-round quarterback from the 2000 draft. Does that make you feel any better?
Andy Hart

If the Pats & the Jets end up in first and second place in the division and have the 2 best records in the conference do both teams get a bye week? Can a team with a worse record get a bye week because a team with a better record does not win their division?
Dave DeLuca

No, only the top two division winners get a bye. The wild card teams are automatically seeded No. 5 and No. 6 in the conference playoffs, with the team with the better record getting the higher seed. That's why I think Monday night's game against the Jets is so huge. The loser could end up with one of the best records in the NFL at the end of the season but still be a wild card team playing on the road against someone like Jacksonville to open the postseason. There is a still a lot of football left to play, but Monday's game will have a big say in how the postseason shapes out in the AFC.
Andy Hart

Is there any player not presently playing for any NFL team that the Patriots should sign up?John Moore

This is a new spin on the "should we sign" player X? emails that we get each week when some player is released by another team. Is there anyone out there that could help the Patriots? I don't know. It's hard to keep track of every player that is or isn't with another team. Do you want an old corner like Ty Law? An old edge guy like Greg Ellis? Bring a guy like Aaron Schobel out of retirement? Usually guys that are out of football at this point in a season are out of work for a reason. Not too many could be expected to come in, get in shape, learn a system and help a team improve. Are you really feeling that desperate about the Patriots right now where you think any guy off the street would make the team better?
Andy Hart

Why did Patriots get Monday off? Wouldn't be useful especially for many young players to look at the film for the past two games and "get better", especially before a key game. May I go on the limb and say that Pats admittedly were not well prepared to play in Cleveland, and turned Detroit's first half into practice. What are your thoughts on team preparation?
Ben Semion

I have no problem with the players getting Friday through Monday off after beating the Lions. The team had played two games in five days, three in 12 days. All were wins. Belichick has often given the team Mondays off after victories over the years, especially later in the season. Plus, it's already a long week in preparing for the Monday night game. And the players were at work on Tuesday, which is usually their day off during the season. Finally, I think it's possible for players to spend too much time preparing for a game. These guys are creatures of habit. That means you get the game plan on Wednesday and practice for three days. Too much more than what they're used to and I think they could get out of sorts, maybe peak too early and maybe over think too many things. The team earned some time off with three-straight impressive wins in a short span. They returned on Tuesday with still plenty of time, even extra time, to get ready for the Jets. I have no problem with the preparation this season. Did they fall into a trap in Cleveland. You bet your butt they did. Would that have changed with an extra day of practice? No, in fact it may have been even worse.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys, The Patriots showed interest in acquiring Alex Hall before, via waivers. He is available again after having been cut, for the 2nd time, by the Giants. He has the prototypical size of a BB linebacker, has 3-4 experience, athleticism and pass rush ability. He is a better long term bet than Woods or Crable ever was.
Robert Peselman

These are the types of waiver player emails I love. Since the Patriots had interest in Hall in the past, I'm sure they'd kick the tires again. Plus, the lack of depth at OLB is as bad as ever. My guess is that they'll consider him and wouldn't be surprised if they made a run at him. Heck, if Kyle Arrington is an option at outside linebacker then why wouldn't a guy who actually plays the position and fits the mold?
Andy Hart

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