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Ask PFW: Bye-ing into New Year's

Thanks to an impressive 12-4 regular season record the Patriots celebrate the New Year with a bye week, but there is no holiday for Ask PFW and questions from fans about their favorite team!



Hey guys! Love the work you do as always! Number two seed considering all of the injuries and turnover this team has gone through is pretty amazing. I am proud to be a Patriots fan, as always. I have a very specific question about scheduling and I was hoping one of you would know the answer to this. I understand the formula for determining opponents, however what determines where you play each game? For instance, next year the AFC East plays the AFC West, hence New England plays Denver once again. However, I see that the Pats will play that game in Gillette once again. That would make it three years in a row the Pats have played the Broncos, at home. How is this decided? That seems rather unfair (not that I am complaining), or is it entirely random? Thanks!*
*Steve Sixt

Obviously each team plays the other teams in its division both at home and on the road every season, forming the first six games of a schedule. The next eight games are decided on a rotating basis with the team playing the four teams from one of the other three divisions within its conference and the four teams from a division in the other conference. The locations of those games alternate back and forth between home and road. For example if the Patriots play a team from say the NFC East at home one season, four years later when they play the NFC East again they would play that team on the road. That alternation/rotation comes every three years with the divisions in the conference. The final two games are against the team that finished in the same position as you did in the two divisions within your conference that you are not already scheduled to play that season. Those games also alternate. So when a team like Denver wins its division each year, and the Patriots win their division each year, the two teams end up playing on an annual basis. One year it's because of division scheduling, the other two it's a matchup of division winners. But because of the alternating and rotating scheduling system you can end up with the matchup being in the same city a few years in a row. Boy, did I take the long road to Grandma's house with that answer! Hope it helps, because I actually think I'm confused now.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys, I hope you had a Merry Christmas. My question is in regards to the Patriots organization. Are the Pats seen as an "Evil Empire" similar to the Yankees? Meaning they have been so good for so long that people either love them or hate them with little in between. The reason I ask is that when Tom and Co. set the points and TD records they were seen as classless and running up the score, yet when Manning does it he is showered with praise. Why the difference?
M. Borrowman

On some level the Patriots are hated because they have consistently been winning and among the best teams in the NFL for more than a decade. It's a sustained run of success that clearly is annoying to other fan bases and can rub people the wrong way. That said, I think there are some other issues at hand in your question. I don't remember the Patriots being criticized for breaking the scoring record as much as they were criticized for running up the score in individual games. The 2007 Patriots won 10 games by 21 or more points, three by 31 or more and two by 45 or more. The 2013 Broncos won just five games by 21 or more points and just one by 30 or more. They just weren't in as many blowouts as the Patriots, and also lost three games along the way to decrease their perceived level of dominance. But there is also no doubt, that there are a lot of Patriots Haters out there, both in terms of fans and even some media members.
Andy Hart

Since Blount had a big game I was wondering what ever happened to Jeff Demps? From what I could find it looks like Demps played in 2 games for the Bucs before landing on IR again. He rushed for 14 yards, caught the ball for 21 and had 93 kickoff return yards. If these numbers are accurate did we get the better deal or what? Do you think Tampa is kicking themselves? How long is Blount under contract with the Pats?
Dave DeLuca

What are your thoughts on the RB position for next year? Even as Blount put up huge numbers vs. the Bills, it looked like Ridley's superior talent was evident on a couple plays. Blount is a free agent, has he earned himself a new contract? Or does Ridley's talent dictate that he gets a shot to be the unquestioned guy on 1st/2nd down next year?
Shawn M.


Clearly the Patriots got the better of the Blount trade. Demps was a guy who wasn't even with the team and clearly wasn't focused on a football career. Getting anything for him, never mind a former 1,000-yard rusher, was impressive. Blount has had a solid season and been productive with just about every chance he's gotten as a ball carrier. He's put up decent numbers splitting time with Ridley heading toward free agency. It will be interesting to see what type of interest he might garner on the open market next spring. It will also be interesting to see if he takes less to stay in New England where his seemingly fading career has been reignited. Remember, Blount re-did his contract when he arrived in New England and essentially gave up a reported $1 million. Overall I still do think that Ridley is the more talented player, but his fumble issues certainly muddle the situation. Ideally I'd love to see both of them back, along with Shane Vereen, to give the backfield as much versatility and depth as possible. But that really hinges on the kind of money Blount will be looking for and what kind of money other teams might be willing to spend on him.
Andy Hart

So. I know this wouldn't happen, but I'm curious if it could. With the Falcons not in the playoffs, could Tony Gonzalez request a release so as to sign with a playoff contender (us)? It's not like he needs to stay with the Falcons. I recall how Josh McDaniels was released by the Rams and came to us a couple years ago. Could you shed some light on if players are any different? Could the Pats compensate Atlanta? With us getting the bye, wouldn't that be enough time to get him prepared for some snaps in the divisional round?
Dante Swinton

Players who finished the season with other teams cannot change teams at this point or play again this season. Gonzalez remains under contract with the Falcons until the end of this league year. What you suggest can't happen. It is different with coaches, although there was even some chatter that coaches shouldn't be allowed to jump from non-playoff teams to playoff teams even when their season's/contract's ended. But that's exactly what McDaniels did when he finished up his time in St. Louis.
Andy Hart

Why are the Patriots keeping Jake Bequette on the roster if they don't plan on playing him? Are they having him learn a new position or are they just keeping him on the roster pending an injury?
Ryan Plourde

Bequette is clearly a depth/emergency player at this stage in his disappointing two-year career. The former third-round pick out of Arkansas has now been a healthy scratch for 23 of the 32 games of his career in New England, including the final 10 of this, his second season. As it stands today you'd have to think he will be a long shot to make the roster out of training camp next summer, if he's even still with the team at that point. Not sure why he's not been able to crack the game day roster, but he's just apparently not a viable option on defense or special teams at this point.
Andy Hart

Love to read all your differing insights on the team during the year. Great Job! I guess we have sort of a 2 part question and a small request. First, who is the brain-dead idiot that put the Pro Bowl BEFORE the Super Bowl? I know that if was an owner headed to the SB, there is NO way I let my players risk injury in a game that is comparatively of far less importance. Besides, if your team IS playing in the SB, you no doubt have some Pro Bowlers on your team and it would not be fair for them to have to miss it either. And second, is the Pro Bowl selection only based on fan voting? Shouldn't stats and performance be used instead of popularity? And finally, if you could let Matt Mulligan know that all of us Maine Mooses are cheering for him, and wishing him and the Pats the best. THANKS
Dan Micue


The Pro Bowl was moved from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before a few years back in order to try to increase the popularity of the all-star game and tie it into the two-week lead up to the biggest game in sports. There was even the attempt to play it in the same city at the Super Bowl, although it's since returned to Hawaii. The Super Bowl players indeed do not play in the Pro Bowl in the current set up, although many Super Bowl players didn't attend the game back when it was after the Super Bowl either. The powers that be at the league continue to try to find ways to improve the Pro Bowl – including the current "unconferenced" set up – but it's a tall task. As for the rosters, they are voted on by the fans, the players and the coaches, with each group accounting for a third of the total vote. So you would think that many fans are taking stats and popularity into account when voting, and that players and coaches would have a pretty good idea of the best performers in the game. It's not a perfect formula – and some have argued that scouts or pro personnel people should at least be added to the vote – but it's not just a popularity contest.
Andy Hart

Happy holidays from Italy to all you guys and all Patriots fans. After watching the game against the Ravens, I think it's a good move in the near future for our offensive line to keep Mankins at LT, moving Solder at RT to replace Cannon, which to me is now the weak link of the unit. Your thoughts?
Stefano Olivieri

I don't think what you suggest is a crazy idea, but I don't see it happening. First, Solder returned to action against the Bills and seemed to be fine. He's a solid left tackle, even if he struggles on occasion like so many left tackles do dealing with elite pass rushers. And Cannon is a backup at right tackle right now, filling in for Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer's the starter and likely will be moving forward. I'm also not sold that Solder would be a powerful enough type to succeed at right tackle. He's the more athletic left tackle type. So there is a chance that in moving the guys around the way you suggested you would actually be weakening both left tackle and left guard, and maybe even right tackle.
Andy Hart

Was the win in Baltimore more of the Patriots playing well or more of the Ravens playing poorly? What team do you think could be the stumbling block in the playoffs for the Patriots?
Wano Yee

I give the Patriots a ton of credit for the very impressive win in Baltimore and then following that up with another solid day dealing with the Bills and the rain in the finale. Sure Joe Flacco was horrific against the Patriots, but give New England credit for controlling that road game from start to finish and winning the physical battle on both sides of the ball. It was clearly the best win and performance of the season for Bill Belichick's troops. Looking ahead to the playoffs, I think the Chiefs might just be the toughest matchup for New England. I know Cincinnati already disposed of the Patriots once this year, but Kansas City would seem to have the characteristics to beat Tom Brady and Co. I think Alex Smith is an average quarterback, but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes and doesn't throw many interceptions. We all know that turnovers are key to the Patriots defense, especially in the postseason. The Chiefs also run the ball well, with a big-play back in Jamal Charles who's also a lot to handle as a receiver out of the backfield, and could challenge a suspect New England run defense. Defensively the Chiefs have a lot of talent up front, especially if they can get Justin Houston back and Tamba Hali healthy. Add in a very productive, impact return game and I think the Chiefs would be the worst matchup to see coming to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional playoff.
Andy Hart

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