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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 16 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 21 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Get the playoff party started

The holidays are now behind us, but for NFL fans the party hasn’t even started yet. The Patriots are once again in the championship hunt heading into Sunday’s Wild Card Weekend hosting of Eric Mangini and the Jets.

12-4 season is pretty good, most years it would have been a 2nd seed in the AFC. The Jets have had a good season but I don't think they can beat us with how we have played the last couple of weeks. The last time they beat us was coming out of their bye week so they had 2 weeks to get ready for us. One more thing how about some love for Asante Samuel this year? Not voted to the Pro Bowl not even a thought for Defensive Player of the year, Asante is tied with Champ Bailey for interceptions. Champ thinks he is the Defensive player of the year if you don't believe me just ask him.
Big John

The Patriots are on a roll heading into the postseason playing their best football of the season after three-consecutive wins. New England put up back-to-back road wins, including an impressive victory over Jacksonville and Sunday's hard-fought battle in Tennessee. Tom Brady and Co. haven't turned the ball over in three games, the defense is continuing to play well (establishing a new franchise record in points allowed per game) and the offense looks decent with the return of Laurence Maroney and impressive contributions in the finale from Reche Caldwell. Suddenly, national media types once-again are considering the Patriots, along with the Chargers and Ravens, as the top three contenders to win it all. What a difference a month makes.
My opinion of the team has improved in recent weeks as well. If New England plays clean football in the postseason, avoiding five-turnover performances like the one that ended the playoff run a year ago in Denver, I think it can compete with anyone. But the first hurdle is beating the Jets, a team that came into Gillette and won in early December. The Patriots are heavily favored, have the better talent and are more experienced. But whatever Eric Mangini has going in New York doesn't show up well on paper. The Jets success this season is a clear example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The Jets have an undying belief in themselves and that's a dangerous quality in an opponent. It's the sort of thing that the Patriots generally have, too, and something team's like last year's Wild Card Weekend opponent in New England, the Jaguars, lack. My head tells me the Patriots should control the game and win this Sunday. But my instincts tell me the Jets are dangerous and are to be anything but overlooked.
As for Samuel, I think he's had a great year. His numbers are tremendous. Ten interceptions are the most by a Patriot since the mid-'60s. That's something to say, with the likes of Mike Haynes and Ty Law having called New England home over the years.
I do think that Samuel should have been in the mix for a Pro Bowl nod, but I also think the guys that are going deserve to be there as well. But I don't think he should be in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year. He hasn't controlled games on a regular basis and doesn't put fear into opponents like Jason Taylor, Shawne Merriman and even Champ Bailey do. He's a developing player, had a great year and will cash in for himself in free agency. But I don't think he's the most egregious Pro Bowl snub or by any means a legitimate Defensive POY candidate. But let me be clear, that doesn't take anything away from what has been a very good season.
Andy Hart

I was just wondering how you thought James Sanders was progressing. It seems like the more playing time he gets each week is helping him and he seems to be a good open field tackler. Also, do you see anything wrong with Chad Jackson. I know he is a rookie and the Patriots offense is complicated but it seems like he could be a playmaker in the making but he just never sees the field. Thanks.Rich Delmonaco

I have really liked what I've seen from Sanders in recent weeks filling in for Rodney Harrison. While everyone remembers Sanders' early season mistakes against the Broncos, I've haven't seen those errors come up again in far more extended playing time over the second half of his sophomore season. He's a good tackler, has made plays as the team's last line of defense and has drawn rave reviews from the players and coaches around him. I like what I've seen and hope to see more of him in the future. At this point Sanders not the blitzing playmaker that Harrison has been over his career, but I think Sanders is a young player worth watching and could be a potential regular starter for this team in defensive backfield moving forward.
Andy Hart

Jay Connors

Caps lock stuck on, Jay, or are you just that excited about Dave Thomas that you had to scream about it via email? All of us here at PFW have been raving about Thomas' hands all summer. I'm actually a little surprised it took him so long to get more opportunities in the offense. He seems to catch everything thrown his way, and on this roster that puts him ahead of a lot of other targets. Thomas is nowhere near the kind of blocker that Graham is, but not many tight ends are. Much the way I feel about Sanders, I really look forward to Thomas getting more chances to catch passes in the future. I really liked his long catch-and-run down the left sideline in Jacksonville. The touchdown catch was great, but I always thought he could make those sort of plays. If he can run after the catch like he did against the Jaguars he could be an even greater asset to the New England offense. Either way, I think we'll see good things for Thomas in the future.
Andy Hart

What are the chances of moving Logan Mankins to left tackle and putting Matt Light at right tackle or releasing him. As for the other guard position we could draft someone or go the free agent route. Wesley Britt could also step in. Mankins is tough and mean all the qualities you want in a left tackle and he played there in college any chance.Jason Gillespie

Wow, someone is a little down on Light. I understand that he's had his struggles this season, but that's been true about virtually his entire career. Why the sudden urgency to get him out of the lineup or off the team? Mankins is turning into a very good guard and does have the history at left tackle in college. But Light has been Bill Belichick's choice at left tackle since 2001 and the team chose to re-sign him to a decent contract last year. Does he have faults and struggle at times with speed rushers? Yes. Could it be worse? Definitely. I just don't see Light getting moved anytime soon. Plus, I think the Patriots like the guard combo of Mankins and Stephen Neal. The two players are comparably athletic and allow the team to stay balanced in running plays – including guards pulling out and blocking off the edge – in both directions. I can understand your frustration with Light at times, I've felt it myself over the years. And he's clearly not an All-Pro left tackle in the mold Orlando Pace or Walter Jones. But there aren't too many of those guys to go around and I think the Patriots have come to feel comfortable with Light – his strengths and his limitations – over the years.
Andy Hart

Mike Wright has made a bunch of plays by showing great mobility for a guy his size. Great to have a solid backup for the nose... Have the Pats ever given him a look at ILB?Jay Johnson

Is it just me or do you guys think that Mike Wright is someone the Pats need to find a way to keep on the field more? When Vince comes back at NT, why not play him at ILB now or in the future? He's fast enough, often makes tackles downfield, great closing speed...Am I missing something?Cal Roberts

Wright has done a fine job filling in for Wilfork in recent weeks, although before we get ahead of ourselves the team has allowed three 100-yard rushers and Ron Dayne's 94 yards since Wilfork left the lineup Dec. 10 in Miami. I love the way Wright plays. He's strong enough to play two-gap defensive line. He's fast and athletic enough to cover kickoffs. And he's moving nonstop on the field and never gives up on plays. But I don't think it's easy to turn a guy who's played as a down lineman with his hand on the ground most of this life into an inside linebacker playing up on two feet. It's a transition that took guys like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel years to make. And Wright is far bigger than those guys. I think he is a valuable commodity as a backup defensive lineman in this system and key special teams contributor. Lets just enjoy him making plays in those roles for now and not try to project him into some transition that is probably beyond his natural abilities and makeup. Plus, I think he can be a very good player as a lineman and wouldn't really want to lose that to some experiment.
Andy Hart

Regarding the AFC Pro Bowl selections, particularly at cornerback. I think it is an absolute tragedy that Asante Samuel not be elected. What do Chris McAlister and Rashean Mathis have on him? He has better numbers than both of them and has played one less game than McAlister- what is your opinion on this??
Jeffrey Letourneau

As I stated earlier, I think Samuel is having a great year. But playing cornerback in the NFL is about more than just the numbers. I think there are a lot of numbers in the game that are a bit misleading and don't tell the story. Does Samuel have more picks because other teams go after him? Maybe not, since Champ Bailey is generally regarded as the best in the game and also had 10 picks this season. Pro Bowl voting also comes down to what players, coaches and fans think about a guy. Samuel probably isn't the most well known corner, although his performance this season will go a long ways toward changing that. People will certainly know his name when he hits the free agent waters this spring with the potential to earn a ton of money on the open market. He might not have a Pro Bowl under his belt, but by that time he might have another Super Bowl ring and will be looking at the potential to earn a lot of money.
Andy Hart

Do you have next year's schedule and can I get a copy?
Bill Delaney

While the list of opponents is set, the dates and times for the 2007 schedule won't be released by the NFL until April. It will be available here on as soon as we get it this spring. We do know that New England's home games will be against the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Steelers, Eagles, Redskins and Chargers. Road trips will take the Patriots to Buffalo, the Jets, Miami, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, the Giants and Indianapolis.
Andy Hart

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