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Ask PFW: Looking toward the playoffs

The Patriots are set to capture their third-straight AFC East crown and the fans are ready to speculate what exactly that means.

Since moving to Europe in 1994 I haven't been able to see too many Pats games, but I've been a big fan since the early 80s and follow all the games on the Internet. Your column is very informative. I have two questions. First, could you give me an idea of what kind of daily workout routine (aside from the mandatory practices) a guy like Corey Dillon is on between games? And secondly, whatever happened to Rod Rutledge, tight end on the 2001 Super Bowl winning team. Did he retire after that year?

Aside from the regular team workouts, I'm sure every players has his own routine to follow every day. I have no way of knowing what Corey Dillon – or any other player – does for a workout. We are only allowed in the Patriots locker room for 45 minutes so it's impossible to know what the players do when the media is not there. As for Rutledge, he went to the Houston Texans in the expansion draft and played there in 2002. He injured his foot and was placed on IR that season and was released before the start of 2003.
Paul Perillo

I know New England wears their silver jerseys one game a year but how do you feel about them bringing back those old throwbacks for one game a year as well. Do you like the idea or do you think the team should stay with its currents setup?
Jake Fulton

I personally would rather see them wear the old red jerseys on a full-time basis, but since that's not going to happen I would like to see the silver ones replaced by the red for at least one game per season. I know the team has won three titles wearing the current uniforms, but I have never really liked them.
Paul Perillo

Do we expect all that are on the IR and Questionable/Doubtful will be ready without restrictions for training camp next year and are they all under contract for at least next year?
Stephen Miller

The only injured player who may not be ready to go for training camp next year is Rodney Harrison. He suffered a very serious knee injury that requires at least a year of recovery time, so it's unreasonable to expect him to be ready for camp next year. The questionable/doubtful players are eligible to play now, so why wouldn't they be ready for next year? As for the list on IR, Chad Scott is the only one not under contract for 2006. Guss Scott technically isn't signed, but he'll be an exclusive rights free agent and the Pats can have him back if they want.
Paul Perillo

I'll get right to the issue. While I was watching the Kansas City game, and other games, how there's no aggressiveness to getting to the ball. It seems that the secondary is waiting until the receivers get the ball in their hands and then tackling them. It aggravates me because they seem to be making the tackles right next to the receivers. Why not go for the ball? Asante Samuel got burned a lot of times by Kansas City's receivers and many times he could have grabbed the ball.Daniel Gregoire

I haven't seen many chances for Patriots defenders to go for the ball instead of allowing the catch. Most of the time I've seen the receivers open and the coverage people doing whatever they can to just make the tackle. There have been some exceptions – Samuel was close to Eddie Kennison on a deep ball in Kansas City – but for the most part I haven't seen many chances to be aggressive to make an interception.
Paul Perillo

After the Jets game, Adam Vinatieri had 1,134 points - 260 field goals, 353 kicked points after touchdowns, and one rushing two-point conversion. I recall that the two-pointer came at the end of a game (a home game, I think) where the touchdown that preceded was scored in the waning seconds. Rather than watch the Pats end the game with a PAT, the opponent left the field, so the holder simply gave the ball to Vinatieri, who ran it in for two points. What team was the opponent? Who was the holder? I think that this sequence of events would not happen today because I believe that the clock does not run on PATs anymore. Am I right about the 2-pointer and the clock, or I am just grasping to find that extra extra point to make it all add up to 1,134?Bryant Hopkins

You pretty much have it all right, with a couple of slight mistakes. Vinatieri did get his two-point conversion at the end of a home game … it was Nov. 29, 1998, against Buffalo. The Patriots drove 84 yards in the last minute, and as time ran out the Bills were called for pass interference in the end zone when Terry Glenn was tackled as Drew Bledsoe's pass was about to hit him in the chest. There was no time remaining, but because of the defensive penalty the Patriots were given an untimed down, which came at the Bills 1-yard line because of the pass interference penalty in the end zone. Bledsoe hit Ben Coates with the winning touchdown, which made the score 23-21 Patriots. The Buffalo players were so upset over the call they left the field. By rule in the NFL the conversion must be attempted so the Patriots lined up with no one playing defense. Pete Carroll had Vinatieri run in the two-point conversion just in case points factored into a tiebreaker scenario somewhere down the line. This scenario certainly could happen today if the losing team opted to leave the field. The clock didn't run during PATs then just as it doesn't now. Oh, and Tom Tupa was the holder.
Paul Perillo

I have not given up on the Patriots but the odds seem to be against them now. As a Patriots fan since the late-1960s, I'm wondering about the future of next year. My question concerns the NFL compensatory draft picks. Lost players I think were Ty Law/Jets; Joe Andruzzi/Cleveland; Adrian Klemm/Green Bay; Omare Lowe/Seattle; David Patten/Washington; Zeron Flemister/Oakland; Keith Traylor/Miami. What or how many Compensatory Picks will be awarded to the New England Patriots for next year?
Robert Bumbardner

The NFL has a formula it uses to determine what, if any, compensatory picks a team will receive. Not everyone on the list you compiled actually would garner a draft pick. First, the Patriots released Ty Law and Keith Traylor so they didn't lose either as a free agent and won't be due any compensation. The only guys on your list that might bring picks in return are Andruzzi, Patten and possibly Klemm.
Paul Perillo

I understand that teams go through transitions and you can't go to the Super Bowl every year, but there looks to be a look of surrender on the player's faces. They look like they are moving 1/2 the speed of the other teams that are going to make a run at the Super Bowl. Before it always seemed that no matter who they put in the game, they got the job done and they looked hungry. Who are the players missing from the secondary other than Harrison? You can't really count Law and Poole because they were out for most of last season.
Shaune Reardon

So if a guy gets injured one year you can never expect him to return? Boy, I hope Tom Brady never gets hurt because it would be a shame to lose him for each subsequent season. Of course you can count Tyrone Poole as a player missing from the secondary. Randall Gay, Duane Starks, Chad Scott and Guss Scott all count too. They started the season with six cornerbacks on the roster and they currently have two left – Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel. That's a lot. And I don't see this lack of effort and defeated look that you're talking about. The players are frustrated; anyone can see that. But I haven't seen any quit on the part of the team and I wouldn't expect to down the stretch.
Paul Perillo

Amen to Tom Casale, to last week's final question/post of Ask PFW, regarding the QB. I agree the Pats are struggling but how dare the person who posted state that the Pats put all their money into one person, (Brady) and nobody else? How dare that poster compare TB to Marino and stats? It chaps my behind too that when things start going wrong, they look for someone to blame. Not only am I a huge Tom Brady fan, I am a huge Pats fan and I take offense when people lose faith. I thought they could do three in a row and I am still not convinced they can't. I still have not lost faith (once they make it to the play offs, you never know what could happen). All I can say, this Pats fan will boycott Super Bowl 40 if it is Manning vs. Manning. (speaking of putting all your money into one Stat -filled QB) Granted, I know the Colts defense has improved and that they are 12-0 but No thanks!
Andrea Woodworth

While I agree with Tom about that post and think it's silly to suggest the Patriots have put all their money with just Brady, I disagree with your opinion about how the Colts have been built. Manning isn't the only highly-paid player on the Indy roster – Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Edgerrin James and Dwight Freeney are all paid well. And they've improved the defense through the draft in recent years, so many of those players – Bob Sanders, Cato June, Mike Doss, Robert Mathis – are still on their rookie contracts. In fact, if they continue to improve on defense, they might emerge as a perennial Super Bowl contender. So you can continue to be deceived into thinking Peyton Manning is a "stat-filled QB" and not watch the Super Bowl if the Colts make it, but I have to show some objectivity and say they're a pretty good team and I look forward to watching to see if they can come through when it counts like the Patriots have in the past. Oh, and I can see why you don't want anything to with having a team like the Colts. Watching a 12-0 team wouldn't be much fun.
Paul Perillo

OK, nobody else has asked so it's up to me. I've been a football fan for over 40 years and have picked up on something has really been bothering me. I need to know why you think that Andre' Davis is so seldom thrown to. They must have brought him back because he has talent, but I don't think they are using him even though he's been starting. He has speed and size, which is a rare thing to see on the Pats. But in the K.C. game I think they only threw at him once or twice. What is up?
Tom Mazzaglia

Davis is a fourth or fifth receiver so his chances aren't going to be as great as those in front of him. Against KC, Deion Branch, Troy Brown and Tim Dwight were all ahead of him so it made sense that his chances weren't as great. And now that David Givens has returned, Davis is probably even further down the list. I haven't seen much of Davis' play so far, but to me it seems he's a lot like Bethel Johnson in that he's strictly a home run hitter who can get deep occasionally but lacks the precision in his route running to be a consistent threat throughout the game. Maybe that's unfair based on his limited opportunity thus far, but I think that's the reason Brady hasn't thrown to him much. Brady has shown in the past that he'll throw to whoever is open, so if Davis was open consistently I think he'd be seeing more balls.
Paul Perillo

With Law most likely not playing with the Jets next year, and given that he has lost a step but knows the defensive system, is it possible that Law comes back to NE in 2006 and plays safety? That would certainly give us some options in the secondary and create quite a braintrust in the defensive backfield with Harrison.Eric Bernabei

I've heard rumors that the Jets most likely will not pick up an $11 million dollar option on Ty Law after the season, making him a free agent. Is there truth to this story, and what are the Patriots chances of brining Ty back to the Patriots for next season?Michael Croteau

Based on what I saw on Sunday, Ty Law would be far and away the best cornerback the Patriots would have right now – even with "a lost step." I think he might be a safety someday but I don't think that time has arrived. He's too good at corner to move him yet. I also think there's a reasonable chance the Patriots would bring him back. Belichick offered him a deal as recently as last June, so there obviously was some interest on the Patriots part. He's due an $11 million bonus from the Jets so he's obviously not going to get that and he'll become a free agent again. But Law won't just sign in New England for sentimental reasons. He's played pretty well (not great) this year and he'll try to make back some of the money he lost because of the foot injury. If the Patriots want to be competitive with the offers he's sure to get, then Law would surely consider returning. Otherwise, he'll go to the highest bidder.
Paul Perillo

Greetings! It looks like most of us have thrown a towel on three-peating SB this year. But, let's imagine this best-case scenario. Pats get all injured players back and have no more injuries heading into playoffs. Coaches coach better and players play better - much better! Now we have a SB-caliber team - EXCEPT the secondary. No matter how hard they try - they simply do not have what it takes to play against Manning and his receivers. We can't get Rodney back. But can we sign a SS/CB players from the teams which did not make the playoffs? Does the season for free-agency start with the end of the regular season or after the SB? If nothing can be done to help the secondary, I do not blame the players for not having motivation.Ted

Free agency doesn't start until next March so the Patriots can simply sign players off other teams' rosters to fix their secondary – or any other area of the team that needs fixing. The positive is, the beginning of your post is very plausible – players come back and everyone performs better. That's about the best Patriots fans can hope for down the stretch.
Paul Perillo

I recently was reading a book about the NFL. In the book, one of the interesting facts they had was that Brad Johnson is the only NFL quarterback in history to complete a touchdown pass to himself. Is this true, and how did he do it, and when did it happen?
Colby Jantzin

It is true and it will forever live as the ultimate play in the history of Fantasy-Geek Football Land. In 1997, Johnson threw a pass that got deflected in the air by a defensive lineman. Johnson caught the deflection and then ran 3 yards for a touchdown. So technically, he threw a touchdown pass to himself – meaning he got fantasy-geek points for throwing a touchdown pass as well as catching one.
Paul Perillo

One quick comment before my question and it pains me to say this, because I'm a diehard patriots fan. It is pretty obvious that we cannot match up with the better teams in the league this year. We will probably win the AFC Least errr East by default because everyone else in the division stinks. But, I have a bad feeling that we will get dismantled in the playoffs unless something miraculous happens. Now for my question: It seems that while we had injuries the past two years, the one constant was Rodney Harrison. He seems to have been the one guy that was irreplaceable. Maybe if he had not been inured this year, we would still be able to compete with some of the better teams because he was the glue that held the secondary and quite possibly the whole defense together. What do you guys think?
Nick Johnson

I think there's still a month of the season left to be played and we'll see what happens. Right now, I'd have to say I agree that the Pats defense doesn't seem to be able to match up against some of the better offenses in the league. In the playoffs, most of the teams have pretty good offenses so, like you said, unless something changes to improve things the Patriots could be in trouble. Harrison was a major piece in the Patriots plans. He did so many things well that he allowed the coaches to use him in a variety of ways. Not everybody can rush the passer, stop the run and perform well in coverage like Rodney did. Watching the past couple of months without him has certainly shown that he was indeed the glue that held things together.
Paul Perillo

If a player is injured and out for an extended period of time, how is the team able to sign another player and not exceed the salary cap?Peter Lee

Teams have to plan for such occurrences by making sure there's extra money under the cap to sign replacements. That's part of structuring the team in the best possible manner. Obviously when a team like the Patriots is hit with a lot of injuries it makes signing replacements more difficult because there are more players to squeeze under the cap. It's an unfortunate by-product of the NFL's system.
Paul Perillo

I assume that the Patriots will win the division and make the playoffs because the AFC East is so weak. Is there any hope that the secondary will get help come playoff time by players coming off the DL? Are Tyrone Poole and Rodney Harrison definitely out for the rest of the season? Are there any free agents floating around out there that could give us a boost on defense? I know that these are a lot of questions, but I'm afraid that unless we get some help on defense, it could be a very short postseason. Go Pats!!!
Paul Dube

Players placed on injured reserve cannot return to that team during the season. So Poole and Harrison won't be walking through that door anytime soon. Any current free agent would be like Artrell Hawkins, Michael Stone or Arturo Freeman – added depth but not major impact players. So what you see is pretty much what you're going to get in the playoffs on defense.
Paul Perillo

Based on the other division teams' record, and New England's division record, if the Pats win next week in Buffalo and Miami loses do we win the division next week? And if so will BB start resting players for the playoffs since we really can't change our placement in the playoffs?Jim Loewke

The Pats are 7-5 and on their way to a division title. Although some so-called "experts" (Tim Brown, Jason Seehorn) call it a "cheap" 7-5, it's still enough to possibly win the East and host a playoff game. My question is if the Pats clinch the East next week, will Bill Belichick rest the starters? Or at least cut their playing time so they don't have more injuries and have some of the players who are injured get well?
Andres Ochoa

You are correct – a Patriots win in Buffalo coupled with a Miami loss at San Diego would clinch another AFC East title for New England. But I wouldn't expect Belichick to start resting players too much. If a player is banged up – like Corey Dillon – maybe Belichick would rest him. But I'd expect Tom Brady to continue playing, just like all the starters did for three quarters last year against San Francisco. And you never know about the playoff seeds. The Patriots could move up a spot or two if other teams start to lose.
Paul Perillo

Hey PWF, finally got on last time I wrote. But ya spelled my name wrong. But to the question. I know it is still the heart of the season and the Pats are looking at a definite playoff spot, and hopefully more, but where do you see the Patriots focusing their attention in the draft? What are some spots that stick out to you guys that need to be addressed? I think maybe O-Line and Secondary, just to have notable backups. But what about the possibility of taking a running back early in hopes of having a formidable backup that can pound the ball. It payed off for the Cheifs.
Tom McHugh

Well Tom, if you're name is spelled wrong again this week, then you spelled it wrong because I cut and pasted it out of the post you sent. And judging from the way you spelled 'payed' instead of 'paid' and 'Cheifs' instead of 'Chiefs' I'd say there's a good chance you may have. Anyway, all cheap shots aside, I think the secondary and linebackers are the Patriots biggest areas of concern. The linebackers are getting up there in age and some youth would be welcome. The secondary is obvious with all the injuries the last two years. As for running back, I wouldn't mind taking one in the third round (maybe second if there was one I really liked available). It's hard to say by position because it really matters which players are available when the Patriots are up.

What's your analysis of Vince Wilfork? I know in a 3-4 his job is more to take on blockers and let others make plays, but shouldn't he at least occasionally get some push? I didn't see every snap yesterday, but when I did, I saw him generally giving up ground, or basically being held to a stand still, even when the rest of the line was able to generate some pressure. Am I way off base, and it's just a function of the scheme? Is it a matter of him being the only viable nose tackle, and tiring later in the game because they can't rotate him out much? Or is Wilfork not playing up to expectations?
Craig McTavish

While I won't pretend to know everything Wilfork is doing inside, I tend to agree with your assessment. And I think the loss of Keith Traylor is one reason. Last year, he was fresher because he was splitting time and he hasn't had that luxury this season. He seems to be getting pushed back a lot – against Kansas City he spent much of the game with his back to the line of scrimmage. I know as the nose tackle he's not supposed to penetrate but rather is asked to hold his position and occupy as much space inside as he can. But it seems to me that too often he's getting knocked off the ball. But I actually thought he was better this week against the Jets, but then again, that could be said of pretty much everybody on both sides of the ball.
Paul Perillo

Before us Patriot fans start boasting about beating the Jets, let's take a look. The defense only allowed three points. But did they do it conviction? I think not. The offense controlled the ball for a long time. Yes, but it never flowed like it should and score as the possession time indicated. It is great to have Dillon and Faulk back but even better that it is Buffalo next week instead of Tampa. The offense kept the defense off the field, now that was a big plus because did anyone here get the feeling that the game was in the pocket, I certainly did not. The Patriots played a terrible team and beat a terrible team. If the Patriots can somehow come up with a solid game against Buffalo then it might get interesting. But right now that feeling no matter what they did yesterday is not there. What do you think it is going to take for this team to show it is worthy of a playoff spot?
Bruce Wadleigh

While I agree that the win over the Jets was hardly anything to crow about, I think you're being a little hard on the performance. If you didn't think that game was in the bag in the second half, then you might be the only one watching who didn't. The game was over the moment the Patriots scored the touchdown that made it 13-3. There was no way the Jets were going to score twice from that point on. As for being worthy of a playoff spot, New England is the best team in the AFC East and that makes them worthy. It's as simple as that.
Paul Perillo

Why isn't the last field goal that Vinatieri made considered a "game-winning" field goal in Super Bowl XXXIX? That field goal was the deciding points in the Super Bowl, 24-21.
Joel Luongo

Unless the kick occurs in the final seconds, or at least breaks a tie, how can it be considered a game-winning field goal? Vinatieri's field goal put the Patriots up 10. If Philadelphia hadn't scored a touchdown no one would say it was a game-winning kick. His kicks against the Rams and Panthers came in tie games in the final seconds, thus are considered game-winning field goals.
Paul Perillo

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