Can you explain more what about you said about the Steelers being a bigger challenge than the Colts? I seem to remember that Ben Roethlisberger wasn't a spectacular QB. Is there anyone else on their team that is posing a particular threat to anyone in particular on the Patriots?
Andy Hart clearly has an unnatural affinity for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which explains why he believes they pose a greater challenge than the Colts. Otherwise he dipped into Grandpa's cough syrup one too many times as a kid. I believe the Colts are a better overall team with a much better offense. Obviously Peyton Manning's presence alone gives Indy a chance to win any game, but give him a reasonable defense, something he didn't have for most of last year but has had so far in 2007, and the Colts become much more formidable. I disagree with you about Roethlisberger, however. Big Ben is excellent at taking advantage of his opportunities and is capable of making many big plays, which is exactly what he did in Indy two years ago when the Steelers beat the Colts in the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl. I believe Indy is the better team but Pittsburgh won't be a picnic either. In fact, if we're talking about which team has a better chance of coming to New England in January and beating the Patriots in the playoffs, Pittsburgh's style of play would be more conducive to pulling the upset than Indy's high-powered passing attack. On a neutral field with weather not being a factor, though, I'd take Indy over Pittsburgh.
Andy, you said that you personally would not re-sign Randy Moss, for good reasons, but what do you think the Patriots will do in this situation? Moss obviously enjoys playing here and seems to have really bought into the Patriots Way. He has a great relationship with Tom Brady, who is by far the best quarterback he's ever played with and has had nothing but good things to say about Bill Belichick. He's already a Hall of Fame receiver, but I think that his true legacy could be written right here in New England, as he and Brady could go down as one of the greatest passing combos in the history of the game. I think that he realizes this also, and that's why I don't think this will be another Corey Dillon situation. What are your thoughts?C.J. Faldasz
I think this one is tough to call. I understand where Andy's coming from, which in itself is a rarity because Andy seldom knows where he is coming from. There's a definite risk to re-signing Moss and having him lose a bit of his edge after getting more big money. Personally, I've been unbelievably impressed with the way Moss has fit in with his teammates and acted like the prototypical team player right from the start. He's always interacting with his teammates in the locker room and in that regard has been a better fit than Dillon ever was. There's no way of knowing for sure if Moss would change if he got a big money deal, but I'd roll the dice. If you asked me that about a month or so ago I'd have said everything Andy said. But I believe Moss is a better player, person and teammate than Dillon and he genuinely seems to love it here. I say re-sign him and the sooner the better since the longer it takes there more it would cost.
All of you "Ask PFW" writers seem to be in agreement that the Randy Moss Express is only likely to ride for one year in New England. What about Donte' Stallworth? From what I remember, he signed a multi-year deal, but it was essentially a one-year contract because the cap number in the second year skyrocketed. Any chance they'll try to restructure his contract? I'd hate to see Brady go from Moss/Stallworth/Wes Welker to Welker and who knows.
Stallworth's future in New England could very well be tied to Moss'. If Moss is back then there's no way the Patriots are going to give him the $8 million option bonus that kicks in the remainder of his contract. But if the team and Moss part ways, then I wouldn't be surprised to see either a restructuring or Stallworth back under his current deal. I think many writers immediately assumed there was no way Stallworth would be here for the second year of that deal, but why not? He's been productive and thus far he's been healthy. He hasn't lit the world on fire but some of his production has surely been stunted by Moss' presence. We've seen what he can do albeit on a limited basis. Without Moss, wouldn't it be reasonable to expect his numbers to grow? I'll admit that Stallworth's price tag for 2008 makes it unlikely that he'd return, but I'd be surprised if the team allowed both wideouts to make it one-and-done in New England.
Until the game against the Browns, the Pats rush defense looked top-drawer. Now they've been soggy against the run two weeks in a row. What gives with this? Were perhaps the big Dallas running plays accomplished against those sets with only one or two down linemen? I was very uncomfortable with that, and felt that if the Cowboys kept running, they might have stayed with the Pats.
Maybe I'm being a little nonchalant about the Patriots early-season success, but I really don't see any potential problems with the team's run defense. You're right about the Cleveland and Dallas games. The Patriots weren't their normal stout selves in either contest. Part of that was due, as you said, to the personnel groups that were on the field in Dallas, especially when Julius Jones hit them twice for big runs at the start of the second half. Overall I feel the Patriots have been very difficult to run against when it's been a running situation. They've been excellent in short-yardage situations and with Richard Seymour potentially coming back at some point over the next month or so it should only get better. The big guys up front make New England a very difficult team to make a living running against.
Should we try to re-sign Corey Dillon to help in case Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney can't play?
I wouldn't. I've made no secret of the fact that I wasn't the biggest Dillon fan in New England. I thought he performed wonderfully in 2004, and then basically took the next two years off. He seldom ran with the same sense of urgency he showed when playing for a contract in his first year in New England and often was seen taking himself out of games, ostensibly needing extra time to rest. Dillon looked old and out of shape in 2006, and now he's done nothing football related in about 10 months. He expressed the desire to continue his career after the Patriots sent him packing last spring, but no one offered him a contract. That tells me that I'm not alone in my assessment. For what it's worth, his agent, Steve Feldman, was in the press box in Dallas and when Morris went down, someone asked him if he'd be calling Corey. Feldman shook his head and said no.
Is there any way to find out how long a player's contract is with the Patriots because I wanted to get a Wes Welker or Mike Vrabel jersey but I couldn't find much about it. I didn't want to get a jersey and then they leave in a year.Luke Berry
Sometimes you can surf around the Internet and search for information on individual players and their contract status. In the case of the two you mentioned, Welker signed a five-year deal with the Patriots after getting traded to Miami in March. So he should be around through 2011. Vrabel's deal ends after the 2009 season, and at age 32 he won't likely be around as long. I don't think either will be playing for another team any time soon, however.
With under a minute on the clock in the second quarter, the Cowboys were flagged for a false start. The ref said that 10 seconds would be taken off the clock. But they weren't. Did anyone else notice this?Dave Hartman
That's because the Cowboys had a choice as to whether to take 10 seconds off the clock or be charged with a timeout. Dallas chose the latter and therefore no time was taken off the clock. If Dallas didn't have any timeouts available, then the 10-second runoff would have been mandatory.
Looking at our lineup with our current starters, Moss, Stallworth, Welker, how the heck can we squeeze in Chad Jackson and Troy Brown when their ready? I'm not even including Jabar Gaffney and Kelley Washington. I'm also curious on your take of Marcellus Rivers the tight end. He seems very athletic and has the potential to be a good fill in for Benjamin Watson while he's injured.Michael Montrond
I think the PUP receivers will serve more as insurance policies more than anything else. As long as the top three you mentioned stay healthy, I don't see Jackson or Brown pushing any of them into a lesser role. But it's a long season and injuries are inevitable. If someone gets banged up it's nice to have a veteran like Brown around to step in, and a young, athletic prospect like Jackson could provide big-play potential. If no one gets hurt, then I can't see Belichick having seven active receivers on the 53-man roster so someone would have to go. As for Rivers, I share your intrigue. He does have some athleticism and I can't figure out how this guy was on the street during training camp when the Patriots brought him in. He has good hands, runs well and he hasn't been a liability while blocking. If Watson is out for the short term I believe Rivers can fill in admirably. I don't think he's capable of making the big plays that Watson does, but with the way the offense is operating, losing that element shouldn't have much of an impact.
I see Brandon Meriweather, our first rounder from Miami, has not played much since Rodney Harrison's return. I was wondering if you could comment on his play thus far.
There really hasn't been a ton to comment on. I thought he was quite active in the Cincinnati game and showed his physical nature with strong tackling and aggressiveness. He didn't appear to be out of position too often, although that is always a dangerous game to play when trying to evaluate defensive back play without knowing what the coverages are. That was also the last game before Harrison's return. Since then his playing time has definitely declined. Right now, based on how things have been lined up, he'd be the Patriots seventh defensive back with Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs and Randall Gay at corner and Harrison, Eugene Wilson and James Sanders at safety. Going seven deep at defensive back is a pretty nice luxury to have.
How far does the NFL plan to go with showing games on their own network (NFL Network)? One game this year, two games the next? While raising three kids it's tough for us to afford the luxury of the NFL Network right now. I am left with celebrating at a bar downtown as I know nobody who currently subscribes. I guess it's just the way of the future; revenue before anything else. I guess I'll watch the Cartoon Network that weekend and listen to the radio (Cartoon Network costs a lot less and offers some peace and quite from the kids at times).Rick F.
I'm sorry for your situation and I'm sure you're not alone. NFL Network began broadcasting games last year. Starting on Thanksgiving they do one game per week for the rest of the season. So you'll be missing much more than one or two games per year. It's not necessarily the wave of the future, though. Finding new ways to earn more revenue has been a part of the country's fabric for decades. NFL Network is just one of the latest ways for the NFL to do so, and you're right, it's not going away anytime soon.
Do you think that some of the Pats younger linebackers like Pierre Woods and Eric Alexander would be solid players if they weren't shuffled so low on the depth charts right now? I know it won't be a problem this season, but next year they might be forced to be on the field depending on some player's retirements. And are there any college LBs you think the front office are particularly high on?Scott Macone
I'm not sure how good Woods and Alexander are because we simply haven't seen them on the field for any length of time. I think both are pretty athletic for their positions but until they get the experience necessary to play regularly in the system it will be impossible to determine exactly how good they can be. Based on what I have seen I haven't been overly impressed, but again the sample size has been quite small. As for college linebackers, I'm not sure what the front office likes but this could be a huge year for the position. Depending on how many underclassmen leave early, it could be a bumper crop with guys like Ohio State's Jim Laurinaitis and USC's Ray Maualuga available.
Perhaps I am forever hopeful, but my impression is that Corey Dillon would consider playing for a team with a chance at the Super Bowl. The Patriots certainly seem to have a slight chance. Have they thought about bringing him back? Especially with Morris being injured, Maroney doesn't seem to be hurrying back, either. In my opinion, Corey could share the load with Kevin Faulk, and do quite well. They've done it before. What are your thoughts?
Like I told Joe, I would not be in favor of such a move. I don't believe Dillon has the desire to play on a full-time basis anymore and he hasn't played inspired football since 2004. And I don't think it's fair to suggest that Maroney isn't doing everything in his power to return. Injuries are tough to gauge from afar and that's one reason why we try not to speculate on them too much in this forum. Do you honestly believe that Maroney is happy that he missed so much time and would rather watch from the sideline? I believe if it was up to Maroney he would have played in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. I don't think there's any reason to bring Dillon back, especially with the way the offense has performed in his absence.
Good day from a friend and fan north of the border. I have heard the stories about first-round busts and there seem to be many examples of later round picks doing really well. If statistically players drafted in rounds two and three, or even later rounds, have more long-term value to a team could it possibly make sense to trade a first-round pick for multiple picks in later rounds every year? Sorry in advance if this is a stupid question.Maxim Carpenter
By no means is your question stupid. In fact, teams often trade down in the draft to pick up multiple picks in later round, the Patriots included. I disagree with your premise that later round picks have more long-term value, however. The higher you pick the greater the chance is of picking a quality player. The salaries may be different under the players' rookie contracts, but in terms of performance there are more quality first- and second-round players in the league than third- and fourth-rounders. Finding a balance between what's available and what you might be able to get via trade is a key part of draft weekend every year, and it's an area that the Patriots have excelled in under Belichick.
As always, enjoy reading your analysis. These are special times for Pats fans - what an awesome display of explosive offense. I am soaking up every moment. But, the defense, especially the run defense, doesn't look so great. Were they just taking it a little easy in the second half because of the lead or were they just bad?
There were some concerning aspects to the play of the defense in recent weeks, and poor tackling is at the top of the list. Belichick was not happy with the tackling and wasn't afraid to let anyone know about it after the Miami game. Part of that could be due to a lack of focus since the Patriots have had such big leads lately, but you don't want to get into bad habits by not wrapping people up and allowing players to break tackles. The secondary also seems to be suffering through periods of inconsistencies. The coverage hasn't always been as tight as you would like, but again with the team playing with such a big lead it's possible that some of that is by design so as not to allow too many big plays. Concerned? Yes. Worried? Not yet.
Aside from the excellent offensive performance, one of the most impressive points to me in last Sunday's victory was Willie Andrews. His return was spectacular, but his coverage on special teams was also very nice. I didn't happen to notice if he received any playing time on defense?Michael Maxey
Andrews hasn't received any significant action on defense thus far in his two years in New England. He's been a special teams force in pretty much all areas but hasn't seen too many snaps from the secondary. I think with the depth back there that Andrews will probably remain in his special teams roles. Back in training camp he seemed to be making some progress as a safety during practices but we haven't seen any of that in game action.
Where has David Thomas been this season? Why has he not been on the field?Richard Fellinger
Thomas was placed on injured reserve Oct. 3 with a foot injury and is out for the season.
Why don't the New England Patriots have a bye week? I looked on their schedule and they don't have one. Is that fair?Anthony Blake
This is a new one even for Patriots fans who often think the league is out to get us. The Patriots have a bye week just like everybody else. The Pats are off Nov. 11, one week after the big game at Indy against the Colts.
What are the most Pro Bowlers the Patriots have ever had in a season and who do you think the potential Pro Bowlers are this year?Len LaPadula
Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the most Patriots to make the Pro Bowl in one year is eight back in 1985. That year Ray Clayborn, Irving Fryar, John Hannah, Brian Holloway, Craig James, Fred Marion, Steve Nelson and Andre Tippett all went to Hawaii. In the old AFL days, the Patriots sent 11 players to the All-Star game twice (1963 and 1966). As for the current group, you'd have to consider Tom Brady and Randy Moss locks with guys like Ty Warren, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker and maybe Logan Mankins all solid candidates. It's a little early for that, though.