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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 16 - 02:00 PM | Wed Apr 17 - 09:55 AM

Ask PFW: On to another AFC title game

The Patriots advanced to their 11th straight AFC Championship Game and sixth straight under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but fans are still concerned about some potential problems. We address some in this week's mailbag.

Unless Martellus Bennett and Michael Floyd play a good AFC Championship Game, I don't want to see either of them back next season. Do you think that Floyd may even be active if all other receivers are good to go? And if Floyd is active who may be inactive in his place? I don't see a player the Patriots can take off the special teams or elsewhere - do you?
Gerald Lenox

Personally I think you're going to get your wish regardless of what happens on Sunday, but not for the reasons that you're thinking. Floyd has been fine considering the brief time he's been here. There were a couple of blips surrounding him against Houston when a catchable pass went off his hands and wound up getting picked off, and another intended for him later was nearly picked. I know Tom Brady took responsibility for the interception but I felt Floyd should have caught the ball. However, whether Floyd plays well or not won't have a huge bearing on his potential return next year. In fact, an average performance could lower his free agent value and make him easier to re-sign if the Patriots believe he's part of the future. I don't expect that to happen, however. As for Bennett, I've felt all along that he'll be looking for a bigger contract than the Patriots would likely be willing to give, especially in terms of years. If Bennett wants to stay on a short-term deal I'd be interested. Otherwise I'd let him go. But in both cases it's not going to come down to performance in one game.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the coaching staff is going to reduce Michael Floyd's playing time because of his underwhelming performance? I still think he can very useful and perhaps even needed. Do you think the Steelers will try to attack the middle of the line, particularly David Andrews, as Houston did?
Michael Pizzoli


It's funny how the perception of Floyd changed so much after just one game. After Miami people were making plans for him re-signing and becoming a huge part of the future. After the Texans game it's all changed and people seem to be tired of him. The truth is Floyd was a disappointment in Arizona on the field as well as off it. He had a hard time establishing himself in the offense and struggled catching the ball. That's what we've seen from him so far – obviously the hard to time picking up the offense is understandable given his short time here but the drop that led to the pick is something that shouldn't happen. How he's used against Pittsburgh will depend greatly on the health of Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. If Hogan is ready to go then I'd assume Floyd would either return to his secondary role or perhaps even less than that if Mitchell is back. As for Andrews, I'd expect opponents to test him in the way that Houston did until the interior guys prove they can handle it. The offensive line has been pretty solid most of the season so I'm going to assume it was a one-week problem but it's definitely something to keep an eye on.
Paul Perillo

This is the game when Patriots could use Jamie Collins to shadow Le'Veon Bell wherever he goes, watching him with a single vision from the moment he touches the ball or goes for a catch. Can he be signed or is he still the property of the Browns?
Sharon R.

It certainly would be nice to have a versatile linebacker like Collins on the defense at all times but that's all history at this point. Collins is gone and there's no way of knowing if his perceived struggles sticking to the game plan this season would have prevented him from occupying the kind of role you envisioned for him against Pittsburgh. I'm not sure he's the type of physical presence in the run game to fill such a role in the first place, but like I said at the start I'd like to have him on defense now instead of a possible compensation pick but obviously Bill Belichick did what he did for a reason – we just don't know what they were.
Paul Perillo

One of my concerns with the Steelers is the fact that Patriots LBs would need to worry about containing Bell, thus our pass rush will be less potent allowing Ben Roethlisberger the time to hit speeding Antonio Brown. Speaking of him, he can outrun our entire secondary, so what's the use of double-teaming him unless you do the unthinkable - cover him with Malcolm Butler underneath and the speedy rookie Jonathan Jones to run with for the long ball? And why not? When you are in a race mode, it is mainly about staying with the receiver and positioning the body.
Jess Stewart

I'll start with the second part. No way am I relying on a rookie special teams player who has done very little of defense all season to occupy a role with any type of importance against the Steelers. Jones hasn't done anything on defense and asking him to be involved in the game plan against one of the best wideouts in the game is asking for trouble. And I'm not as concerned with the first part of your post as you are either. The linebacker haven't been asked to rush the passer a ton this season because Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia have generally had the back seven dropping into zones and flooding areas with coverage as much as possible. The guys up front have done a better job of generating some pressure on the quarterback even without the help of too much blitzing (although the Patriots have used some defensive backs like Logan Ryan effectively as blitzers occasionally as of late) and that will have to be the case again.
Paul Perillo

I would like to ask if you think the performance against the Texans could have been a part of a plan keeping the players modest before the AFC title game (not talking about deliberate turnovers ...) as opposed to blowing them away and having the players euphoric during the preparation week and having to deal with bringing them back to earth? Am I way off here?
Aviv Haimovitch

I'm trying to be as respectful as I possibly can but are you honestly asking me if Belichick wanted his team to play a sloppy game in the playoffs just so his team wouldn't be overconfident for its next playoff game? Seriously? To answer your question as briefly, and politely as possible: Yes, I believe you are off base.
Paul Perillo

My question is that while the Patriots in most other years seem to me to come out off a bye ready to play, this year they seem a little flat after a bye. Assuming they get past the Steelers this weekend, is this something that they need to address over the bye before the SB? Or is it just that they have run into really good defenses after each of the byes this year?
Tom Leavitt

The Patriots have struggled a little more coming off byes in recent years than they have in the past but I'm not sure there's anything more to it other than simply the result of playing some better competition. This year the Patriots played Seattle coming out of the bye. A couple years ago they traveled to Carolina and lost. Obviously playing coming out of the bye during the playoffs by definition means you're playing one of the better teams. As for the specific level of play of the Patriots against Houston, I don't think the bye had as much to do with it as the circumstances of the game early on. Lewis' kickoff return took away a possession and when it was followed by a field goal drive it left the Patriots offense on the sideline for a long time. At one point New England had scored 14 points and had the ball for only six snaps on offense. I think that led to some of the sloppiness because New England wasn't able to find any rhythm early on. But the bye week definitely hasn't been as kind to the team recently as it was for the first several years under Belichick. I don't think it's something to necessarily worry about for the Super Bowl. At that point it's less about a bye as it is handling the distractions of the week and playing against a quality opponent on the biggest stage.
Paul Perillo


Do you think the Steelers win via field goals was a product of sloppy play or was the KC defense on point? Based on that game alone and ignoring the outcome, who would you have preferred playing next week?
Scott Schlesinger

Personally I thought the Chiefs defense was overmatched in the game and the Steelers simply were a little sloppy, as you said, in the red zone. They also were a little unlucky at times as it seemed KC got away with some penalties on third downs and the pass deflection came as the result of a missed block by the Steelers that allowed the pass to get deflected at the line. Overall, however, I felt Pittsburgh offense did whatever it wanted in the game, right down to the final drive when they were able to pick up the key first down to close it out. Pittsburgh is the much more difficult opponent of the two. I honestly don't think Kansas City's defense is any good and it showed. And they lack any real ability to put points on the board, unlike Pittsburgh.
Paul Perillo

Firstly, I assume everyone on here saw the severe hit on Bennett in the last game, are the Patriots really going to risk getting him hurt and having no tight ends in the Super Bowl? They need to put Jacoby Brissett back on injured reserve and pull off their best tight end. The Patriots should be well aware that Rob Gronkowski is up to be nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Award. If he wins, are the Patriots really going risk looking bad in front of a nationwide audience?
Paula Fitzhenry

There are a lot of problems with this scenario, not the least of which is Gronkowski isn't physically ready to play coming off back surgery less than two months ago. Also, Brissett can't be placed back on injured reserve to allow another player who is on IR to return. Teams are only allowed one player to return from IR per season, and Brissett is it. But the biggest question I have is, exactly how does it make the Patriots look bad in front of a nationwide audience if Gronk wins the Walter Payton Award when he's on IR? The guy got hurt; it happens. It doesn't portray the team in a negative light because the winner of an award is out of the lineup. And I'm not sure how playing Bennett means risking he's going to get hurt. All players are at risk – it's part of the game.
Paul Perillo

Does it change how well our defense plays with the more quality offenses it plays? If so, should it concern the fans that NE has played the bear minimum in quality offenses?
Ashton Stelljes

Well, we're going to find out because the Steelers will be the first quality offense the Patriots have faced in a long time. Arizona is Week 1 was probably the only quality offense the defense had to deal with since the Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger the first time they played. Anytime you face quality opponents it's a concern and facing Pittsburgh offense will not be easy. Just like Pittsburgh facing the Patriots offense won't be easy for the Steelers defense. But this is the AFC Championship Game so it's not supposed to be easy.
Paul Perillo

Can we sign Devin Hester? I don't like Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis risking injury.
Daniel Watts

Hester is on Seattle so he's not available to be signed. Even players who will be free agents remain with their teams until the start of the new league year in March so players like Hester are not available. I also don't worry about injuries at this stage of the season. It's the playoffs so one mistake can end the season. I want my best players in positions to make plays regardless of the possibility of injury.
Paul Perillo

If Derek Carr had not been injured, we would have played Oakland or KC, and the season would be over. But the Houston offense's relentless determination to lose gives us another week to get up to playoff speed - the only team in the final four without a quality win to our credit. We'll play a real team next week, and hopefully the real Patriots will show up. After watching the way Atlanta handled a much better team, maybe the Pats just aren't good enough?

That's a little negative there Dave, don't you think? While I agree with your assessment of the Texans offense – as did Houston since they fired offensive coordinator George Godsey – and with the fact that a performance like that would have ended the season against virtually any other playoff team, I also don't expect that kind of sloppiness to continue. Atlanta's offense does worry me, but so does Pittsburgh's so first things first.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering why the owners are not pressuring Roger Goodell into making officials full time? I feel there are too many missed calls and some are actually endangering players' health. Example: Lewis was crossing looking back at Brady who was scrambling and a Houston player hit him hard, which is OK. But he led with his head and Lewis took a huge helmet-to-helmet hit. No one even looked at him. I think they need more time training to be the best they can be and can be held more accountable for player safety. If they need money just take it from Goodell's salary. Are the players not the owners' most important assets, and is it not the right thing to do? Or do the owners not have enough integrity to try and protect the players and improve the consistency of the product on the field?
Greg from Canada

I'm not sure I understand how having full-time officials will help create better understanding of concussions and overall player safety. I saw the hit on Lewis you're talking about and those types of hits happen all the time in football. They are not by definition penalties simply because there was some contact with the helmet. Based on your comment it seems like you feel the officials should have looked at Lewis, but again I'm not sure why, or how having them be full-time would change anything. They are football officials and don't have medical training, nor should they be required to have the type of medical training you are suggesting. They should not be required to make those determinations on the field. That's the job of the team medical staff and the independent neurologists. Obviously there are still plenty of problems in that regard but I can't blame the on-field officials for that.
Paul Perillo


The biggest question I have besides having Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan for AFC title game, is whether David Andrews and Joe Thuney can hold the fort after Romeo Crennel showed how to terrorize Tom Brady up the middle? P.S. The answer "don't worry, other teams don't have the brutes who can be moved around like the Texan LBs" isn't going to cut it for me.
Jim Yelsky

C'mon Jim, I'm a little insulted by your assumption that we'd tell you everything is fine. This is PFW and We tell it like it is and don't just tell everyone what they want to hear. The pressure Brady faced against Houston was by far the most troubling aspect of that performance because it's exactly the kind of thing that has done the Patriots in during the playoffs in the past. All five offensive linemen, especially the guys you mentioned, will have to be better. The Steelers certainly have the capability of being disruptive up front with Bud Dupree and James Harrison, plus big bodies on the inside like Stephon Tuitt. So no, I'm not going to tell you no one else can do what the Texans did. If the Patriots don't handle the pressure better, the remaining playoff teams can certainly terrorize Brady. And I think Hogan will be fine for the Steelers game. Not as confident with Mitchell.
Paul Perillo

Wondering the status on Rob Gronkowski? How is his condition? Will he be back? I know his contract is up next year what are the Pats plans for him?
Paula Dawson

Gronk is doing well and has indicated that he plans on being ready to participate in the offseason program, which starts around the end of April. I'd be shocked if he wasn't back – he still has three years left on his contract – and by all accounts his rehab is already underway and going well. The Patriots will probably wait and see how he responds next season before making any decisions of his future, but I don't have much doubt that he'll be back in 2017 since his contract is very affordable.
Paul Perillo

Nervy first half but got the job done in the second against Houston. Two questions, do you think we've just played the best defense left in the playoffs this year or were our offensive struggles due to something else? Secondly Logan Ryan seems to be getting better each week, do you think he's now one of the top 3 priorities to re-sign this offseason after Dont'a Hightower and Martellus Bennett (not including Malcolm Butler as a restricted free agent)?
Mark Collier

The Texans probably have a better defense than the Steelers, Falcons or Packers but honestly I don't think there's much of a difference. On paper Houston had the top-ranked unit in terms of yards allowed. From talking to some of the Houston writers they believed that was due to the bad spots they were constantly put in by the offense. The Texans offense would turn it over at the 35 and the opponent would drive for a touchdown, meaning they only allowed 35 yards but they still allowed a touchdown. Houston played well on defense against the Patriots so they deserve credit for that but I don't believe it's a great defense that is much better than any of the remaining teams'. As for re-signing priorities, I'd go just with a top 2 -- Butler and Hightower. Other than those two I'd don' feel any others are big priorities. Ryan has played well down the stretch but I feel that's going to lead to him getting a pretty decent offer from someone and he'll likely be gone. I don't want to extend to re-sign him because I feel he's pretty replaceable. Butler and Hightower are different. If Bennett wants to come back on a short-term deal I'd be all for that but again, I don't want to extend too much.
Paul Perillo

This is an irrelevant question but I hope it is answered anyway. Who do you think is quicker/more athletic between Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman?
Robert Miles

Who better than PFW to answer an irrelevant question? It's what we do best. In this case, it's tough. I believe both are pretty quick and athletic. Lewis definitely has more power and I feel speed. While he is quick, I think Edelman may be a little quicker and more athletic. But these two guys are both very athletic.
Paul Perillo

Time for a crazy scenario … If our Pats win the Super Bowl what if Brady retires as the best QB to ever play the game and we trade Jimmy Garoppolo for a high first-rounder? That makes two picks in the first round of the draft. Then we sign Tony Romo to be our QB for the next two years and draft one of the QBs in this year's draft to be our future QB. Is there a chance for that?
Mike Romero

Who better than PFW to answer a crazy scenario? It's what we do best. In short, no. First, Brady plays as long as he remains at the top of his game. Why would anyone want to accelerate the process of his departure when he's still playing at such a high level? I see no reason to do that. Trading Garoppolo would be fine if you could get the right price but Brady stays. No thanks on an aging and injury-prone Romo.
Paul Perillo

I am wondering if you agree that it is time to draft a long-term replacement for Nate Solder? I love Nate, and he has played really well this year and avoided injuries, but it seems like LaAdrian Waddle is not a long-term solution. I'm thinking of a guy who take a year or two to develop but can spell Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder?
David McCarthy

I actually don't agree. I think Solder had a pretty solid season at left tackle, especially in the running game. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots draft a tackle this spring, but I said the same thing last year and they did not. Solder and Cannon are still in their primes so the urgency to replace them is not there, but I agree that Waddle and Cameron Fleming are not the ideal replacements. But Solder is playing well and there is no need to make a move now.
Paul Perillo

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