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Ask PFW: Patriots not going down without a fight

Well I was looking at players who have the strongest chance at being the league MVP. You had the normal LT, Shaun Alexander, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer. I just want to know why isn't Tom Brady even being considered on that list? I mean, come on, he helps the Patriots win three out of four Super Bowls and has been pretty much the glue that has the Patriots at 9-5. I know there are a lot of other players to recognize but without him throwing 3,600 yards and finding the receivers, we wouldn't be where we are today. I still don't think he gets the recognition he deserves. I know Tom Brady wont say anything about it because he is a team player but I feel that he should be on there with the rest of them. What do you think?Michael Hobbs

No one loves Brady more than I do but it's hard for me to say he doesn't get the credit he deserves. I mean, after only five seasons he is being compared to Joe Montana, arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. That's pretty good. I think the national media may be more enamored with a guy like Michael Vick but Brady does get his due. I agree he should be mentioned in the MVP discussion. I actually think with all their injuries this year, the Patriots might be in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes if they lost Brady before the season started. In the past, people who don't like him could argue Brady was just a cog on a great team but he's shattered that perception this year. Brady has put this team on his back at times and is leading them into the playoffs, while most likely throwing for over 4,000 yards. That's one heck of a season. He won't win the MVP award but if doesn't finish third or fourth in the voting, there should be an investigation in my opinion. I don't think there is another player in the NFL, except maybe Peyton Manning, who is more important to his team's success than Brady is to the Patriots. Of course, if you watch the point-counterpoint on Friday's edition of Patriots Today this week, you'll hear Andy Hart try and tell you otherwise.
-Tom Casale

Why does the NFL love Peyton Manning so much? Why does the NFL want so desperately for him to win a Super Bowl? Peyton has individual statistics and awards but not one important game won under his belt. Not in college or the pros. I hear this stupid comparison to Tom Brady all the time and I don't even think it's close. I have heard the same old " well if Peyton was on the Pats they would have won the last four Super Bowls and if Brady was on the Colts they would be mediocre." Does anyone see that Peyton has had the same core group of guys for eight years now? How long did it take Brady to win? His first year. How many offensive players will go to the Pro Bowl this year from the Pats? Just Brady. I see at least three, if not four or five, from the Colts. I think Peyton is a good quarterback, but all the butt kissing from the media makes me dislike him more and more.Thomas Raymond

I get ripped around here for being a homer because of my crazy man-love for Brady but this takes it to a new level. Come on, be realistic my man. If you would rather have Brady as your quarterback over Manning than that's fine because I would too but to say Manning isn't even in Brady's class doesn't make any sense. Peyton Manning is a phenomenal quarterback and the NFL doesn't like him anymore than Brady. They are both great players, I just think Brady brings a few more intangibles to the table, much like I gave a slight advantage to Joe Montana over Dan Marino. Brady didn't win those three Super Bowls all by himself and if Manning wins one this year, he wouldn't do it all by himself either. And to say all those guys have been there for eight years isn't correct. Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Corey Simon, Bob Sanders, Cato June and Gary Brackett haven't been on the Colts for eight years. In my opinion they are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL and it's fine for Pats fan to dislike Manning because he plays for a rival but don't let that blind you to his greatness. Think of it this way. What if the Colts win the Super Bowl this season? Then your argument of Manning not being able to win a big game goes out the window and Manning backers can now argue he has the numbers and a ring. It's really, really close. I'm a Patriots fan so I'll take Brady but you can certainly make an argument for Manning as well. If you think it's not even close, you are the biggest homer this side of Fred Kirsch and myself.
-Tom Casale

Is the schedule for wild card weekend set in advance (i.e., all AFC games on Saturday, NFC games on Sunday) or do the games/matchups determine where they are slotted in the TV schedule? An answer would be greatly appreciated, as I may have to do some tap dancing around a "romantic" weekend in NYC with my wife!Zach Conen

Good question Zach. The schedule rotates every year. Last season the AFC had the night game during wild card weekend (Jets/Chargers) and the NFC had the night game during the divisional playoffs (Falcons/Rams). This year it will be the opposite so the NFC will have the night game in the first week of the playoffs and the AFC the week after. To sum it up, if the Patriots play the Jaguars it won't be at night and if they win that game and go to Indianapolis the next week, you can bet that will be the AFC primetime game. As far as the romantic weekend goes, I'm disappointed in you. This is football season baby. You have all summer to be romantic. Just do what I do. Tell your wife to suck it up for five months and after the season is over, you promise to do something stupid like go away for the weekend. I find that usually works pretty well. Good luck.
-Tom Casale

While watching an Ohio State/Michigan game a few weeks back, my fellow Buckeye friends were wondering if Maurice Clarett was watching the game. My first thought was if McDonalds had TV's set up in the back where he could be watching the game. However, on a serious note - with some of our injuries to the RB position - why wouldn't we, or for that matter any other team, place Clarett on the practice squad? What exactly does a team have to give up? How much do they make? Seems like many teams have a revolving door when it comes to players on the squad. Why not try him out? That nagging injury that prevented him from doing much in Denver's training camp may have healed. One has to wonder if Mike Cloud is any better. Sure he doesn't fumble but 3.2 yards per carry isn't that great either. I simply haven't been impressed at all with Mike Cloud.Todd

Maurice Clarett is a waste of space. I think the hardest I ever laughed is when the Broncos drafted him that high. Here is all you need to know about Clarett: he had a full year to do nothing but prepare for the NFL combine and he showed up out of shape and ran a 4.8 40-yard dash. That shows his commitment and desire right there. Also, his injury wasn't the reason the Broncos cut him. It was because he had a bad attitude from the start of camp and showed the Broncos nothing that made them believe he would be a good back in the NFL. Plus, he's a cancer. He doesn't want to be on the practice squad. If a team put him on their practice squad he would probably just pout and complain all the time. In my opinion, the only thing brining in Clarett would do is be a distraction for a football team. I will continue to say what I've always said: Maurice Clarett will never get a carry in an NFL game. Your first assumption was right. If you want to see Clarett, head over to your local McDonalds where I'm sure he is eating a large share of the profits himself. Also, since Mike Cloud has been cut, you won't have to worry about seeing him either. At least until he's resigned two weeks from now.
-Tom Casale

With Tedy Bruschi recovering his playmaking instincts, Seymour back in dominant form, Colvin looking like the second coming of Richard Dent, the Dillon-Faulk tandem percolating and Tom Brady still playing at an MVP level, I'm seeing at long last some momentum building. After beating the Bucs and if they trounce the Jets and Dolphins, won't that mount up a good head of steam heading into the playoffs? I could then send a New Year's greeting to Peyton & Co.: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Your perspective?Peter Adair

Well, I'm not sure how afraid the Colts are to play anyone but the Patriots are certainly gaining momentum at the right time of year. I really believe some teams "peak" too early in the season. Meaning they play their best football in week eight and that's not what you're looking for. Teams want to be rolling at then end of the year and that's what the Patriots have going for them right now. I mean, seriously, that San Diego game was so long ago it barely matters at this point in the season. Sure, the Chargers have enough talent to beat the Patriots again but my point is, what happens in September is really irrelevant. The only thing you mentioned that I'm not in agreement with is in regards to the running game. The Patriots have yet to run the ball effectively against a good defense this year and that could really hurt them going into the playoffs. Other than that, I think New England is playing their best in all other phases of the game and that makes them dangerous no matter which team they face in the postseason. If they could only get that running game going, then they would really put the fear of God into people.
-Tom Casale

Why hasn't Raymond Ventrone played for us with the all the injuries to the safeties?Guy Giguere

Andy Hart is convinced that I wrote this e-mail myself because Ray is my boy. I did a big feature story on him a few weeks ago for PFW so we're tight now. Bill Belichick spoke very highly of Ventrone as a practice squad player but he's probably not ready to contribute in a game. The one thing I worry about with Ventrone playing safety is his lack of size. However, his former college coach at Villanova raved about him and said he was the hardest hitter ever to attend that school. He believes Ventrone can play at the pro level, at the very least on special teams. This is where I think you will see him next season. I believe Ventrone has a good chance to make the active roster in 2006 as a backup safety and special teams demon. To a man, everyone I talked to said he would be a force on special teams because of the way he throws his body around and with Larry Izzo and Don Davis getting older, the Patriots will be looking for someone to replace them as a leader on special teams. That player could very well be Ventrone. Look for him to earn a roster spot as a special teams player next season but as far as safety goes, I think he will probably end up being a career backup because of his size but with intense guys like Ventrone, you can never count them out.
-Tom Casale

Why don't you guy's admit when your wrong once in a while. Your comment was that Duane Starks was the best option they had at corner when the secondary was struggling earlier this year. And that they would be getting lit up twice as bad (or something along those lines) with the rookie Hobbs in there. Well obviously that's not the case. Own up. Also it seems to have been a wasted trade. Starks and the one for David Terrell. Those would have been some nice draft picks to fill some holes.Derek Benard

I'll own up to it. I was wrong but you never included my argument. I argued with all the confusion on the Patriots defense at the time, it would be hard for a rookie to come in and be successful playing with that mess. I also said that I trusted Bill Belichick. You know, because he has five Super Bowl rings and all. I figured he sees Hobbs in practice every day and there must have been a reason why he wasn't playing. I don't know what it was. Maybe Bill didn't want to put a young corner in a situation where he knew he couldn't have success because of the way the defense was playing. I agree Hobbs has played very well but make sure to present all the facts. First of all, the defense is playing much better in general, especially the front seven, so that helps the secondary out a great deal. Second, Starks faced the Chargers, Colts and Broncos. Hobbs has played against one team with an explosive offense, Kansas City, and he was toasted. Don't make it sound like the Patriots would have won those games if Hobbs was in there because that's ludicrous. Hobbs is playing very well and I think he has a bright future but I'm still not looking forward to watching him matchup against Reggie Wayne at this point in his career. Having said that, he's physical, aggressive, has a lot of confidence and I think he will be a starter in New England for many years to come. Now, I admitted I was wrong so how about you do the same thing? The Patriots never traded for David Terrell, they signed him as a free agent. Seems like a huge Patriots fan would know that. Perhaps you mean Andre' Davis? In any event you are wrong so why don't you own up to it? I'll wait patiently for your e-mail.
-Tom Casale

Why would the coach put Doug Flutie in to take a knee? Are you kidding me? Put the guy in for a purpose. Let him get some work. The water boy could have come in to do what Doug did. Put him in with eight minutes to go but to take a knee? Give me a break. I thought the Patriots had more class than that.Roger Lee

I feel as well as many of other fans that Flutie should have been put in during the 4th quarter with a score like that. We love Brady but would like to see Flutie play too.Fran Mancino

Give me a break. I'm so sick and tired of hearing about this guy. Every week we get e-mails regarding the Patriots backup quarterback because his name is Doug Flutie. If Trent Dilfer were the backup in New England, no one would care if he came in to take a knee or even played at all for that matter. If you want to see Flutie so bad, watch ESPN Classic and wait for them to replay the Boston College/Miami game. Seriously, give it up. The Patriots have the best quarterback in the NFL, and maybe one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, who is currently on their roster. His name is Tom Brady. Perhaps you've heard of him? Maybe Doug will go back and play in Canada next year and some of you who are stuck in 1984 can spend all of your time watching him. Speaking for myself, I enjoy watching Tom Brady. And the reason the Patriots didn't put Flutie in the game against the Bills is because when you put a 43-year old quarterback who likes to run around early in the fourth quarter, sometimes that 21-0 lead can become a 21-14 lead very quickly. The Patriots, and a majority of their fans including myself, are more worried about winning games and getting ready for the playoffs than they are getting Flutie on the field just because he played at BC and is some kind of Boston folk hero. This isn't Little League where everyone plays so their parents can sit in the stands and cheer for their kids. If some of you are lucky, since the Patriots have everything wrapped up, maybe they will rest their starters against the Dolphins and you can watch Flutie play. I respect Flutie and everything he's done over his career but saying the Patriots organization has no class because they put their backup quarterback in to take a knee at the end of a game is utterly ridiculous.
-Tom Casale

By far the best team wins of the entire season and just at the right time. It has sparked hopes for a good run in the playoffs. I was very impressed by New England putting up 28 on Tampa but far better was the defense. What a breath of fresh air. So my question to you is: can the defense keep it up?Joe Cordone

This defense is playing lights-out right now. Let's get to the teeth of your question. When you ask if this defense can keep it up, you are talking about when they play teams like the Colts and Bengals. I think if the Patriots play a high-powered, balanced offense like that, they will have trouble stopping them. Being the great coach that he is, Belichick is masking the weaknesses in the secondary by using aggressive schemes but a lot of those weaknesses are still there. Plus, the Patriots have been blitzing a lot and they've never played that way against the Colts. It's hard to blitz against Manning because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. The Chargers sent Shawne Merriman all day long but that isn't a blitz. He's primarily a pass rusher like Willie McGinest is. I think the Patriots would play much better defensively against the Colts this time around but still, that team is so stacked on offense and with the game being played in the dome, the Patriots have to go in thinking they need 35 points to win. Remember, as good as the Patriots have been the last two years, we can't dismiss how much of an effect the weather had on the Colts offense. That team is built to play in a dome, not wind and snow. That's not an excuse for the Colts; I'm just stating an obvious fact. Any team built to play indoors isn't going to play as well outside in the winter. They won't have to worry about that this year. I think the defense is playing great and Belichick will always come up with something to give an opposing offense fits but if the Patriots go into Indy, they will need Tom Brady to add to his legend and outgun Manning in my opinion. I can't wait. I think if the Patriots play the Colts in the playoffs this year, it could turn out to be one of those classic games that people talk about forever.
-Tom Casale

The Patriots defense looks like they are getting better every single week. Rosevelt Colvin is huge right now off the edge and so is Tedy Bruschi. He's making a lot of plays. I think that's the closest we've come to a perfect game this year. Now we need to move on to the Jets and see if we can't get a win against them. But the best job of all this year is by Bill Belichick and his staff getting these guys to win with all the injuries to the secondary and the offensive line. I think that's his best job of coaching in his career.Big John

I agree Belichick and his staff has done an amazing job this season. The problem with coaches like Belichick and Bill Parcells is they have set such high standards for themselves and their teams they very rarely get mentioned for Coach of the Year. That's just the way it is. Let me give you an example. Remember last season with the Carolina Panthers had all those injuries and John Fox almost got them into the playoffs but they ended up 7-9? Some in the national media were saying Fox should be considered for Coach of the Year because he had the Panthers in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season, despite all their injuries. Well, Belichick has his team in the playoffs but he doesn't even get mentioned. It's a product of his own success and to be honest, I doubt he cares. This team doesn't care about personal achievements they only care about winning football games. I do agree, however, that Belichick has done a fantastic job this year of making adjustments and preparing his team to play its best when it matters the most.
-Tom Casale

I was wondering if Andre Tippett's number is retired by the Patriots? Every website I look at online says that it is retired except for I hope you can answer this question for me. Thanks!Mark Miller

Tippett's number has not been retired. While he certainly deserves the to have his number retired, a lot of teams don't like retiring too many numbers because there are only so many to go around. I will say this: you don't see too many people wearing #56 for this team. In my personal opinion, I think Tippett is one of the greatest players to ever play for the Patriots and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and receive any additional recognition this organization wants to give him. The fact Tippett is never even a finalist for the Hall is an abomination in my book.
-Tom Casale

What will the Pats do in the offseason to improve their linebackers, safeties and corners? Will the Pats look strictly at the draft for younger talent or are they looking to pick up one or two extra corners and a hard-hitting safety?Dennis Quaid

I think the Patriots will look at all avenues to improve this team just like they do every season. First, they will look at the available free agent pool and then at the players coming out in the draft. I can almost guarantee the Patriots will bring in a couple of defensive players through free agency. One player to keep your eye on is Bears safety Mike Green. Green isn't expected to be back in Chicago and he has the kind of skills to excel in the Patriots defense. Remember, this team needs a running back and another receiver as well, so they will be looking for help on the offensive side of the ball this offseason too. Just remember one thing when looking at players who may be free agents. Not all of those guys will actually reach the free agent period. Take Shaun Alexander for instance. I'm pretty certain after the year he's having the Seahawks will not let him hit the open market. One thing is for sure: it should be a very interesting summer around these parts.
-Tom Casale

Who has worn No. 37 in the last 10 years?Linda Shores

Defensive back Maurice Hurst wore No. 37 from 1989-95. Then, from what I have been able to dig up, no player wore the number during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. At least no player who was on the active roster. Fullback Chris Floyd wore the number from 1998-2000 and then Rodney Harrison took it over and has worn it to the present day. I hope this helps.
-Tom Casale

I just finished watching the Tampa Bay game. That was dominant with a capital D! It's great to see our smart, physical defense coming together at the most important time of the season. That got me thinking about Eugene Wilson's rookie year and his huge game against Indy with one devastating hit after another on receivers. I think he's still doing a great job back there but has his role changed where he doesn't get those big shots as often or does the opposition know his hitting prowess and try to avoid him more now than in his rookie year?Rod Redondo

I think Wilson has been forced to do a lot of different things in the secondary this season with the loss of Rodney Harrison. In the past, with guys like Harrison and Ty Law back there, Wilson was able to do more because of their veteran leadership but now he's the leader in the secondary and I think it took him some time to get adjusted to that role. I don't know why he isn't laying as many big hits this season. He has been a little banged up, so perhaps that has something to do with it but I honestly think it took him a while to adapt to playing safety without the help of Harrison. Sometimes we don't realize it but a player like Harrison does so much on the football field and that allows other players on the team to do different things. Wilson was one of those players. I think Wilson has played much better over the past couple of games, as has everyone on defense, and now that he's more comfortable in his role, Wilson should be a big factor for the Patriots defense heading into the playoffs.
-Tom Casale

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