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Ask PFW: Patriots postseason ponderings

Hi guys Happy New Year!!! What are your thoughts that at the end of the season we lose Josh [McDaniels] & Matt [Patricia] to other teams? Also, as another year rolls in, what does the future hold in your mind? Specifically the end of the dynasty when Bill and Tom finally walk off  into the sunset?

Gary Waldron

There certainly is a lot of interest this week with the Patriots coordinators. Reports indicate that McDaniels could be in line to interview for head coaching openings with the Bears, Colts and Giants. The same could be true for Patricia with the Lions, Giants and Cardinals. Both guys have interviewed in past years only to return to New England. So there is no guarantee that both or either will leave this winter. But if I were a betting man, I’d guess that at least one of them finally takes a promotion elsewhere, although that’s merely a gut feeling. As for the end of the dynasty, I haven’t spent a lot of time specifically thinking about it, certainly not now in the midst of another Super Bowl run. Belichick and Brady both seem to be continuing to do their jobs at an elite level. Certainly when they leave, there will likely be a major drop off in terms of coaching and quarterback play, that’s just the reality of trying replace two GOATs. I will say it did give me pause this weekend to see ESPN’s Mike Reiss crack the door open to the idea that Belichick might not return to his role in New England for 2018. Still, that would stun me as I expect Belichick and Brady to try to make another title run next season, even if the rest of the staff and front office might have a different look.

Andy Hart

I see that Capers is now out as DC in Green Bay. He's of course former HC of both Houston and Carolina and also ex-defensive backfields coach of the Patriots. If Patricia goes off to join Bobby Quinn in Detroit, is he possible new DC for Patriots in 2018?

Pete Clark

If Patricia leaves, I assume that Bill Belichick would continue his history of promoting from within. If that’s the case, then linebackers coach Brian Flores would be the obvious choice. Now, the fact that the Cardinals have reportedly requested to speak with Flores (as well as Patricia) regarding their head coaching opening muddies this water a bit. If both Patricia and Flores were to leave, I do think there would be some uncertainty on the staff succession plan. That could open a door for Capers to return to New England, though I think it would still be a longshot.

Andy Hart

In terms of who should be MVP, do you believe Tom Brady has done enough to win after his 5-game interception streak and lackluster performance against the Jets? Or does Tom’s dip in performance allow for Wentz or Gurley to become the front runner?

Sam Smith

Brady’s interception streak and, as you put it, dip in production has added some fuel to the MVP discussion. Still, though, I believe Brady remains the frontrunner and likely winner. He led the defending champs to a 13-3 mark and the No. 1 seed. He led the league in attempts and yards. He was top five in the league in rating (3), completions (2), completion percentage (5), average gain (5), touchdowns (3), touchdown percentage (5) and interception percentage (3). That’s a long way of saying he had a great year, even with he and many of his key weapons dealing with injuries. I was one who thought Wentz might earn the nod before he got injured. Now, I think it has to be Brady. And I’ve always thought for a running back/receiver to win the award they have to have an historic season. Gurley had a great season, just not an historic one. Brady as the oldest MVP in NFL history makes sense to me!

Andy Hart

Happy Holidays I’m a New England fan from Oregon who loves your PFW updates and information. Being so far away its helped me stay with a team I’ve been a fan of since 1989 and I thank you for all that you do for all of us readers. Will we see Hightower, Burkhead, Valentine, Mitchell, Hogan or anyone else I have missed in the playoffs?

Kenneth Howell

Hightower and Valentine are on IR and no longer eligible to return as the Patriots used their two chances to bring back players on Shea McClellin (though he never returned to the active roster) and, more recently, Malcolm Mitchell. The wide receiver was back on the practice field last week and New England has two more weeks to decide whether to add him to the roster or leave him on IR. The other players have been inactive the last couple weeks, but should very much be at least in consideration of being on the field when New England returns to action for the Divisional Playoff on January 13. Hogan (shoulder) has been practicing on a limited basis the last couple weeks. When he’s in the locker room he has not been back in a sling, which was the case a while back when he missed four games with the injury suffered in Week 8. Burkhead (knee) has not practiced in recent weeks, but early reports indicated the sprain he suffered against the Steelers might allow a return for the playoffs. James White (ankle) is another guy who’s missed the last couple weeks. I am holding out hope that Hogan and White will be back for the playoffs. I’m a little more dubious about Alan Branch (knee) and Burkhead, though both would be nice additions. Certainly having a bye week will increase their chances of returning to the team, which would be a boost on both sides of the ball.

Andy Hart

Happy New Year everyone at PFW!!!! Thank you as always for the good job you do all year. If Chris Hogan is healthy and Malcolm Mitchell is activated from IR how do you think the Patriots proceed at WR for the playoffs? I really hope Phillip Dorsett is not inactive because I really feel like he’s close to breaking out or at least coming up with a timely reception. I know he had a bad drop against the Jets but I love his speed and quickness, I also think Kenny Britt is interesting because of his size, physical nature and maybe the ability to break press man coverage, which worries me in the postseason. Is it possible everyone is activated? Which group of WRs do you feel is best on the field together? And if someone is the odd man who do you think it will be? I am thinking Britt because he isn't familiar with the offense yet.

Michael Pizzoli

Certainly Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola will be key targets at receiver with the postseason kicks off in two weeks. I’m also assuming that Hogan, who was a trusted target a year ago, will also be back. Those three, in addition to Rob Gronkowski and the passing backs, is the basis for a nice passing attack. Dorsett would be next in line in my opinion. I’m also intrigued by his speed. They have been running a motion wheel route with him in recent weeks that looks like it could be a big play at some point. He hasn’t had a huge role, but he’s been around all season. Mitchell needs to prove he’s healthy and can contribute. Certainly he earned some respect last year, especially in the Super Bowl. So if he’s healthy, I’d think he’d be in the mix, though missing a full regular season might be tough to make up in just a couple weeks. I don’t really see a way that Britt has a big role in the postseason and easily can envision him being inactive. Really, though, it all hinges on the health of Hogan and Mitchell.

Andy Hart

Patriots started the season cold then got warm and then chilled a bit towards the end of the season. Do you think that if Patriots get all of their injured players back they can get hot again in the playoffs as Brady hopes for, or it's not that quick and easy to turn the switch on?

Eric Larsen

I do think the Patriots can get hot again heading into the postseason. I actually think that could happen even with just the weapons that were healthy down the stretch – Cooks, Amendola, Gronkowski and Lewis. That’s a pretty talented group that most teams would love to have. I also think Brady will be healthier on January 13 than he’s been in weeks. That’s the benefit of the bye week. And, as you suggest, if guys like Hogan and White return to the mix, it will only make the options that much more formidable. Even cooling off late in the year the Patriots scored 26 or more points in four of the final six games, never below 20 in any contest. New England hasn’t scored at least 20 points in the postseason and lost since 2010 against the Jets, and it’s only happened twice in the Brady/Belichick era.

Andy Hart

Hi. Can you provide any update on the Patriots key injuries? I’m especially interested in Chris Hogan. I think Brady desperately needs another top WR and he just seems to have a certain chemistry with Hogan that I’m not sure he has with any of his other WRs (Gronkowski excepted naturally). Other key injuries such as Burkhead and Branch as well? Thanks!

JC

I’m guessing this isn’t the JC whose birthday I just celebrated. Anyway, I addressed the bulk of the injuries in a previous answer but wanted to expand on the Hogan situation. After missing four games he returned to action in Miami when Gronkowksi was suspended and caught just one of five passes thrown his way for just a one-yard gain. He certainly didn’t look like his productive self. He’s since missed the final three games of the year despite practicing each week on a limited basis. From afar – no media is allowed to watch practice during the season – it seems that maybe they have been overly cautious with Hogan and that he might be on track for a postseason return to a more normal role. I agree that he created a pretty instant rapport with Brady last fall and would be a key added option in the postseason. I think there is a chance that comes to fruition.

Andy Hart

Given the issues that the team had to work on back in training camp (and the number of areas that got exposed early in the season against Kansas City, Carolina, etc.), what accomplishments and improvements do you feel players, coaches and fans should feel most proud about regarding the 2017 Patriots?

Harry Yelreh

This is an interesting question. Certainly winning 13 games and earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC is atop the list following the 2-2 start to the season. Beyond that I think you look at a defense that was dead last in the NFL in points allowed at one point and finished the year No. 5 overall, just four spots worse than last year’s league-leading unit. That came despite major questions in terms of talent and depth on the front seven. It’s an impressive accomplishment for Patricia’s unit. Regardless of how the unit got the job done, it found a way. But the job is not done yet. The second season begins in two weeks. And that is where history is made.

Andy Hart

Hi guys! So being this has been quite an odd season, with all the injuries and inconsistent level of playing, it seems that the Patriots have stocked up on receivers. Barring any changes, they will have a handful of starter-level receivers in their roster once the season is over (Edelman, Hogan, Britt, Dorsett, Amendola, Cooks, Mitchell...). Obviously, they are not going to keep all of them ?! Further, it seems that there has been some imbalance towards hoarding offensive players on expense of defensive lineman and linebackers. Do you see the Patriots trading some of those receivers for edge rushers or linebackers, or at the least draft picks that could be used towards that? Are you allowed to trade players early in the postseason? Thanks.

Yaniv C.

Since the trading deadline for this season has passed, teams cannot now make deals until the new NFL league year begins on March 14. Still, your overall thought that the Patriots have an abundance of bodies on the roster at receiver is valid. And we know the Patriots often look to trade players from a position of abundance to fill needs at other areas. While Amendola and Matthew Slater will see their contracts expire after this season, there are still a bunch of bodies with NFL experience on the depth chart. I wouldn’t rule out one of them being traded, but that’s a long way off. There is still plenty of football to play between now and then, including for possible trade options such as Britt, Dorsett and Mitchell.

Andy Hart

Hi from UK Patriots. Watching Jimmy G. perform so strongly is very frustrating but not at all surprising. But what exactly is his contract situation with the 49ers ? If he doesn't sign a contract extension they will obviously franchise him. But what happens after his franchise year runs out?

Tom will be 42 and possibly at that stage ready to call it a day. Is there any chance that the Patriots could make him an offer he would be very happy to accept to rejoin the superb organization he knows so well? Is it possible BB has this in mind? Why else would they let him go so cheaply?

Steve Smith

Garoppolo’s rookie contract expires at the end of this season. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He’ll certainly be slapped with the franchise tag if he hasn’t reached a long-term deal with San Francisco by then. He could then be franchised again after next season. Though almost unfathomable, a player can actually be tagged three times, though the final year would be at 144 percent of his previous year’s franchise tag, which would be a massive salary. All this is a long way to say that assuming Garoppolo continues to play well it’s almost impossible to envision the 49ers letting him go. I will always have questions about the compensation and timing of the Garoppolo trade. I’m not sure we’ll ever get those answered. But the only way I see Jimmy GQ as they are calling him out west returns to New England is if he somehow flames out and is a journeyman down the road, almost like Brian Hoyer. Otherwise I think he’s the present and future star in San Francisco.

Andy Hart

I am concerned with Gilmore and Rowe play abilities. I think they’re one mistake away from possibly hurting the Pats chances in the playoffs. I’ve only seen what’s been televised here is the west coast and I’ve seen potential for disaster from these two. Can you lets us know if this is just an anomaly from what you all see on a regular basis when at Patriots practice? GO PATS!

Andres Ochoa

First, no one in the media gets to watch practice – other than stretching and maybe a single drill in a media window to open workouts – once the regular season begins. So no one has more than game action to go on regarding any player’s performance. The entire Patriots secondary has been up and down this season, certainly the cornerbacks. That would include Gilmore and Rowe. Butler too. I have been underwhelmed to say the least with what I’ve seen from Gilmore and Butler in particular. On paper the Patriots have two Pro Bowl cornerbacks. On the field neither has lived up to that billing with any regularity this fall. The reality, though, is that all cornerbacks on all teams are one mistake away from being a possible postseason goat. There aren’t too many elite coverage guys around these days and I firmly believe it may be the hardest position to physically play in all sports. The line between success and failure is miniscule. Am I confident that the Patriots cornerbacks can’t be thrown on? No. Will I be surprised if they step up to the challenge this postseason and help carry the team to a Super Bowl? Nope. Based on what we’ve seen through 16 weeks, either might be possible. Tune in to find out how it plays out in the coming weeks.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, greetings from Israel again. Loyal fan. It seems odd to me that nobody talks about it, but to me it sounded that the Jimmy G. trade was not on-field team related, but fan base related. That for the first time in a long time Bill couldn't do what he wanted to. That Mr. Kraft made the choice and not Bill. That was what I got from the press conference by Bill after the trade was made. Any thoughts?

Ben Wg

As I said earlier, I didn’t understand the timing and compensation of the Garoppolo trade at the time and I still don’t. I’ve heard plenty of people pose the same theory you are, that somehow Patriots owner Robert Kraft was behind the deal. I guess anything is possible, but I certainly don’t know that to be the case. I do know that the people at the Boston Sports Journal have hinted that more to this story could come out after the season is over. Maybe that will come at some point in the coming weeks or months. Maybe more information will bring clarity to the situation. Or, we may never know the full story of how things shook down in regards to the Garoppolo trade. I do believe that Belichick was being honest during his Halloween conference call after the deal when he said, “It’s a very complex situation on multiple levels and this is really the last window that we had and we did what we felt was best for the team. There were many things involved in this whole process and, again, on a number of levels; way too many to get into at this time. … I’m sure a lot of you have questions that are fair but, again, to try and put the whole puzzle together and there are so many different points in time that would and could change the entire conversation that it’s just too complicated of a process and too unique to get into in depth. So, I’m not going to answer questions about the transaction and all of the follow ups that would be coming with those, which are fair questions, but it’s just not possible.” So I still have a lot of questions regarding the whole deal. As do most fans. Maybe we’ll get answers someday. But I’m not holding my breath that we’ll ever know the full truth and details of the situation.

Andy Hart

What QBs in the 2018 draft could the Patriots consider a good fit? How high a pick would they be willing to use for a QB? Thanks. Pats fan from Tennessee.

Dennis Vest

I think it’s a lock that the Patriots draft a quarterback at some point in this year’s draft. It would seem that pick could come in the first couple rounds. Depending on how much they like a guy that might be available, I wouldn’t even rule out New England using a first-round pick on a passer. Who that would be? I have no idea at this point. Your guess is probably as good as mine at this early point in the process. I could just throw a name out there, but there would really be nothing behind it right now. So I won’t.

Andy Hart

Thanks for doing Ask PFW, from a Pats fun stuck in Chicago where I have to re-live the 85 Super Bowl again and again. I have some questions and thoughts, I’d like to share/get your opinion:

1) the catch rule, I too agree with it as written, otherwise if a WR goes horizontal has the ball in his grasp while in the air and crosses the plane of the goal, but hits the ground and drops the ball is that a touchdown? Same scenario at the back of the  end zone.

2) B.B. the GM has had a bad year. Traded 2 starting-caliber NFL QBs and received a 2nd round pick and a WR that may get cut (if all WRs were healthy).

2a) Do you think the reason the team is thin in many positions (other than

RB/DB) is because they only had 4 draft picks? In hindsight giving up a pick for Gillislee may have been a mistake.

3) B.B. the coach has had another great year, tied for best record in the league even with all the injuries. Yet, he’s not in the COY conversation, although this year has a few candidates. I worry that will Brady and Belichick, history will show that they only won coach/player of the year honors only a few times. Everyone assumes they’ve won more.

4) Do you think one of the reasons the secondary has not played up to expectations is because the relative inexperience in the coaches? Has B.B. been spending more time with his sons coaching up the coaches?

5) Is Brady’s age starting to show? So many interceptions, were they bad reads, bad throws or late delivery?

Thanks for proving this awesome service.

Mark Wright

Wow. Lot to get to here, so let’s get to it.

1)I hate the catch rule and the replays that go with it, slowing everything down frame by frame to help suck the fun out the game. Catches at the goal line and in bounds will clearly be talked about this offseason. I’d like to see it relaxed a bit or at the very least force officials to make decisions at full speed. What we have right now isn’t working the way it’s supposed to or should.

2)There is no question that Belichick didn’t have a great offseason with his signings and trades. He was aggressive and lauded at the time, but it hasn’t exactly played out all that well. Certainly Gillislee was a major disappointment. I thought he’d be an upgrade over LeGarrette Blount but he was not. And obviously the limited draft choices tied directly into those suspect trades/signings. The class was also hurt with the top two picks landing on IR/NFI to wipe out their rookie seasons.

3)In my opinion Belichick could be up for the Coach of the Year award every single season. He’s the best in the game by far. But it usually goes to a coach that turns around a bad team or comes from nowhere for big success. Don’t worry, though, history is not going to think any less of Belichick or Brady based on the awards they’ve won. They are set as arguably the greatest of all time in their respective roles.

4)I don’t think the issue in the secondary has been the coaching. It’s the same group of coaches that were here a year ago with far more consistent results. There has been a little turnover in personnel – most notably Logan Ryan replaced by Stephon Gilmore. Maybe that’s part of it. But there is probably a lot more that’s gone into the various issues the group has had off and on all season. As I said, we don’t get to watch practice after training camp so no one really knows where Belichick spends his time at practice during the season. My guess is that he bounces all around, as he often does during the summer.

5)I think the last month has been more about Brady’s health than his age, although those two things could obviously be connected. He’s clearly made some bad reads and some bad throws. Beyond his own health, I think the health of those around him as been an issue. Think about it, most of his most reliable targets to close out last season – Edelman, White, Hogan and Mitchell – have been sidelined over the last month or longer. He’s still learning to work with Brandin Cooks. It’s hasn’t been perfect, but let’s remember New England did finish the year with the No. 1 overall offense and No. 2 passing attack in the NFL for 2017, even with the late-season dip in aerial success.

Andy Hart

I read your column every week and look forward to the answers you give because they are usually answering questions I am also wanting to know myself. That's how I know my question is off the wall but something I have been wondering for a long time.... We know the quarterback receives calls through his helmet from the coach but what are the rules to using that and how is it policed? Can they use it to call an audible in? Or how about informing Brady to get down because he is about to be pummeled from behind? OK that question is far-fetched but is why I know there must be a rule.  :) Thanks for giving us fans a place to go for answers!

Mike Schriver

The communication between the coach and the speaker in the quarterback’s helmet is cut off with 15 seconds left on the play clock or when the ball is snapped, whichever comes first. That keeps coaches from advising the quarterback just before or during a play.

Andy Hart

Hi everyone from Italy, I have a very elaborate question and may be stupid but I want to give it a

try: in the Pittsburgh game, when we had a first and goal with less than a minute remaining, I was thinking our best case scenario was to leave our opponents with less than 10 seconds remaining after scoring a TD, because I knew our defense wouldn’t be capable of keeping them out of FG range (and I was optimistic...). It is so absurd to think that Lewis should have gone down at the 1 yard line, trying at least to milk their remaining TOs? Too risky? And is a situation that they practice, given the fact that BB is the master of situational football? Thank you and keep up the good work.

Stefano Olivieri

It is not absurd to think that Lewis could have held up short of the goal line. It’s happened in the past and is something that all players and coaches have at least talked about or considered in that situation. It actually came up against the Patriots in their second Super Bowl versus the Giants in Indianapolis. Still, it’s also risky. If you don’t score in the end, you end up looking very bad. Tom Brady actually admitted that the Patriots got a little too cute trying to manage the clock in last season’s loss to the Seahawks when New England had first-and-goal at the Seattle 2 and ended up not scoring in the 31-24 loss.

Andy Hart

Do you think we'll ever know what the real reason was behind letting Jimmy G get away? It would be like sending Steve Young away just when he was surpassing Joe Montana, or getting rid of Aaron Rodgers just as he was passing Favre. I love TB12, but his days are clearly numbered, and it would seem to me that we just gave away the future.

Stilly Sprague

As I said earlier, I’m not sure we will ever know the full story. We may try to piece it together as information surrounding it comes out moving forward. I would say, though, that it’s different than the two instances you give because Brady is still healthy and very much committed. Montana was breaking down physically when he was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City. Favre was jerking the Packers around by pondering retirement each fall at his end in Green Bay. Brady is relatively healthy, focused and committed to playing into his mid-40s. That made the theoretical decision to pass the torch to Garoppolo – after his mere two NFL starts – much more difficult.

Andy Hart

Hey. Long-time fan originally from the Boston area and clinging to his Patriot roots from Arizona. Thanks for your hard work keeping us all informed. I have a unique thought about the Malcolm Butler situation: it seems possible that he is either consciously or subconsciously playing below par because he feels mistreated by the team (in the Gilmore situation) and actually wants to be let go by New England so he can start fresh somewhere else and prove himself all over again. Is that theory too far out in left field? He went from practically being an island to being just OK against most receivers. I got that same feeling with Ocho Cinco (for different reasons) and others who came here and didn't like the way they were treated/expected to play whatever role. Some players just have to have their egos stroked, ya know?

Doug Tozier

Some form of this theory has been floated throughout the year. I don’t buy it. Butler’s future compensation is directly tied to how he plays and is perceived across the league. Playing poorly would hurt him as much or more than the team. I do wonder, though, if he is focused on trying too hard to prove his value. What I mean is that his future earnings and reputation could be bolstered by more big plays and interceptions. He’s been burned on some double-moves this year and maybe that’s because as you put it either consciously or subconsciously he’s focused on trying to jump routes to get interceptions and boost his stature. Whatever it is, I do think that Butler has had a disappointing year. I do think it’s also his last year in New England. Of course he could turn everything around with a big postseason, something he obviously has a little bit of experience with.

Andy Hart

Curious about your opinion on why the Steelers would cut Harrison. Did it make room on their roster for someone else? They must have envisioned a scenario where the Pats would pick him up and potentially put him to good use through the playoffs.

Kevin Colburn

On paper, Harrison was cut on Dec. 23 and tackle Marcus Gilbert was added to the active roster from the reserve/suspended list. But the story is seemingly much deeper than that. Reports out of Pittsburgh, mostly from active players, indicate that Harrison has been trying to push his way out of town for a while. It sounds like he had become a distraction behind the scenes. Even the linebacker has admitted he asked for his trade or release multiple times this season once he realized that his role with the Steelers was not what he hoped it to be or even what the team had supposedly promised him. Certainly it worked out for the Patriots, adding an experienced player at a spot of major need. Sunday against the Jets Harrison looked like a guy with something left in the tank, even if his two sacks on the game’s final two plays lead to a somewhat misleading stat line.

Andy Hart

Hi guys great job so who will be New England’s 2018 NFC division opponents?

Kenneth Howell

The Patriots will play the NFC North in 2018, meaning the team will host the Packers and Vikings and travel to both Chicago and Detroit.

Andy Hart

I'm sure you guys laughed when I suggested adding Vince Wilfork for the postseason a week ago, but he's 3 1/2 years younger the Harrison (who was a great addition). What's the harm in putting him on the practice squad and/or donating to his charity to encourage him to get in standby shape for the AFC championship & Super Bowl?

Thomas Walkden

First, there is no indication that Wilfork is interested in continuing his career. Second, unlike Harrison he’s been out of football all season and is not likely to be in the type of shape he would need to be in order to help out in the playoffs. Third, he’s not eligible for the practice squad, so he’d have to take up a spot on the active roster. Finally, if Alan Branch (knee) is ready to return for the playoffs I’m not sure there is a huge need at defensive tackle. There was, however, a massive need on the edge, which is part of why Harrison was brought aboard. Wilfork had a great career, mostly with the Patriots, but I think it’s over.

Andy Hart

Hello. I m a lifelong fan (45 yrs since age 12). I would like to see the ball breaking the plane rule abolished to be replaced by control of the ball while a majority or portion of the players body is in the end-zone. By this I mean both feet, knee or butt! Also, they must survive the ground! I dislike awarding a touchdown when a player leaps over the pile at the goal line and has the ball knocked out of their hands. Do you see the Competition Committee ever making this change?

Gregory Smith

I do not see this rule being completely retooled. I like the idea of players being able to aggressively attack the plane of the goal line to try to score and end a big play. It’s fun. I also don’t like the idea of officials having even more to review in terms of guys having to reach the criteria you are suggesting in order to score. It will only lead to more controversy and bad replay reviews in my opinion. It’s broken the way it is, that’s for sure. But your way would probably make it even worse. I would, however, like to see the goal posts returned to the goal line. But I’m guessing player safety concerns will never allow for that. And I’m probably the only one who wants to see that happen anyway.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, just want to say thank you for the (PFW in Progress radio) show (on Patriots.com). Win or lose, it's one of the highlights of my week. You guys definitely aren't homers, and you are pretty objective with what you talk about. Btw, it was hilarious hearing your reactions to Harrison hanging out with Develin at practice. They were probably hashing out visitation hours for all the 45 pound plates in the weight room. I wanted to know your thoughts on who you think might be a playoff hero that we might not expect? Thanks again guys!

Ricky Easter

Like voting for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, this is a bit of subjective question. I think Chris Hogan would be my first choice, but he was obviously a key contributor last offseason so it might not surprise people even if he has missed virtually the entire second half of the regular season. Based on recent weeks a surprise pass rusher might be a possibility, so Eric Lee or James Harrison could be viable options. I also would think that Philip Dorsett would qualify as a surprise after a pretty quiet regular season. I’ll stick with those options, either a pass catcher or an edge player. Can’t wait to see if I’m right!

Andy Hart

Now that Tom has 100 wins at Gillette, any chance the Kraft’s give up naming rights profits and name the stadium Tom Brady Stadium? Bill Belichick Stadium? Brady Belichick/Belichick Brady Stadium? BBVII Stadium ;)? What about the Coach of the Year becoming the Belichick Trophy and the Super Bowl MVP becoming the Brady? Would their controversies derail that? (Save this for a slow week if necessary but it'd be interesting to hear what you guys think about this).

Pascal Rawls-Philippe

It’s the bye week. That’s not necessarily a slow week, but you’re good to go. I don’t think Gillette Stadium will be renamed for either its greatest player or coach in the future. It’s just not the reality of the sports business world we live in these days. I’m sure there will be statues. Maybe roads around the stadium. Possibly even a naming of the locker room or the field itself. Surely both guys will be well remembered in Foxborough when that time comes. As for the trophies/awards, I do think the league should consider something to celebrate the two all-time greats. Both your ideas have my support, but I’m guessing these things won’t be decided until some point down the road. At least not until after the Divisional Playoff on January 13!

Andy Hart

Hello. I am a retired Marine, I did 20 years active duty, I had neck surgery an ACDF C5-C7 last year and I am still recovering. James Harrison is motivating. He should not be on anyone's bench especially the Steelers. I am from Pittsburgh, PA. Not the suburbs, the city, 15204 zip code and now reside in 15214. Harrison reminded me that life goes on...or it goes on without you. He made a move for what he felt was best for him, most of us, don't have the courage to do that. Most of us, just follow the herd. I am going to buy one of his New England jerseys.He reminded me that I am a Man, in control of my destiny, with the intestinal fortitude to make [stuff] happen for me. You see everyone wants to be a lion until it’s time to do what lions do. James isn't like that, he will do some lion shyt because he is a lion.

I don't even know who will read this in your organization, but in all seriousness, just let James Harrison know that a Devil Dog in Pittsburgh got his back and his decision to move to be in the game is inspirational and is bigger than the Steelers or the NFL. I am 52, about to be 53 next month. I lived more years than I have years left to live. When am I going to get off of my couch and quit complaining about my neck, my job, my family, my LIFE?? James makes people take self inventory, and maybe that is why I find his move so motivating and inspirational. He makes me want to be a better me, while the sheep of our society (Un-confident people) want to continue to follow the herd and complain about it.

Sincerely,

B.J. Dietrich

I wanted to post this because you clearly put so much passion into it. We never know who or what is going to inspire us in life. Glad Harrison’s move to New England has touched you as much as it has. Hopefully he will impact the Patriots offseason the way he has impacted your motivation to live life!

Andy Hart

Hi guys. Don't want to appear to be too paranoid here, but what if the Pats bit on a perfectly executed trap by the Steelers, and got duped into taking James Harrison from the Steelers? While we're all thinking he'll provide valuable intel for the Pats, what if he's been sent as a reverse mole and is passing intel back to the Steelers......? Stranger things have happened...........

Mark Godsland

And here is a very different take on the Harrison signing. Stranger things have happened? In modern sports? I don’t buy it. This type of thing happened in the lore of sports, especially in college football, but I can’t think of anything that would compare in recent memory. It would be the most incredible story to me. I find it unfathomable, but I guess nothing is impossible.

Andy Hart

What determines if the clock stops or runs on plays where the runner/receiver ends up out of bounds before being down?

Jim Doucette

The clock stops when a player goes out of bounds after the two-minute warning in the first half and inside of five minutes to play in the game.

Andy Hart

Congrats on yet AGAIN a solid season of 13 -3! Few questions I have:

1) Are you satisfied about the offensive performance over the past 5 weeks? They dipped down in YPG (yards per game) and PPG (points per game), and even though they finished solid the last game, it still didn’t give me any more confidence that this is the same offense as from weeks 2-5 of this year. Your thoughts?

2) Who do you predict that we would play next in the playoffs, and do you feel worried? I feel like it would be the Chiefs, given that the Titans are playing them at their home, and the Jags will beat on the Bills (it will be a close game if Bortles doesn’t cough up the football). Even though the Chiefs had a slump during the season, they still look like a solid team to play against.

3) What are things that the Patriots need to fix, to increase their chances of going to the Super Bowl and winning it? (Even though I predict they will go, and lose. Which is OK for any Patriot fan because honestly guys; we’ve been blessed for a LONG time seeing our team win multiple Super Bowls, and all of our debates over the best QB and best head coach are settled haha).

4) Hypothetical question if you had to pick any defensive end that you would have wanted to keep from the Patriots Belichick-Era, that Belichick let go, completely cost free, who would it be? I would pick Chandler Jones, but I feel like there’s a better answer out there; what do you think?*

Dylan Damewood

Another list of numbered questions. Guess this is the new normal in 2018. Well, let’s go!

1)The offense has been less efficient in recent weeks due to weather, injuries, Gronkowski’s suspension and other factors. It was good enough to win most games. I expect it will be a bit better in the postseason, especially if guys like White and Hogan are back in the mix. But late season and playoff football are often played at a tighter level than earlier in the season. A look back at the record-setting 2007 Patriots is the best example.

2)My guess is that the Patriots will indeed host the Chiefs on January 13 at Gillette. I don’t see the Titans getting the job done in Kansas City. I won’t rule out, though, a Buffalo upset in Jacksonville. Blake Bortles and Doug Marrone need to prove they can take care of business, even against Tyrod Taylor and the lackluster Bills. If it is the Chiefs for the Divisional Round, I will once again assume they have no chance of pulling off the upset even after they did just that on opening night. Sorry Alex Smith and Andy Reid, I just don’t see you capable of shocking me again!

3)The two issues I would keep an eye on are the run defense and big plays allowed on defense. The run defense played its best game of the year in the finale. If that continues it would be huge. On the other hand, New England allowed too many big plays down the stretch, harkening back to early-season issues. That’s a recipe for upset disaster in the postseason, especially if the Chiefs come to town and try to recreate their opening night success.

4)Any player? Jones is a solid choice given what he did this year in Arizona. If I didn’t have to pay him his crazy contract, I’d welcome him back. Another outside-the-box guy I liked was Andre Carter, assuming I could get him at full health in his prime. He was only a Patriot for a short time, but he was an impressive force on the field and an even more impressive professional off of it. I’d like to see what he could have done in his prime for an extended stretch on a Belichick/Patricia defense.

Andy Hart

With the playoffs coming up, of course our focus is the next opponent.  But, the bye week is also a chance to look ahead to next year's team and needs in the draft. I keep hearing that we need to strengthen the front seven and that we have no pass rush. At the same time, the only defensive statistic that really means anything is points allowed. It seems to me that, since week 6, our "points allowed" statistic has been among the best in the league. So, looking ahead to next year....we will have Edelman, Mitchell, Cannon, Garcia, and possibly Martellus returning on offense. We will have Hightower, Rivers, Valentine, and possibly McClellin returning on defense. That would be a fantastic draft right there. So, here is my question. With a first- and two second-round picks is this a year to pick the best player available regardless of perceived need? Is this a year to position ourselves in the draft to invest in a young running back (Jones, Guice, or whoever drops to where we can get them) or the heir apparent at QB (Rudolph or maybe go for broke and move up for a Darnold or Rosen or Allen)?

Bob Root

On some level I think the Patriots often take the best player, maybe from a list of multiple needs. This year will be no different. I think you could argue the team could use an injection of youth this spring at running back, tackle, quarterback, tight end, linebacker and even in the secondary. Not all those areas are true “holes,” but adding an impact player for the future would be very helpful. I love the idea of giving Brady a big-time young running back for his final few years.

Andy Hart

When BB retires does he own his "System" ie playbook or do the Pats own the system. I ask because it's been very successful and it seems to be a shame that it leaves when BB leaves.

Bill Heaney

The “system” is pretty tough to define in football. Pretty much all teams use portions of systems, schemes and ideas that have existed for years. How you piece it all together is the key. So, really neither the Patriots nor Belichick own the “system” that’s been successful in New England. It’s kind of like the old joke of the defense that Bill Parcells took with him from the Patriots to the Giants. He just photocopied the playbook and changed the team name at the top. It’s extreme, but that happens. And there’s not much anyone can do about it.

Andy Hart

When can we expect the 2018 schedule to come out? Planning a trip to see red sox in September and would love to catch a Patriot game if possible. Thanks.

Riki Meyer

The NFL announces its schedule, with exact times and dates, in late April, prior to the draft. Last year I believe it came on April 21. It will probably be around that time again this offseason. We do know that the 2018 NFL season will open on Sept. 6 with the defending champions hosting the Thursday night affair. Given that the Patriots are the odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl LII, maybe that night at Gillette Stadium fits into your schedule? There are worse things to bet on in this world!

Andy Hart

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