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Ask PFW: Playoff Express

Considering that Bill Belichick is the Coach of the Year does that mean he will coach AFC team in Pro Bowl?
Oleg Pokotilov
Mansfield, Mass.

No, and all Patriots fans should hope that he doesn't. The losing coaching staffs from the conference championship games go on to coach their respective conferences in the Pro Bowl, not the coach of the year. So if Belichick and his staff are coaching in Hawaii, it means the Patriots lost in the AFC title game.
Paul Perillo

What happens in the playoffs if both teams are still tied after one overtime? Do they continue into another and another until a winner is determined?
Josh Jacobs
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Exactly. There are no ties in the postseason so the teams play until a winner is determined. The last multiple overtime game was played in 1986 when the Cleveland Browns beat the New York Jets 23-20 in double overtime in a divisional playoff.
Paul Perillo

I just began following the NFL but can't figure out how the schedule for the regular season is worked out. I know you play the teams in your own division but I can't understand how they play teams from different conferences.
Gavin Wylie
Belfast, Northern Ireland

The rotating NFL schedule seems a little hard to understand but it's really quite simple. Everyone plays the other three teams in its division twice every year (six games). They also play one entire division from their own conference (four games) and from the opposite conference (four games) on a rotating basis. The remaining two games are determined based on a team's finish the previous year. As the AFC East champs in 2003, the Patriots will play the champs from the two remaining AFC divisions.
Paul Perillo

With all the vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL, what do you think the chances of both our coordinators leaving? Also, I think the Steve Spurrier resignation is a crock and Snyder fired him. What do you think?
James Jarvis
Abilene, Texas

I think there's a reasonable chance that both Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel get head coaching offers this offseason, and I think there's an excellent chance that at least one of them will. Both have done a great job with the Patriots this year and the team's success will likely cause those with openings to look toward Foxborough for answers. As for Spurrier's situation in Washington, I disagree. From what I've read and heard Spurrier and Snyder got along well and Spurrier left because he could not work with Vinny Cerato, the player personnel director.
Paul Perillo

Isn't this the year that we have Buffalo's first-round pick in the draft in addition to our own?
Keith Nelson
Lexington, Va.

I think you're confusing Buffalo and Baltimore. The Patriots got the Bills No. 1 pick in 2002 in exchange for Drew Bledsoe. They used the pick to get Ty Warren. They then traded their own first-round pick (19th overall) to Baltimore for the Ravens first rounder in 2003, which will be somewhere between 20-25. So the Patriots will have two first-round picks again this April.
Paul Perillo

What was the score after the first quarter of play at Super Bowl XXXVI ?
Lisa
Chicago, Ill.

St. Louis held a 3-0 lead on a Jeff Wilkins field goal after the first quarter of Super Bowl XXXVI.
Paul Perillo

Now that the Pats just got there third shutout this season, I'm wondering what is the record for the number of shutouts in a season for the NFL and for the Patriots.
John W.
Pawtucket, R.I.

The three shutouts are the most for the Patriots in team history, but that total falls well short of the all-time NFL mark. Pottsville (1926) and the New York Giants (1927) each had 10 shutouts to their credit in a single season.
Paul Perillo

Steve McNair is constantly being mentioned as an MVP candidate because of his ability to overcome his numerous injuries. Should he be awarded because he is so fragile? I believe that a player that doesn't often get injured, such as Tom Brady, is more valuable.
John Bogdal
Memphis, Tenn.

Since being injured isn't something any player can control, how can anyone possibly credit or penalize a player for getting hurt? McNair didn't share the MVP with Peyton Manning because he overcomes injuries. He won it because he had a tremendous season. Brady deserves mentioning as well (and he finished third), but based on the regular season McNair and Manning were better.
Paul Perillo

It seems that Bethel Johnson handles the kickoff returns and Troy Brown is the punt returner. Is there something about their respective skill sets that makes this the logical division of labor?
Jonathan Frankel
West Newton, Mass.

Generally punt returners need a combination of good hands, good decision-making and experience in order to succeed. It's as much about brains as it is athletic ability. Kickoffs require speed first and foremost and pure athleticism can make up for a lack of experience. Those aren't set in stone guidelines, but generally you see those types of skill sets for each returner.
Paul Perillo

Could you tell me the scheduled time for the playoff game on Jan. 18?
Carolyn Collins
West Wareham, Mass.

The conference championships are scheduled for Jan. 18 with the AFC game first at 3 p.m. and the NFC to follow at 6:45 p.m.
Paul Perillo

What was the largest comeback in Pats history?
Nathan
Moosup, Conn.

The Patriots rallied from a 23-0 deficit to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 38-23, in Foxborough on Sept 16, 1984.
Paul Perillo

I have always been a bit confused on why Milloy was released. Is it because of money, or roster space, or something else? And was it, in the end, all for the better? Is it possible that Patriots got rid of him on purpose because they knew he wouldn't have a great season?
Will Perez
Richmond, Va.

Milloy was released for a combination of all of your reasons. First and foremost the Patriots didn't believe they could afford to pay him his high salary and remain under the cap. Their only option would have been to cut some other players in order to keep Milloy. So it was because of money and roster space. However, I don't believe the Patriots released him because they thought he wouldn't have a good season. In fact, he played very well for Buffalo. Perhaps he was not worth the money the Bills signed him for (or the money the Patriots would have had to pay him in order to keep him), but he rebounded from a quiet 2002 season in New England and played more like the Lawyer Milloy we all remember.
Paul Perillo

Can you send me the names of all Pats head coaches since team inception?
Ray Dauphinee
Bangor, Maine

Here you go:
Lou Saban (1960-61)
Mike Holovak (1961-68)
Clive Rush (1969-70)
John Mazur (1970-72)
Phil Bengston (1972)
Chuck Fairbanks (1973-78)
*Hank Bullough-Ron Erhardt (1978)
Ron Erhardt (1979-81)
Ron Meyer (1982-84)
Raymond Berry (1984-89)
Rod Rust (1990)
Dick MacPherson (1991-92)
Bill Parcells (1993-96)
Pete Carroll (1997-99)
Bill Belichick (2000-present)
* -- Bullough and Erhardt served as co-coaches for the 1978 finale at Miami while Fairbanks was suspended

Do you think it's unfair that the NFL is scheduling games at 8 p.m. and forcing season ticket holders to take 12- and 13-year-olds to games and won't get them home until 2:30 a.m.?
Mark Schlieper
Rye, N.H.

Honestly, no I don't. The NFL moved the starting times of the first two playoff rounds back to 8 three years ago in an effort to boost TV ratings. Whether that ploy worked or not is debatable in my opinion. TV execs can make the ratings say basically whatever they want, but it's my contention that NFL fans will watch the games almost any time they're on. I personally hate the switch and would much rather watch a game at 12:30 or 1 than have to stay up well past midnight and waste an entire Saturday night. This past weekend I watched the entire Baltimore-Tennessee game but didn't see more than five plays of the Carolina-Dallas game that followed because I had other things I needed to do at that time.
Paul Perillo

On the list that shows the opponents from 2002-2009 how come there are only 14 listed per season? Shouldn't there be 16? And how come on the 1987 season recaps there are only 15 games listed? Both the year before and the year after had 16 games listed.
Brian
Pelham, N.H.

There are only 14 games listed for the upcoming schedules because the final two games aren't determined until the previous season is completed. Those two games are dependent on a team's final positioning with first-place teams playing first-place teams from other divisions and second-, third- and fourth-place teams doing the same. Also, the Patriots only played 15 games in 1987 because of the NFL strike that cancelled one game and forced replacement players to take part in three others.
Paul Perillo

When is the last time both wild card teams were eliminated on Wild Card Weekend and when is the last time seeds 1 and 2 faced each other in a conference championship?
Chris Harring
Baltimore, Md.

This is just the second season of the current playoff format with four division winners and two wild cards in each conference but last year both AFC wild cards (Indianapolis and Cleveland) lost in the first round and the top two seeds (Oakland-Tennessee AFC, Philadelphia-Tampa Bay NFC) met in both conference championship games. So your scenario is not all that rare.
Paul Perillo

Why is there a penalty when a kicker kicks the ball out of bounds on a kickoff but not on a punt? Secondly, what is the difference between a red-shirt freshman, a true freshman, a fifth-year senior and all the other titles the NCAA gives college players?
Mark
Wakefield, R.I.

I don't really have an explanation for your first question other than to say that it's simply a rule. The NFL rulebook doesn't justify the rules, it just lists them. Punting the ball out of bounds is legal while a kickoff going out of bounds is a penalty that places the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kickoff. As for the college terms, a red-shirt freshman means a player is in his first year of eligibility but his second year of college. Usually a freshman comes in and works out with the team but doesn't play in the games during his first season in order to get acclimated with the school and the program. He also could sit out a year due to injury. A true freshman plays in his first season of college rather than sitting out a year. A fifth-year senior is just what it says – a player in his fifth year at a school playing in his fourth year of eligibility is considered a fifth-year season. Such a player had to sit out a season at some point in order to be granted a fifth year of eligibility.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering what draft picks we are still getting, if any, from the Parcells deal a few years ago. If so, could you tell me any/all picks we get this year, besides the ones based on where we finish.
Adam
Tallahasse, Fla.

The Patriots have long since exhausted all the picks they received as compensation for losing Bill Parcells from the Jets. The last of the picks was used in 1999 when the Patriots selected Andy Katzenmoyer with the 28th pick of the first round.
Paul Perillo

This is the fourth time I'm asking this but here goes: Since the Pats have a poor running game, do you think they'll use a top draft pick on a good, solid every-down back (someone like Chris Perry for instance?) or will they go and look for a trade or a free agent?
Alex Ouezada
Panama City, Panama

We may not have answered your specific question Alex, but whether or not the Patriots will draft a running back is one of the most frequently answered questions we get. Forecasting the draft is hard enough in March when we're all analyzing the players and trying to figure out who makes sense for the Patriots to take. Doing that now is almost impossible. I do think they will take a running back with one of their two first-round picks, and Michigan's Perry would seem like a good fit if they could get him. There are also some potential free agents who might be available depending on what their current teams do before the signing period begins. My guess is Belichick will have a new running back one way or another next season.
Paul Perillo

I know Hawaii hosts the Pro Bowl. How many years have they hosted it? Before Hawaii, what other cities hosted it?
Nathan
Moosup, Conn.

Hawaii has hosted the game since 1980, but the game was played in several other sites before that. The L.A. Coliseum was the most frequent with 23 NFL all-star games between 1939-1979. Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, the Polo Grounds in New York, Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Superdome in New Orleans, the Kingdome in Seattle and Tampa Stadium also played host to the game at least once through the years. The AFL also held an all-star game through its existence from 1960-69 with games held in Houston, San Diego, Oakland and Jacksonville.
Paul Perillo

When is Antowain Smith expected to return? Any chance we'll see him in the playoffs?
Josh
Wareham, Mass.

I'm not sure where you're expecting him to return from. He's been with the team all season and finished strong with solid efforts the last two weeks. He wound up as the team's leading rusher, albeit with only 642 yards. Smith will be there on Saturday and hopefully for weeks to come.
Paul Perillo

What happened to J.J. Stokes, he's not listed on the Dec.17 roster? Additionally, how long will David Patten be out?
Mark Piccone
Chula Vista, Calif.

Stokes was released on Dec. 9 after Troy Brown recovered from his leg injury. Patten was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 7 after undergoing knee surgery and will be out for the season.
Paul Perillo

If Charlie Weis gets a head coaching job do you think he'll take any of the assistant coaches, a la Parcells and Belichick? Also if that happens do you think the Pats will bring in Spurrier to run the offense?
Gawden Bewfud
Yawmuth, Nova Scotia

Since Belichick will remain with the Patriots, it's unlikely Weis or Crennel would be able to take any of the current staff with them to their new teams. When Parcells and Belichick left their teams, there were head coaching changes, which allowed the assistants the freedom to move with the coach to another team. For example, Parcells left the Patriots and went to the Jets, meaning all the assistants could join him in New York because they no longer had jobs in New England. And while I don't know this for certain, I can't see Belichick hiring Steve Spurrier to run his offense if Weis were to leave. That combination just doesn't make much sense to me.
Paul Perillo

A totally random question: Suppose a team was going to kick a 50-plus-yard field goal or any field goal in which the ball might barely make it in. Would it be legal for the defense to have a guy all the way back at the goal post and try to block the field goal as it approaches trying to bat it away as it comes in or would that be considered "goaltending" as is in basketball?
Luis
Macon, Ga.

According the NFL rulebook, it is not legal and is listed under unsportsmanlike conduct: goaltending. The referee could award three points for such an act.
Paul Perillo

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