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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Apr 11 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 16 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Rolling into the bye

The Patriots have plenty of momentum as they hit the bye week and New England fans have plenty of questions looking ahead to the second half of the season in this week's Ask PFW.


It's great to see Gronk again playing like he's the best tight end in football. I'm sure I'm not the only fan to have held his breath when T.J. Ward took a shot at Gronk's knee in the first quarter vs. the Broncos. What's your take on that play? Dirty, or legit tackling technique?
Mike Margolis

Hello all. What a great game that was. When Ward went after Gronks knee again, why would Gronk not just take the 15-yard penalty and slam Ward to the ground. Also will the NFL look in to that as a target or is this allowed. Thanks.
Robert Landis

Ward's latest hit on Gronkowski's knee certainly generated a lot of attention this week. It was definitely a hold-your-breath moment. Gronk bounced back up and was fine. He went on to have a great game against the Broncos. Fans have been questioning hits on Gronkowski's knee all year. They may look bad, but I haven't had a problem with a hit yet. I think it's a simple case of physics. Smaller defensive backs have to go low if they are going to get Gronk to the ground. He's too big and strong to be tackle high or with arm tackles. I've seen former players like Tedy Bruschi and Matt Bowen weigh in on this and they see it as a simple part of the game as well. I even asked Gronkowski about it and he seems to understand that it's the way that smaller players are going to approach taking him down. It is what it is. I understand why fans hold their breath and get defensive, but I don't think it's anything more than defenders doing their best to avoid getting embarrassed by the best tight end in the NFL.
Andy Hart


The Patriots have been able to put up big points the past few weeks and Brady is clicking with his receivers. Gronk looks as good as ever and is creating problems for opposing defenses. All seems good in New England but I have some serious concerns with the running game. The offense is producing, but I fear it will falter without some kind of run attack. To keep defenses "honest" and to open up play-action, we can't give up on the run. I like Gray but he doesn't seem consistent. I am not a big fan of Bolden but why is he not in the equation? What can the Patriots do?*
*Derek Morin

While the offense has been cruising through the air, the ground game has been a major afterthought at times this season. That's probably not surprising given that Stevan Ridley landed on IR with a torn ACL. I do agree, though, that there will be times in the coming weeks and months that the Patriots will want/need to run the ball more/better. Gray has intrigued me in his first three games. He's had a couple nice runs and certainly has the size and power to be a lead-back type. He also is going to need to get some carries and experience before he's considered a reliable option. At this point Bolden seems to be considered a special teams player and backup running back. If more injuries hit the backfield, maybe he'll get more chances. But I also don't think he's really an early-down, lead-back type. He's more of a versatile, change-of-pace backup. With no veteran option to turn to and having not addressed the position at the trading deadline, it looks as if Gray will get the chance to tote the rock when those late-season carries are called for. He has a 4.1-yard average in limited action, notching 32 carries for 131 yards. We'll see if he, the offensive line and fullback James Develin can build on that moving forward and down the stretch.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, great game on Sunday. I wasn't expecting a blowout. Now that the Pats are in the driver's seat for home field in the playoffs, how many games do you think they need to win to keep it? Thanks!
Monty B.

Clearly, the Patriots need to keep winning. Running the table would obviously be ideal. Losing more than one might make things pretty dicey. Denver's remaining schedule includes trips to St. Louis, Kansas City, San Diego and Cincinnati. While the Chiefs look pretty good, the latter two have faded a bit. The Broncos have a good chance to win all those games, so expecting them to lose more than one game the rest of the way is probably optimistic. Ideally, the Patriots won't lose more than one game in the final seven, and that will be against an NFC foe like Green Bay or Detroit. That way New England would maintain its tiebreaker advantages in the AFC. I really can't see either the Broncos or Patriots losing more than two games each over the next two months, assuming that catastrophic injuries are not at play.
Andy Hart

On to the Colts. Do you think that Luck is more dangerous inside his home field than Manning in windy Foxborough?
Stan C.

While I think Luck has looked really impressive this season and his weapons have grown, I still would give the dangerousness nod to Manning and his arsenal of diverse playmakers. Though I wasn't overly impressed with their performances Sunday evening, the Thomases (Demaryius and Julius) are feared athletic playmakers. Emmanuel Sanders has come into his own. And Manning has had a great year. I thought Manning looked jittery and off his game Sunday, I think that had as much to do with the Patriots defenses as it did the wind. Luck is good, even if he is prone to a few too many turnovers. His weapons are good. But I don't think they're as scary as the Broncos, especially considering that heading into last weekend I certainly would have said the Broncos had a better defense than the Colts. Two weeks to prepare for this matchup. It should be another fun one.
Andy Hart


A lot of people think the Pats win over the Broncos gives them the 'upper hand' for home field advantage in the playoffs--I think it's a bit early--there are a half dozen games left for the teams involved. My question is what is the cumulative records of the Pats and Broncos opponents for the rest of the season, and, in your opinion, how much weight do you put on those records? In other words, while they have a slim margin right now, what are the latest forecasts for each team's remainder of the season.*
*James Siegel

Hi guys, long time reader from the UK. My question is do you think the playoff significance of the win over the Broncos has been overplayed? Sure we hold the advantage right now but it still seems to me far more likely that the Broncos finish the regular season with a better overall record given how much tougher our schedule is. I can see the Broncos winning out from here but it's highly unlikely the Pats will do the same. I may be being pessimistic but the road to the Super Bowl will still go through Denver.
Anthony Lloyd

Two wet blankets trying to rain on the Patriots No. 1 seed parade?! Just kidding. It is clearly too early to think about seeding. The Patriots have the advantage right now, thanks to Sunday's big win, but a lot can change. Nowhere has that been more clear than New England. Five weeks ago the Patriots were dead and buried according to many. Now, they're the best in the game. What's in store for the next five weeks? The Seahawks, Broncos, Chargers, Bengals and Cowboys have all been considered the top teams in football this season and all have fallen from that pedestal. The Patriots have a tough road ahead to remain in that lead spot. The Broncos remaining eight opponents have a combined 28 wins and a .431 winning percentage, numbers swung a bit by having two games left against the winless Raiders. New England's remaining seven opponents have a combined 33 wins and a .559 winning percentage. Denver has five games left against teams with five or more wins. The Patriots have six games left against teams with five or more wins. On paper Bill Belichick's team clearly has the tougher remaining schedule, but the stretch run looks far less daunting than it did a little more than a month ago.
Andy Hart


Hi guys, a Pats fan here in Bronco Country. I have to eat crow as my prediction of Peyton cutting up the Pats D was dead wrong......Thank You D! Anyway, am I the only one concerned with Brandon Browner's continued rash of penalties? Do you think there is anything the coaches can do to try to correct his style of play? I know we brought him here to be physical, but with the new NFL emphasis on defensive holding, he needs to be a professional and change his style a bit. Very quiet this Monday in Broncos Land! Thanks for the great job.*
*Larry Breault

Browner is clearly physical. And he has no plans to change his style of play, a mentality he has voiced often dating back to training camp. He feels like the Patriots knew what he brought to the field when they signed him and plans to live up to that scouting report. He has been penalized often in his first three games of action, but I actually think that will become less of a problem down the stretch and into the postseason. I thought that for the most part the officials "let 'em play" Sunday against the Broncos. I expect, based on history, that's the type of officiating you'll see in the postseason, maybe even looser. That will play into the hands of Browner and the Patriots physical secondary. That needs to be the case, because this old dog isn't planning on learning new tricks. For better or worse Browner is going to be a physical presence on the outside. Sometimes that will lead to big plays. Sometimes that will lead to penalties. You take the good with the bad.
Andy Hart

What is the injury status of Chandler Jones? Is he coming back and when?
William Dwyer

Jones has missed the last two weeks with the hip injury suffered against the Jets. He hasn't practiced. But his expected return, based on various reports, is up in the air. Initial reports said he could miss as few as four weeks. Later reports posed the possibility of Jones missing the remainder of the regular season. Right now we all just have to wait and see. The first hurdle will be his return to the practice field. When that happens we can begin talking about a return to game action.
Andy Hart

After reading the inactive list for [Sunday]'s game, is it about time we give up hope on Dobson? Midway through last year I thought that the Pats had potentially three long term WRs (Dobson, Thompkins and Boyce), but how things have changed over the past year. Do you think that there is still a chance that Dobson is able to become a legitimate contributor, or is his time in New England coming to an end?
Zach Strong

I have not given up on Dobson yet, even if things don't look great for him right now. Clearly it's disappointing that he's not an active part of the roster or in the mix as a receiver. That's especially true considering that Brian Tyms has found a role for himself as a deep threat. But we need to keep in mind that Dobson missed the entire offseason to a foot injury. That clearly stunted his development in the system and allowed others to pass him up. The "year 2 jump" went out the window. But I still saw some things I liked from him last year in terms of fighting for the ball and making some plays. This year may end up being a red shirt season, but with a full spring and summer next year I won't completely rule out a "year 3 jump." And given the production and contract he has, Danny Amendola is no lock to be on the Patriots roster in 2015. That might open up a slot for Dobson to slide into, depending on what else happens at the position moving forward.
Andy Hart

In an alternate universe, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are on the same team during training camp, who would get the start?
Gare Reid

Brady. Easy. He's got great mechanics and throws a better ball. He's a more stable, believable leader. He also has a look that would help a team in terms of marketing. If it came down to a legit training camp battle, Brady would win. Manning would be a backup. Wonder how he'd take that?
Andy Hart

Hey Andy, you haven't used the word titular in a while. What gives??
Andy Gibbs, York PA

Great question, my fellow Andy. You are clearly a loyal, observant fan of PFW. I must be losing my fastball like Pedro after the '99 All Star Game. I will do my best to work titular into a few upcoming stories and radio shows!
Andy Hart

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and the team not trading for a back what do you think the chances are they take a chance in the offseason with someone like Marshawn Lynch or Doug Martin? I have seen you say, and I agree with you completely, that they will probably be able to get Ridley back at a cheaper price due to his injury but will they look to possibly upgrade at the position? If they get Lynch it could be similar to the days of Corey Dillon.
Doug Somers

I do expect the Patriots to address the running back depth chart this offseason, whether they re-sign Ridley after his injury or not. They will probably look to add a veteran lead back-type. I don't, however, see them going after a guy like Lynch who's had issues with his contract, issues off the field and is of questionable character. I certainly wouldn't. Martin is a different story. He's the type of value addition that I could see. He's a former highly-productive player who is still young. He probably would come on the cheap and be looking to prove himself. Lynch has had the better career and is a higher-profile guy, but I don't think he's worth the money or the baggage at this point. I don't think either would be as good as Dillon was in his first, record-setting season in New England.
Andy Hart

Oh what a change a few weeks makes. The Patriots defense reminds me of their 2001 Super Bowl team. The toughness and hard nose attitude has been awesome to watch. I certainly hope this continues . Has there been any update on the contract status of McCourty and/or Revis? How about them Patriots!!!!!!!!
Jeff J.

The bend-but-don't-break style and playmaking we saw against the Broncos certainly did have a little 2001 feel to it. The physical style in the back end also turned back the clock to the glory days. Now we'll see if they can keep it going and match the success of those talented playmakers of the days of old. Not much has been reported of come up about potential extensions for McCourty or Revis. I'm not expecting anything on the Revis front during the season. I think he's shown he's more than comfortable riding things out and taking his chances. He probably would have no problem hitting free agency once again. McCourty is probably more likely to be looking to re-sign in New England. But it's a question of his value at this point. Not sure the McCourty side and the team see eye to eye on that. If he's looking to get top dollar, maybe something like what Eric Weddle got in San Diego or more, then the deal might not come as easily as I originally believed it might. I think the Patriots like McCourty a lot. I think he likes being a Patriot. Now the money has to be figured out. That's not always easy.
Andy Hart

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