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Ask PFW: This time it's personal

As the Patriots and Jets prepare for Round 3 - or Round 104 if you consider that the all-time series between the teams is tied 51-51-1 - Ask PFW continues to answer all the pressing questions. Queries about Sunday's meeting with New York highlight this wide-ranging playoff edition of Ask PFW.

To what extent --in the regular season-- has the Pats offense been responsible for the defense's success? I ask because some pundits have said that the Brady and company's ability to put so many points on the board has forced opposing offenses into making mistakes when they try to score more than the Pats have or will. I mean the offense has been amazing -- so far, but I find it hard to believe first half turnovers (if not first 3 quarters) are more of a result of sound defense and or sloppy offense.
James Siegel

The Patriots outscored opponents 103 to 39 in the first quarter this season, and 255 to 130 in the first half. But those numbers were indeed swayed a bit by four blowouts in the final five games of the season, when New England collectively outscored the Jets, Bears, Bills and Dolphins 45-3 in the first quarter and 105-6 in the first half. Overall I think the New England defense has earned the bulk of its turnovers this season, some of which came as key plays late to win games. The games didn't get out of hand with regularity until late in the season, so I don't think the defense's turnover proficiency is as swayed as much as it was, say, back in 2007. This year's defense is both opportunistic and timely. For all its failings statistically, give it credit for what it does well.
Andy Hart

I do not understand Erik Scalavino who wrote that the Jets have "emptied their emotional tank" on the Colts. Unless we match or exceed their intensity the next game, they will beat us. Do you agree?
Stan C.

I work with Erik every day, and I rarely understand what he's talking about. So join the club. But I think he was simply referring to the effort it took to send Peyton Manning and Co. packing while the Patriots were sitting back and enjoying the bye. We've always said that having to play on Wild Card Weekend, especially on the road, takes its toll on a team. Ask the 2006 Patriots about it. But the Jets should be ready to play their bitter rivals this Sunday in Foxborough. I don't expect them to accomplish that goal, but I think they'll be ready to play and the Patriots obviously need to be prepared physically and emotionally to meet that challenge. I expect they will be. My assessment of the game is that the Jets are not prepared to beat the Patriots at this point. For New York to win, New England will have to actually lose the game.
Andy Hart

Raiders CB [Nnamdi] Asomugha is going to be a free agent at the end of this season. Do you see any reason why the Pats shouldn't go after him, so as to have both Asomugha and McCourty as the starters? And if they do go after him, what do you think their chances are of signing him?Pierre Steenblik

McCourty and Bodden are solid corners. However, cornerback is a position that rarely goes without injury. A team needs four corners that can play. A team needs three starting caliber corners. Asomugha is available, but I think he is priced out of the Pats market. However, with him being out there, there is going to be less interest in Champ Bailey. Bailey is a high character guy (important factor). Bailey is one of the best that has ever been. However, he is in the twilight of his career. Is he going to be in the price range for the Pats? If he is, then I think he would be an excellent mentor for McCourty.Mike S.

I don't see any way that the Patriots dole out $10-plus million a year to land a guy like Asomugha. He's considered one of the best in the game, but that's still a steep price to pay. That's especially true for a team that seems to have found its current/future No. 1 corner in Pro Bowl rookie Devin McCourty and also has a proven starter like Bodden for three more years under a reported four-year, $22 million contract that included $10 million guaranteed. Kyle Arrington has been OK as a first-year starter and depending on what the coaches see in the future for Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite, the core of the Patriots secondary would seem to be in place. Some supplementary pieces may need to be added to the mix, but neither Asomugha nor Bailey would seem to fill that bill. Even at his age – he'll be 33 by next season -- Bailey will likely get some pretty good money thrown his way by someone.
Andy Hart

I need some information please. I do not know where to look. I remember sometime in the 80s the Pats, due to a screw-up in the schedule, played the S.D. Chargers twice in the same season, something that just does not happen anymore. I need to know where I can get this information please .Thank you.Ronald Saudelli

Ronald I checked the Patriots media guide and the team did not play the Chargers twice during a season at any point during the 1980s. The last time the teams met twice during the regular season was in 1969, the final season of the AFL schedule. But I kept digging. Off the top of PFW sage Paul Perillo's head (and anyone who's seen him knows this isn't the only thing coming off the top of his head these days!) the Patriots did, though, play a couple AFC West team twice in a season in the early 1990s. They played Seattle twice in 1993 and Denver twice 1991. Hope this helps.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, good work as always. Boy, what a turn of events. Glad we won't face the Ravens next week and we can't face the Colts at all should we advance. However, even though I think the Jets is the more favorable matchup than Baltimore, I think this could be a tough game as well, since the Jets will be coming in here with loads of confidence now. How do you see our defense matching up against the Jets rushing attack, as I think that is the most important matchup. Clearly Sanchez is best when he can rely on the ground game and run the play action. So I guess the most important thing to stop is the rushing attack, so we force it all on Sanchez' shoulders and prevent the Jets from keeping the Brady bunch on the sideline. My concern here is obviously our injury depleted D-line. Anyway, thanks in advance, keep up the good work and GO PATS!!!
Philip Blomsterberg

I think you hit on one of the key aspects of Sunday evening's game. The Jets advanced in the first round thanks to LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene running the football in the second half against Indy. They drove to a pair of touchdowns, kept Peyton Manning off the field and helped Sanchez open up the second-half passing game. They'll likely try to impose a similar game plan against Brady and the Patriots. We know that Vince Wilfork will be up to the challenge. Gerard Warren should be game as well. But what about the rest of the front? Kyle Love has seen increased playing time of late, including work at both nose and end. He may see plenty of action as one of the more stout options for the banged up line at this point. It will also help to have Brandon Spikes back in the mix. But it's still a big challenge. And if the Jets can get things going on the ground, it will go a long ways toward their chances of victory. Of course if Brady's putting up big points and can help out in dissuading New York from running the ball it may not matter too much. I also have my doubts about Tomlinson getting the job done in the cold weather (it should be in the 20s during the game) in Foxborough . He's failed in that task in the past as a Charger. It's one thing to look young and explosive against the undersized Colts in a climate-controlled dome. It's another beast to run at Wilfork and friends on a cold night in New England. I don't think he has it in him.
Andy Hart

Hernandez was last seen catching a 10-yard TD with 7:00 left in game vs. Green Bay. He looked fine at that point, when and how did he get injured? Isn't this significant, especially if we have to face a defense like Baltimore?
Mark Smith

The trainers spent time looking at Hernandez immediately on the sidelines after that touchdown, so one can deduct he was feeling something at that point. He then practiced a couple weeks ago, before missing the final practice of the week before the Bills game. So it's possible he tweaked the hip some more in practice. He was limping noticeably for a while, but seemed to be getting around much better in the locker room last week. We'll see how much practice time he sees this week, but missing him for the Jets game would be a blow to New England's diverse passing attack. Rob Gronkowski has stepped up in Hernandez' absence late in the year, but it would clearly be better for Brady to have all his options ready to play.
Andy Hart

Fred: ? Do you think that Brandon Meriweather and Tully Banta-Cain will be back as Patriots players for 2011 season? Do you see a trade ala Lawyer Milloy in both cases, in the offseason?
Memo Alfaro

Memo to Mr. Alfaro, our boss Fred Kirsch does not take part in the little Ask PFW rotation. But I'll do my best to answer your query. First, Milloy was cut during the first week of the season in a contract dispute. He was not traded and Belichick admitted at the time it was a money issue and not simply that he wanted to get rid of a still-productive player. Now let me get to your larger question as to whether Meriweather and Banta-Cain part of the future in New England. I think that Banta-Cain will be around moving forward. He hasn't had a great year, following up his 10 sacks in 2009 with just five this fall. But he's still a valuable rotational guy on this defense. Outside linebacker is still a need position and I find it hard to believe that the position will be so stocked heading into 2011 that Banta-Cain would become expendable. Banta-Cain's salary does jump from $800,000 this year to $2.3 million next season. But you've already paid the reported $6 million signing bonus on the deal from last offseason, so he's worth keeping around, in my eyes, for at least one more year. Meriweather, on the other hand, may be a different story. He started 13 games this fall and saw a lot of playing time in his second-straight Pro Bowl season. But the fourth-year player benefited greatly from being the only safety to stay healthy all season. That bumped up his snap total greatly. There were times when Patrick Chung, James Sanders and Jarrad Page were all healthy that Meriweather seemed to be third or fourth on the depth chart. He still seems to be a raw and at times flawed player in his fourth season. He'll only make $650,000 next year in the final season of his rookie deal. So he's still affordable, even if he doesn't play up to his draft status or Pro Bowl resume. Do I think he'll be back? Probably. Will I be surprised if he's sent packing or even traded at some point? Not at all.
Andy Hart

It seems that injuries to our d-line (Ty Warren, Mike Wright) and trades (Seymour) have really decimated what used to be our best defensive unit. Wilfork is obviously one of the best, but I worry about who we have past him. I think we need to use our 17th pick and get a stud 3-4 DE. How do you guys feel about our future at that position?Rick Goodwin

I don't see the huge need at defensive end that you do. With Warren returning next year and Wilfork among the best in the game, you're looking to fill out one other starting slot. I think Gerard Warren has had a solid season and could be that guy. Wright, when healthy, is a good rotational guy and fill-in player. Kyle Love has looked solid down the stretch, and Myron Pryor has been competitive at times as a sub guy. Overall I think there is decent depth at the spot assuming that Warren comes back to strengthen the starting lineup. I'd rather see the top pick(s) go to outside linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line and running back before getting to the need of defensive line.
Andy Hart

I'd like to preface this question by stating I think it would be a tremendous idea if the Super Bowl was expanded to a best of three series !!!!!!!!!!!!!! The initial reason being each team's fan base, after supporting their team all year (and possibly for many, many years) would get to host a game at their HOME FIELD, and if after two games neither team has "wrapped it up" then a third game would be played at a neutral site.....see what you can do to make this happen .....thanks!
Andy Dallamora

It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it will ever happen. The Super Bowl is the biggest game in all of sports because…it's the biggest game in all of sports. It's not a series. It's one game to prove it all. Upsets happen. That's a big part of its popularity. Now if you spread it out over a seires it ruins that. Plus, in football a series of three games would be spread over three weeks. That's too much time. It waters down the excitement. And in the case of a two-game sweep, the world would lose the big even at a neutral site. Sorry, but I don't think your idea is a very good one. Don't worry, I've had my bad ideas, too. It's like the time I came up with the idea of a military airplane that flew in circles just ahead of the radar, getting closer to the radar tower with each pass before blowing it up, knocking out the radar and opening up the skies for the rest of the attack. I was told that was a really bad idea. But it doesn't keep me from stopping.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, great job every week. Hypothetically, if Bill Belichick were to seriously need a defensive coordinator, who do you think he would want to hire that is not in the organization.Edgar Ortiz

I don't think Belichick would look to go outside his family tree. So aside from former assistants like Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel, Jim Schwartz and others, I don't see too many guys he'd like. Most of his hiring practices revolve around promoting from within or hiring guys he's worked with before. The only guy I can really think of would be new Florida head coach Will Muschamp, but even he's part of the Belichick tree having worked with Saban in the past.
Andy Hart

Dear Ask PFW, I have a question regarding the NFL's new overtime rules which will go into effect for this postseason. If the receiving team scores a TD, then the game is over. If a team scores a defensive TD, then the game is over as both teams will have had a possession. If the receiving team kicks a FG, then the other team gets a possession in which a TD would win the game and a FG would send it to sudden death. My question is regarding that last scenario. If the game goes to sudden death, who gets the ball first? Is it decided by the same coin flip which was deemed so arbitrary and unfair as to prompt this rule change in the first place?Mark Damiano
Washington, DC

If the game goes into sudden death, meaning both teams kicked field goals to open overtime, then the possessions continue to alternate. So, yes, essentially the first possession of sudden death is decided by the coin toss. But sooner or later coin tosses have an effect on the game. I don't have a problem with it. We've been starting games with coin tosses for years. It's led to the greatest sport in the world. I don't have the fear of the coin toss that everyone else seems to have. Football is about offense, defense and special teams. If you can't compete in any of those three areas, then you probably don't deserve to win anyway.
Andy Hart

How can a player like Laurence Maroney play poorly for 4-5 years and hang around in New England while Darius Butler plays 1 bad year and generates talks among fans about trading him? I don't get it. And also, Paul described Richard Seymour as the 'traditional' 3-4 DE/DT which New England severely needs since he's been traded. Why isn't Ty Warren considered a 'prototypical' 3-4 lineman?Gage Brown

I don't understand the negative comments that were thrown Butler's way so quickly either. I thought he had a solid rookie season and then struggled to open this year. He's around receivers but doesn't seem to make enough plays. But he's still young and physically talented. I'm pulling for him to develop and become the player many of us thought he might turn into after his rookie year. I never thought he'd be elite, but I hope he becomes a solid, starting cornerback. Not sure exactly what Paul meant in his comment about Seymour. But I'll tell you my opinions on Seymour and Warren. Seymour is a better all around 3-4 defensive end because he has a little more speed and athleticism that allow him to be a bigger factor in the pass rush. Warren is a solid, dependable player against the run but has less big play ability, mostly in the passing game. But in terms of being able to play the 3-4 end spot, two-gap and hold the point of attack I do think that Warren is very much built for the spot. He's just not quite the player and physical talent that Seymour is.
Andy Hart

Do you know of any team whose defense was ranked 25th in the league that won the SB? That is why I worry about the Patriots every game they play. And I yearn for days when we have a dominant defense - perhaps next year.Seth G.

Without doing much research, or actually any at all, I can tell you that the 2001 Patriots ranked 24th in the NFL in defense during the regular season. That team went on to win the Super Bowl by stopping the Greatest Show on Turf. It can happen. And that team had a far less impressive offense than what Tom Brady and Co. put together in 2010. Does that make you feel better?
Andy Hart

Hey Andy. What do you think our personnel will look like at Running Back next season? It sounds like Fred Taylor is done after this year, Sammy Morris has barely seen the ball on offense and Kevin Faulk may or may not return from injury (and if he does, is there a place for him AND Woodhead in the system? They seem to do a similar job). We could well lose three veterans this offseason and I very much doubt we'd go into a season with just Law Firm and Woodhead on the roster. So do you think we're likely to get a new body through the draft or free agency - and are there any names you'd like to throw into the mix?
Paul Dymond

Nice, a Dymond in the rough of emails. (I know, weak.) I do think the backfield will look different next summer and fall. Green-Ellis and Woodhead are locks to be back. If Faulk wants to play, which he says he does, then I think he'll be in the mix, too. I think he and Woodhead could potentially co-exist for a season. The Patriots have carried five backs rather often of late. They could do the same with those two change-of-pacers in the mix. Beyond that I expect the team to look at running backs relatively early in the draft and in the veteran free agent market. As far as veterans go, keep an eye on injured Saints back Pierre Thomas. New England reportedly tried to trade for him this fall and could look to sign him now that he's heading into free agency.
Andy Hart

I am reading reports that [Josh] McDaniels is drawing interest from many teams as OC - but New England is not a team that is mentioned. Given that McDaniels appeared to leave on good terms, he is looking for a OC not HC position, his track record with the Pats and the current vacant OC position, I am surprised of the apparent lack of interest. Is there any chance of McDaniels returning? Or has he moved on for good?
David Ross

I don't really see McDaniels returning to New England, even though he did seem to leave on very good terms. Since he's been gone the Patriots moved on, with Bill O'Brien taking over the playcalling duties on offense. Wherever McDaniels goes, he's going to be looking to call the plays. That's his strength as a young offensive mind. So there is not a need for his services in New England at this point with an offense that's as productive as any in the game. Maybe down the road at some point there will be a need and McDaniels will be an option, but I just don't see it happening at this time.
Andy Hart

I was hoping in all your wisdom you could settle something for me. As I have argued, I have stated that Gillette stadium has got to be in the top five toughest stadiums for opponents to win in. Can you list the top five best home records for current stadiums?
Kyle Witkoski

Thanks to the Patriots trusty PR department I have some info for you. Not sure it's exactly what you were looking for, but it will have to suffice because it's all I'm offering at this point. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 New England is best in the league at home with a 67-13 mark. The rest of the top five in home records over that time includes the Colts (63-18), Ravens (53-21), Steelers (55-22-1) and Chargers (52-25). Of course the list seems to be more simply a indications of who the best teams in the NFL have been over that span, not necessarily the best teams at home. I find the No. 6 team on the list to be most interesting. That's the Seahawks with a 52-26 mark. Seattle is known for having a great home crowd, The 12th Man. Clearly that seems to be true as their home mark is better than their overall success. The Patriots have been the best team in football over the last decade, so it's not all that surprising that they've been the best team at home as well.
Andy Hart

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