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Patriots Mailbag: Headed to the playoffs, stopping Josh Allen, looking ahead and more

Fans are ready for the rubber match between the Patriots and Bills and stopping Josh Allen is the key.


It's playoff time and it seems a bit weird considering the performance after the bye week. My question is that I am curious to see which Pats defense will show up against Bills; the first matchup or second matchup's defense? What do you think? And how do we stop Josh Allen and his running. A "spy" or is it about containing him in the pocket? - Jacob Clausen

I think this will be the single biggest key to the game Jacob. Containing Josh Allen in the pocket is not easy to do, as the Patriots learned in the second game this season when he torched them for 314 yards and three touchdowns. I feel Bill Belichick will decide to send more pressure his way this time in an effort to get the ball out of his hands quicker and perhaps lead to some turnovers. But there's no question Allen has the ability to hurt defenses with his legs and he's been exceptionally good at that throughout his career. Obviously the weather conditions greatly aided the Patriots defense in the first matchup, so it wouldn't hurt to get some help in that department again. But Allen is terrific and slowing him down won't be easy. - Paul Perillo

Mac Jones started off the season really well for a rookie. The playbook has been opened up and it seems that his decisions have been good overall. I'm concerned that he doesn't have the ability to really drive the ball when it's needed. He throws a pass with touch and accuracy but when real arm strength is needed, it's not there. Weather can sometimes require that ability along with tight coverage. Also, he may be faster than Tom Brady but he definitely lacks evasive capabilities in the pocket. Do you think that he is the long-term answer? - Bob Eaves

My answer to this question is honestly I'm not really sure yet. I would basically agree with your entire summation of Jones' rookie season. He's been solid overall and has shown great promise. But there are some physical limitations that have crept up from time to time that concern me. Obviously he will improve with more experience, and physically he figures to get stronger with some NFL offseason conditioning work to enhance his frame. Whether that allows him to become more elusive or to better drive the ball into tight coverage remains to be seen. If you're asking me right this moment I'd say that Jones will be the quarterback long term but there are still plenty of things I'd like to see before I'd bet on that. - Paul Perillo

Why is it that the Pats consistently struggle against coaches that previously work for them? Belichick simply got out coached and the Pats were ill-prepared. Although, it has been a relatively successful season making the playoffs with a rookie QB and tons of new players, I am not confident in the Pats advancing next week against Buffalo. They have lost 3 of their last 4 games, which all the losses were against 500 or better teams. Thus, it is apparent that the Pats can't beat the good teams. - Mel Buford

I think coaches that spent time with Belichick have a better understanding of how he approaches games and prepare in ways that perhaps some others don't. I think that's one reason why some of them have enjoyed some success when opposing the Patriots. In terms of the current team, I agree losing three of the last four in the fashion that they did does not allow for a tremendous amount of enthusiasm heading into the playoffs. The Patriots went 2-3 against playoff teams and 3-7 against teams that finished above .500. But it's not like the Patriots can't play with the better teams. They defeated Buffalo and Tennessee and also lost in the closing seconds to Tampa Bay and Dallas. It's pretty clear that the Patriots need to protect the football and avoid falling behind in order to have some success. It won't be easy but the Patriots can play with anybody. - Paul Perillo


After the Pats lost to Buffalo, coaches, players and NFL talk shows said that Josh Allen extending plays was a big issue. I just find it difficult to hear Belichick say that when he is the one only sending two or three guys rushing. Especially on third-and-long. What are your thoughts? - Ron Scarlata

As I said earlier I expect to see Belichick to change things up a bit and send some pressure Allen's way. I know he was leery of having Allen escape the pocket, where he can be very dangerous, and make plays. But certainly that approach wasn't overly successful in Foxborough so the Patriots will likely try a different approach this time around. It will be important for Matthew Judon to maintain discipline in his pass rush and not allow Allen to get around him on the edge. That happened too many times in Week 16 and the Bills rolled. But I agree with you that Belichick won't just sit back and hope for mistakes this time. - Paul Perillo

Now that Brian Flores has been let go in Miami do you see Bill Belichick bringing him back since our D needs help and Brian seemed to be able to stifle us every time we played against him? - Stacy Hanson

With Coach Flores out of the Dolphins job, what do you think of a possible reunion with Bill in some way - just like Matt returned after the Detroit affair? I think with Flo the defense was more explosive and they played more aggressive and with more grit. What do you think? - Ross Rashkov

I'd love to have Flores back in the fold but my guess is there is a team in need of a head coach right now that also would love to have him. I'd don't anticipate Flores being unemployed too long, and judging from the league-wide reaction on Monday when he was fired he may not be by the end of the week. Flores' stock is very high right now so I don't see a return in the cards. In fact, he may be the best candidate available at the moment. - Paul Perillo

Do you think the further we go in the playoffs maybe there is a chance that the first-round pick will be traded for more value? - Darnell Harris

I think there's always a chance that Bill Belichick decides to trade his picks because he's done it so often over the years, in all rounds and while moving up and back. He loves to slide around the board in an effort to grab the players that he wants while also adding or subtracting picks along the way. I don't really see the Patriots results in the playoffs having a big impact on the potential to trade back in the first round. The more important factor to me will be which players Belichick is targeting and whether or not he feels those players will be available and if he thinks he can move around and still grab them. As an example, if Belichick likes a certain cornerback but feels he can move back 10 spots, add picks and still get him, then perhaps he'd roll the dice and make such a move. But that is entirely dependent on the players available at the time and the teams selecting in that area of the draft. So, there's a lot that goes into it beyond simply trading because the pick is in the high 20s instead of the low 20s depending on where the Patriots land. - Paul Perillo

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Brandon Bolden over the years. He's showed up when we really needed him and also been the bane of my existence when he goes for 2 yards on a third-and-long screen pass. All that aside I really admire how strong he was to not only come back from cancer and that battle, but to do it quietly, out of the media's eye and return to the league as if nothing happened. - Jacey Chavez

Bolden has been a true professional in the Patriots locker room for a long time. He's a respected leader who has always been willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, whether that's been on special teams or part of the offense. This season as his role has grown as a running back, he's insisted on maintaining his jobs in the kicking game. I would echo everything you said about Bolden, who has been terrific both on and off the field for the Patriots. For more on Bolden's story check out Erik Scalavino's profile currently on - Paul Perillo

If Calvin Ridley becomes available do you trade for him or stick with the draft? - Brandon Harris

The first thing that needs to be determined in any discussions about Calvin Ridley is whether or not he will be able to play. The Falcons star wideout stepped away from football in the middle of the season for personal reasons, and unless those issues are dealt with then I don't see the point in trading for a player who doesn't intend to play. Reports indicated Ridley is dealing with issues related to anxiety, which can be quite serious and prevented him from playing. If he decides he wants to return, but doesn't want to play for Atlanta, then that changes things. In that case I would definitely be in favor of acquiring Ridley, who is one of the best receivers in football and would immediately become the Patriots No. 1 option in the passing game. There is a lot to determine before that happens, though, most importantly Ridley's health. I absolutely love the player and would love to see him in a Patriots uniform. - Paul Perillo

I've been seeing reports of Calvin Ridley leaving the Falcons. It seems like a perfect fit for the Patriots and apparently the Falcons want to move on from him and they would save 10-plus million in cap. If Ridley gets signed by the Patriots how high would your expectations rise for next season? - Ben Belford-Peltzman

Now, this is the second part of the Ridley equation. Ridley is under contract because the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option, so the wideout is due around $11 million in 2022. That's a more than reasonable number for a player of his caliber, but it would also cost something to acquire him via trade. It's highly unlikely that Atlanta would release him because that wouldn't save anything on the cap as his salary is guaranteed. His uncertain status might allow a team to acquire him for less than what would normally be expected for a player of his considerable talents. If that is the case, I'd expect the Patriots to be like all the other teams and express interest in a young player (27) who could make a significant impact on the team next season. What that would mean for the Patriots offense is tough to say but certainly having a playmaker like Ridley should make the offense more dangerous. Lots of layers to peel through here, though, considering the delicate nature of mental health issues and the impact they've had on Ridley's career. - Paul Perillo

I don't see New England re-signing many of their veterans after a fairly successful reload season that still has potential to be even better. J.C. Jackson will want top 10 cornerback money so he might not be back without a franchise tag. My sense is that they will sign some moderately successful two-four-year veterans at linebacker and some other defensive positions, maybe making an offer to a restricted free agent or two. The cornerback position looks loaded in the draft and I hope they can get one to be one of their starters, likely in the first round. My sense is getting another WR in the second round, an OT and an edge in the third and some LB and DL projects in the middle of the draft would be an optimal outcome. The last rounds I just hope they get people who can compete and contribute on special teams along with a surprise UDFA. Of course the best outcome would be for them to draft in 32nd or 31st position. Overall, very happy with this season, the overall performance of the free agent haul and the reloading of the team. After getting older last offseason I hope they get somewhat younger in 2022. - John Gawienowski

I agree about Jackson. I don't think a long-term extension will happen and if he is to return in 2022 it will likely be under the franchise tag. I'm not even sure that will happen, but the Patriots will need to figure out how to replace him because losing Stephon Gilmore and Jackson in consecutive years will not be easy to deal with. I think corner is at or near the top of the draft needs list along with tackle. But it's hard to pencil in rookies as starters at such important positions, so there will need to be more work done at those spots in addition to the draft. There are a handful of young players on the roster who haven't had a chance to play much like Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins and Cameron McGrone. Those players will need to step in to replace veterans who may not return such as Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley, all of whom are free agents. I agree with your hope of getting some younger talent in place to augment what the team has already done to return to competitiveness this season. - Paul Perillo


Great to see the 2021 Patriots in the playoffs. Do you think they've set the standard again for years to come such as: a playoff constant team or do you think everything depends on what we do in the offseason with our defense? - Andres Landin

I always expect the Patriots to be contenders for playoff spots. In fact, aside from Jacksonville, Houston and the Jets all the teams in the AFC are playoff contenders. Whether or not the Patriots can advance to Super Bowl contenders will depend on the development of Mac Jones. If he takes steps forward and turns into a top-level quarterback the Patriot will be true contenders in the AFC. The pieces are in place but there is still work to be done, and you are correct to point toward defense where some turnover can be expected next season. - Paul Perillo

Do you think that Mac will win Rookie of the Year? He's clearly a front runner, and if you look at how each rookie player affects their team and the role they play in helping secure a win you have to pick Mac Jones. - Daniel Bourque

I think the fact that Jones is a quarterback will greatly help his chances. A lot of times voters look at the quarterbacks and that's how they determine these awards. But in terms of performance and the things you cite – impact and role on their team – I'm not sure how anyone can make a case ahead of Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase. Chase completely transformed the Bengals offense and by midseason was commanding double teams and affecting how opposing defensive coordinators tried to attack the Bengals. Chase's production has been up there among the best wide receivers in football, not just among rookies. Again, Mac Jones has been solid and I still think he might win the award because he's a quarterback and frankly it's harder to play quarterback than wide receiver. But in terms of performance Chase has been the best offensive rookie. - Paul Perillo

If you look back at the preseason the Pats let Mac run a hurry-up offense mostly at the start of the second half opening possession and if you look at the stats the Pats moved right down the field and Mac looked confident and composed yet they never use the hurry-up offense in the regular season? I really believe Mac could run it with great success as a total change up, catch the defense napping and Mac really seems to know exactly how to run the hurry-up but they just seemed to give up on it. - Andy Dumas

I would agree that Jones has done a nice job in two-minute drills when given the chance but hasn't had many chances to run the hurry-up as a regular part of the offense during earlier drives. I would completely disregard anything from the preseason as it has no bearing on anything the team faces in the regular season and especially in the playoffs. As a change of pace I wouldn't mind seeing the offense use some tempo in the postseason but I feel Josh McDaniels' goal more often than not has been to remain balanced, run the ball, take time off the clock and keep Jones is non-obvious passing situations. So for that reason I'd be surprised to see a lot of hurry-up at this point, and that really has as much to do with the entire offense as a whole – it's not really how the unit is built – rather than Jones. - Paul Perillo

Understandably, a lot has been made about the evenness of this year's season between most teams. With that, I was interested to know what you believe would be a pass mark for the Pats season. Many things can change during a season to alter expectations however for me at the beginning of the season I believed if they managed more wins than losses this year that should be considered a pass. Even now that they have made the postseason I still believe even if they lost that first week it should be considered a positive season with a chance to build on it going forward. - Pete C.

I am in a very similar situation as you in terms of how I felt heading into the season. Once they moved on from Cam Newton and turned things over to Mac Jones, I felt nine or 10 wins and competing for a playoff spot was the baseline expectation. If Jones was able to avoid the games where his mistakes cost the team wins, then I felt the Patriots would be about where they are now. In terms of individual games, I probably would have thought a loss in Buffalo and a loss at the Chargers. But I also expected to beat Miami (at least once) and New Orleans, so things have pretty much evened out along the way. So regardless of what happens in the playoffs I would join you in the belief that this has been a successful season. That doesn't mean more can't be accomplished because as you said the league is quite even this year and the Patriots have proven they can compete with anybody. - Paul Perillo

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