Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

December 31, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon from snowy Foxborough. A little slower getting in here with snow starting to fall. Patriots practice at 12:20 today.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Later today, we'll have Bruschi's Breakdown posted on the site. I liked Tedy's obsverations about this week's game and how the Patriots approach these type of sitautions. I'm sure we'll get into it in the chat. Going to get a few things together and then we'll roll for about an hour.

Adam (England)

Mike, at the start of the season you picked the Ravens to represent the AFC in the superbowl. Who do you see making it to the big game at this point in the season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Adam, I'm impressed that you remembered my Super Bowl pick. I had the Ravens beating the Giants at the start of the year. At this point, I'd have to play the hot teams -- Chargers and Eagles. But the great part about the playoffs is that anything can happen. Does that hot team put together hot performances in those 60-minute stretches? I love playoff football.

Bruce (Albany, NY)

Top Question for the week. How much do Brady Welker and Moss play this weekend?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

I could see it going in 1 of 2 directions Bruce. I've ruled out the idea that Brady and Moss could play the entire game. I just don't think that's smart and the reason is that you could be playing your playoff opener Saturday. You don't want those guys battered and sore and then having to prepare for a playoff run on a short week. So...

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

... I could envision Brady and Co. starting and then having Belichick assess it on a series by series basis with the idea of a 3-4 series max type of situation. Or I could see Brady and Co. not even making the trip. Neither scenario would surprise me.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, if NYJ beats CIN sunday, they will meet again next week. Does this affect how and how many CIN rest their players?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

I really think so, MarkJ. I just don't see the Bengals going all-out in that game.

Har Journalist (Vancouver, BC - Canada)

Which seed do you think the Patriots want to Finish in. The Third or Fourth?? Will they play too loose in Houston just to Finish 4th and possibily avoid the Super Chargers??

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

I think if they could draw it out perfectly at this point, the 4 would be preferred. But when you look at the tie-breakers between the Patriots and Bengals, it comes down to strength of victory. The odds favor the Patriots winning that tie-breaker so I think they are probably preparing as if they will be the 3.

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

One point on this one is the 2006 angle. That was when the Patriots beat the Jets at home in the opening round of the playoffs, then traveled to San Diego, then Indianapolis. Some looked at the Patriots' second-half performance in Indy as a reflection of tired legs from that travel.

Jimboner (Boston)

Thank you for making this dreary boring work day a little bit brighter Mike.If there is such thing as an ideal path for the Pats to get to the Super Bowl what do you believe it to be?Conversely do you believe there is a path that is cause for concern.(Hard to answer I know, but give it a shot).

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

I'd say a Ravens-Chargers-Colts path, with the final two on the road, is about hard as it gets. But you figure to get there, you have to beat those tough teams anyway. In terms of an ideal path, it would be Jets-Colts-Bengals in my view.

Bruce Mount (Cambridge, MA)

Kyle Arrington has been GREAT on special teams. Not to take anything away from Kyle, but do you know if the scheme puts him in a position to make more tackles? (e.g., The same way that nose tackles in a 3-4, typically hold the line while LBs typically make the tackles and sacks.)

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Great observation, Bruce, as that was something I noticed this morning. Arrington has played in only seven games this season, yet he is tied for the team lead with 17 special teams tackles. That's all about desire and having a nose for the ball. I don't think it's anything specifically designed scheme-wise.

Nick (Montreal)

Mike, assuming both the Jets and Ravens win this weekend, I feel the Pats would match up better vs the #5 Jets and then the 1 Colts as opposed to the 6 Ravens and 2 Chargers. Since the Pats currently hold the 3 seed based on strength of schedule is it possible for both the Pats and Bengals to lose this weekend and have Cincy vault into the 3 seed based on strength of schedule?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

It is Nick, although when I looked at the calculations, it is unlikely.

Har Journalist (Vancouver, BC - Canada)

Hey Mike - Who will be the RB the Pats go to in the Playoffs, Maroney, Morris or Taylor. I think its Morris's turn to see if he can't Fumble away the RB role on this Team.

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

I think they're going to need them all and I don't believe we've seen the end of Maroney, although I'd be surprised if he gets the ball on the goal-line. I'd make that Morris/Taylor time.

Ash (tampa)

Happy new year Mike...I think that the Pats have not shown their cards too much, evident from the fact that the offence has been limited. Do you think we see a completely different team in the playoffs and one that will be unbeatable?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

I don't, Ash, because I don't believe this team has that in them. I think the offense we'll see is similar to what we've seen in recent weeks -- balanced. This isn't 2004, when the Patriots played the Eagles in the Super Bowl and completely revamped their defense, using the "Cali" front in a 4-3 set to keep Donovan McNabb in the pocket. The veteran defensive players could handle such a drastic change. I know it's a different comparison -- offense vs. defense -- but I think this offense has finally started building some momentum, so I don't see them going too far off the board.

pats fan (RI)

Mike,You have touched on the topic that BB has insanely high standards when it comes to LB's size and speed. Keeping that in mind, do you think Clay Matthews, or Ray Maulaluga would have worked well in our system? Also, is BB enamored with Shawn Crable because os his size and speed and not his football IQ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

I think this is a great topic, pats fan, and one that I'll be interested to hear Belichick's thoughts on. I have no doubt that Clay Matthews could have been a big factor here as a pass rusher. But I'm not sure if he could be a big factor as a early-down set-the-edge player against the run. Maualuga, I don't feel as strongly about, specific to this system. As for Crable, I don't have the answer on that one.

Obed (Fairfax VA)

Mike, this is just a storyline to keep in mind. If the pats go to the WC WKEND and play the Jets at home, providing a win they go on to face the Chargers away and then providing another win would see the Colts in the AFC championship game (coincidence?).IMO those are actually favorable matchups for 2 reasons:1) PATS had COLTS beat till last 4 min (blew 2 TO's then failed to convert 4th and 2)2) Wes Welker against the chargers D*What would you do to the team that said you couldn't cut in in the NFL and yet you're on your way to your 2nd consecutive pro bowl?Just something to keep in mind.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

It would be a repeat of 2006. That travel could be tough.

Nick (Hull)

Do you see the Pats paying the money to Big Vince and Mankins?

Nick (Hull)

Who do you think has been the best rookie so far, whos been the worst?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I'm going to double you up here, Nick. If I had to guess, I'm going to say that the Patriots won't pay big money to Wilfork and Mankins. I think they're willing to pay to a certain level, but probably not what the players could receive on the open market. As for the best/worst rookie, I'd have to say Sebastian Vollmer for best, and based on expectations, it's been disappointing that second-rounder Ron Brace hasn't done more at this point.

Andrew C (Storrs, CT)

Hey Mike. Thinking a bit far ahead, if the Patriots were to travel to San Diego in the divisional round and you had to come up with some sort of game plan for the Chargers, what would it be?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

Defensively, I'd focus on pressure, and adopt a similar approach as the Saints against Moss and Welker. I'm not familiar enough with the Chargers to know if they have the personnel to do it. Offensively, the statistics indicate to me that the Chargers might be a bit one-dimensional toward the pass. I'd lean toward that, attacking the deep third of the field to see if any of the Patriots' previous struggles with the big might be exposed. If not, I'd try to spread them out and work quite a bit of Sproles into the plan. He's the type of tough matchup that could hurt the Patriots.

Sweet Daddy (Seattle)

Mike, just want to say happy holidays and I appreciate your ability to be insightful and objective at the same time - a refreshing change of pace from more Boston beat writers. How would you think BB would plan to generate more pass rush in the playoffs? This seems to be crucial the deeper the Pats go when facing the likes of Manning, Rivers et al.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Thanks for the compliments Sweet Daddy. I think the answer on creating more pressure is this new sub package with the five linebackers and six defensive backs. It's generate some more heat and seems to have created a bit of a spark. I'd stick with that.

Ralph (Plymouth MA)

A football team is NOT what it is, but what it is "becoming." For two years people harped on the fact that they were old and slow. So they appear to have drafted well and now the Patriots are indeed younger and faster. I don't think that Floyd Reese has received enough credit for the transformation. Do you think that they'll be able to keep him into 2010?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

Ralph, when it comes to my cousin Floyd, it's nice to hear some praise come his way. On a serious note, though, I don't think he's had a huge influence on the player acquisition side of things. My sense on him is that he's more of a contract guy and a veteran voice to bounce things off.

TruePat (Worcester)

So, how do you think they will play it on Sunday, Mike? Do you think this will be one of those games where Junior Seau will perhaps punt a drop kick field goal?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Flutie dropkick ... Testaverde TD pass in Tennessee ... ?????

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Thinking about this one for a second ...

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Let's go Seau. That's a great suggestion. Goal-line TE and throw him a TD.

Brian A (Los Angeles)

All the negative press on Randy Moss in the past few weeks subsequently resluted in outpouring of support from the coaches for the player. Whereas Maroney, who without a doubt has been huge for us and played hard all year, gets benched for fumbles. Do you suppose that is due to the depth of the RB crew as opposed to slim picking as WR. I can see them benching Maroney for a bad game because there so may alternate options, whereas with Moss, you cant replace so they cant take that same route. I feel like if the coaches supported Moss for a bad game, they should show a little support for Maroney also, granted his problems are more systemic than 1 bad game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

It's an interesting one, Brian, and I talked with Maroney on Wednesday. He remains upbeat, but I sense he is frustrated at how up and down things have been. I do think the comparison between Moss and Maroney is a tough to make because Moss's was just one game, and Maroney now has four lost fumbles this season. Sometimes, as a coach, you look for different ways to get your message across. They stuck with Maroney when he had the three lost fumbles in November. I still think he'll be part of the mix, but probably not at the goal-line.

paul (lexington)

How do you assess the talent of the Patriots' 2009 draft? With the exception of Vollmer, the bottom of their draft and their rookie free agents have out performed the top of their 2009 draft. Is it just a matter of time (i.e., these players need to learn and excel within the system) or was there a misjudgement of talent?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

When I look back on the draft, Paul, one question I have is the Clay Matthews factor. Makes me wonder if they picked him at 26 and unleashed him as a pass rusher, if they wouldn't have struggled as much in that area at times this season. I truly believe more time is needed to assess the draft and it's too early at this point. I think very highly of Chung, Butler and Vollmer as future prospects, as they should be starters sooner rather than later.

Casey (Milwaukee)

Considering the predictably unpredictable nature of football, wouldnt the potential for a home AFC championship be worth playing the Texans as if it were a playoff game? The momentum from another 4 quarter (2nd or 3rd of the year) performance probably couldnt hurt, either.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

A very fair point, Casey, and one that I have considered. The reason I shy away from that line of thinking is the short-week factor. The Patriots could be opening the playoffs on Saturday, meaning they would have a sore, tired team coming back from Houston, preparing on a short week. I think the best decision for the team is to avoid that scenario, even if it means giving up the potential to host the AFC title game.

Ryan (Switzerland)

Dear MikeWhat is your gut feeling about which current Patriots on the 53-man roster will not be on the team in 2010? Any areas you think the team will specifically target for free agency?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Ryan, that is really tough to answer without even knowing the free agency rules. So instead of focusing on specific names, I'd just target a certain area -- front seven and pass rush.

GlasgowPat (Scotland)

Are we going to see a radically different Patriots next year? With so many unsigned players, or players with deals expiring, could the turnover of players be of historic proportions?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I don't think so, GlasgowPat. The uncertainty of the labor situation clouds the picutre a bit, but some of the extensions that have been signed this season have helped create more of a foundation than I was anticipating.

Mac (Braintree)

Mike -- can you rank our CBs in order of coach's trust right now? And is it possible they handled Springs making sure he would be ready for January?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

I'd say: 1) Bodden; 2) Springs; 3) Wilhite; 4) Butler; 5) Wheatley; 6) Arrington

Chris (Charlottesville Va)

What is wrong with Gostkowski? Earlier in the season he was kicking touchbacks even after penalties, now he can only get it to the 5. Oh and where can I get my very own TB hat like Brady wears?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I think the weather is part of it, Chris. I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that Gostkowski is a bit sore. As for the TB hat, I'd check Brady's website. I think they were planning on selling them on there.

_bb (Hungary)

Hi Mike! Vegas, Schein and other experts, even Bruschi started to pick the Texans. So why should I still feel the pats win, even if they rest some of their starters for a quarter or a half?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

You'd be putting your faith in Brian Hoyer to be the next Matt Cassel. I think it's a tough spot because the Texans have a lot to play for.

superbowl (RI)

Mike, is it just me or being selected to pro-bowl is not based on your talent, rather popularity (fan votes). This might explain the snubbing of Moss, who is having a great year despite being double covered most of the time. Another case is the tackling maching named London Fletcher. He is consistently among the top 5 in tackles every year and yet never makes the pro-bowl.

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

I think that's part of it, but I have to say that I don't think Moss got snubbed. To me, Wayne and Welker were locks. Then you only have two other spots. I haven't seen enough of Johnson and Marshall to feel strongly, but I thought it could have gone either way.

njpats (NJ)

Hey Mike,Do you think Wes Welker will soon command a new contact based on his stupendous performance? I think it would be a fair point if he does ask for one as he was signed to a contract in the range of 3 mil/year till 2012 and he has performed at a level that would command a Randy Moss like contract!

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

I do, njpats. If I was in Welker's shoes, I'd try to go back to the negotiating table. Just as the Patriots have to do what's best for the Patriots, Welker -- who takes some big hits -- also has to look out for himself.

Sterling (Providence)

Mike- with the possibility of an uncapped year looking more and more likely, how does this affect the Patriots? Would it help or hurt what they would be able to do in free agency, not only this year, but in the future as well?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

One factor to keep in mind is that teams that play deep into the playoffs will be limited in the number of free agents they can sign. So that is a factor to consider. My general feeling is that it will hurt them, and it will hurt the game.

Paul (Virginia)

Do you think the return of linebackers Shawn Crable and Tyrone McKenzie will have a big impact on the roster next year? I would like to see Crable be an improvement to our pass rush and I think McKenzie would provide great youth at a 3-way ILB rotation.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Paul, I think it's too early to tell on those guys. My approach would be to put them in the mix and see how it turns out, but don't count on them.

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Just catching up on a few practice notes -- Tom Brady and Randy Moss were back today. They were held out of Wednesday's session.

Patton (Worcester)

Did you happen to see that the Pats are, in one sense, now the most "balanced" team in the NFL? That is, there are any teams ranked higher than the Pats iin 2009 on both offense and defense in the typical team stats categories on NFL.com (points, yards).I know they are just beginning to show some consistency, but do you see that "most balanced team" might just be their late-emerging identity?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I think that is valid, Patton. I did notice that. Not a lot of teams can say that -- they are usually more skewed in one direction or the other.

matt (from ct)

Which of the players do you think actually needs the most rest for the patriots?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Wilfork and Warren would top my list. Then I'd go Brady, Moss, Welker and Neal.

Nick (Boston)

Enlighten me, Mike (Happy 2010, by the way): If the Patriots lose at Houston and then the Jets beat Cincinnati, assuming Baltimore beats Oakland, how would things shape out?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Assuming the strength of victory tiebreaker between the Pats and Bengals doesn't change, it would be Patriots (3) hosting Ravens (6) and Bengals (4) hosting Jets (5).

Scott (Indy)

Your feeling on whether the Pats play their starters. All game? Some? None?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

My personal feeling is that it wouldn't hurt to play another good 15-30 minutes of football, and then pull some of the guys. Set a few short-term goals, hopefully meet them, then make the changes.

TJ (San Diego)

What is your take on resting of players for so-called meaningless games as it effects the competitive balance of the league?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

I think every team should do what it feels best gives it a chance to win the Super Bowl. I also feel like this is a good reason why the NFL should think twice about a potential 18-game season.

Adam (England)

Mike, do you think RG Stephen Neal has had a Pro Bowl worthy season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

I don't think so, Adam. The injuries sort of knock him out of it.

Sean (Boston)

At the risk of jinxing the Pats, does it seem to you that they have been more fortunate this year in terms of serious injuries? I know guys like Brandon Tate, Tyrone McKenzie, and a couple of other lesser names went on IR, and certainly key guys have been dinged up and missed multiple games (Welker, Mayo, Wilfork, etc) but it seems like in other years we lost more starters to IR.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Agree, Sean. Bill Belichick made that point a few weeks ago when talking about the decision not to place RB Fred Taylor on injured reserve. The team had some more flexibility this year to hold roster spots.

Jaclyn Walsh (Paducah, KY)

Which path would you prefer - Ravens/Chargers/Colts or Jets/Colts/Chargers?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

I'd go Jets/Colts/Chargers.

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly made a great point that I liked. The time to catch the Colts in the playoffs is usually early.

Jim (Oregon)

Hey Mike - one minor thing that seems different this year with the Pats is the lack of roster "churn" - cutting a back-of-the-roster player everyweek and signing someone off the street. I know this is a tactic of Parcells, and I was curious if it was really a Pioli thing and not a Belichick thing, as it doesn't seem to be happening much this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

I think part of that, Jim, has come on the practice squad instead. They drafted 12 players, nine made the club, so you're not going to make moves with too many of those picks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Let's go for another 5 minutes here...

George (Warwick)

Do you agree w/ the so-called experts that the New England Patriots are perceived as more dangerous now, than at any other point this season...seems not so long ago that these same experts questioned their impact in the post season, and the opponents NEP have played since then aren't exactly perceived as challenging...

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Not necessarily. The way I view it is that things in the NFL are so fragile and we need only look toward the Saints and Vikings -- who at one time looked unbeatable -- as examples of that. I don't think the Patroits are more dangerous now, but you have to like how they are trending in the right direction.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Still a big question out there: Can they beat a top team on the road?

Dave (At Work)

Hey Mike. Let's assume that the Jets win and, for curiosity purposes, let's say Baltimore loses. Who is next in line for the #6 seed to play the Pats?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

We'd need to add in Denver's result, and the Patriots/Texans result, and the Steelers result, to have the answer. Very confusing.

Mack (CT)

Pretty solid game last week. Going forward, what do you see as the team's most important weaknesses?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Maroney's ball security is one area. I think the pass rush on early downs is another. Can they keep spreading the ball around?

George (Warwick)

Mike - any insight into the factors playing into how the playoff dates times will be established by the NFL...is it the pereceived "glamor" factor of the matchup, for example...does where the teams played (for travel considerations) impact the decision...networks "driving the bus", or in concert w/ NFL decision makers?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Not sure on that one, George. I've always assumed the networks have a big say based on the big money they are paying.

DPats (Danville (CA))

Mike, Happy New Year! Do you see the shift to a reduced rotation on the DBs (meaning Butler is non-active) primarily due to special teams needs (i.e. Arrington active) or based on on-field performance? Also, is this week the Brian Hoyer show? BTW, It is pretty obvious, even on TV, that Ron Brace doesn't set a wide enough base and gets pushed easily.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

More special teams related. I do believe this will be the Brian Hoyer show. On Brace, I thikn it's clear he is still learning. Pryor is a bit ahead of him right now.

Jimboner (Boston)

I predict (OK, guess) we finally see Edelman run the option via motioning and going behind center, although I don't imagine it consistently. Do you believe the Pats are holding anything back.

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

I like the thought. Give the playoff opponent something else to think about.

Mike (Chicago)

Is Guyton an RFA after this season?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Guyton will be an exclusive rights free agent.

matt (ct)

Hey mike i always wondered how is it decided what players do a postgame interview does the media request certian players or do the pats just put the obvious guys out there?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

The media can request (we always request Moss), but most of the time it is my understanding that it is dictated by the Patriots.

mark (California)

Knowing you can't pay both Wilfork and Mankins who would you rather sign? Mankins seems to have more durability, but it's hard to find elite nosetackles.

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Wilfork would be my choice if forced into a one-or-the-other situation.

Niclas (Sweden)

hi Mike do you think that the pats can go all the way and win the superbowl??

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Let's end on this one. I don't think it's likely, but this is the great part about playoff football. It's about 60 minutes. Who is the best team in that 60 minutes? I don't think the Patriots have the best team in the playoffs. But I don't think it's out of the realm that they could be the best in those four 60-minute stretches. This is why I appreciate playoff football and look forward to it so much.

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

I want to wrap this up by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. I am appreciative of your participation and look forward to keeping the chats going throughout 2010 on Thursdays.