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October 14, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon and thanks for joining today's chat. Mike Rodak is out at practice for ESPNBoston.com and he will be reporting from there. I'm at home today as my daughter is home with an ear infection. Let's plan on chatting until 1 p.m.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Before hopping on the chat, I noticed the Boston Herald report that Deion Branch has trimmed his 2011 salary, which was expected. It is my understanding that the Patriots wouldn't have made the trade without that happening.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Let's get to it.

Mike (Chicago)

Hi Mike: Any idea on how Edelman will play in the offense (if at all)? Does he practice in places other than the slot (Z,X) - or is he basically Wes Welker's backup? That false start probably didn't help.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Mike, I think Edelman is more than just a slot guy. He has played in two-receiver sets, and even in some specialized one-receiver sets. So I think we'll see him in a few different spots Sunday. On the false start, I don't think it will affect his playing time going forward. That's a timing play -- assuming it was going to be a direct snap -- and it takes some experience to pull that off consistently (Kevin Faulk).

Wily (Burlington, VT)

Hi Mike,What do you thihnk about Shawne Merriman with the Patriots? Do you think the Pats will go for him?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Hi Wily. How are the gravy fries at Nectar's up in Burlington? Still around? Received quite a few inquiries on Merriman. My sense is that the Patriots won't have interest when he's free, although injuries could always alter the picture and those are harder to project.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike,A big reason why I think Randy Moss was marginalized when he was here was that he ran primarily deep routes and hardly ever ran slants and deep ins over the middle. Do you think the coaches refused to use Moss in a variety of ways, or was it a case where he isn't capable of going over the middle? Had they used the entire route tree with Moss, I think he would have been much tougher to cover and the offense could have been much more dynamic.

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Kyle, this is an interesting point and one I've heard a few analysts make. I'm not necessarily buying it, though. I think Moss can run all the routes, and I'd point to last year's Atlanta game as one example. The Patriots were without Wes Welker that day and I remember Moss being three receivers rolled into one -- short, intermediate, deep, on the edges, and over the middle. Now, maybe his desire to run those routes had faded a bit since then, but I think it's a bit too simplistic to say Moss couldn't/wouldn't run those routes and that's why he's gone. I'm not sure why we didn't see more of it recently -- whether it was on Moss or the coaches.

MarkJ (Japan)

Do you expect Branch to play against BAL sunday? Any chance we see CB Weatley, WR Price and/or RB Clayton this weekend?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

I expect to see Branch. Not as certain on Wheatley and Clayton. Don't think Price will be active.

Mark (Marlboro)

Hi Mike,Much has been debated since the Moss trade over which style of offense will be better for this team. Most seem to believe that now without Moss, the Patriots will have to revert to a Charlie Weis-esk spread pass game coupled with a power run game. What I seem to see is a shift toward what the Saints had success doing last year, in terms of the passing game. That is, to fill the field with great route runners, with great YAC ability (Tate/Hernandez/Welker) and utilize Brady's greatest strength which is his decision making ability not his arm. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

I agree with you, Mark. I think it's too simple to say they will be a dink-and-dunk offense with a power running game. They still have field-stretchers and I think they'll still have the deep ball in the arsenal. I like the way you put it.

Hoogie (Lexington)

Is the Mankins situation simply going to end with Mankins showing up and getting his year of service and then moving on as a free agent next year? If so, what, if any type of compensation will the Pats get? Is the possibility of a trade this season dead?

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

Hoogie, the possibility of a trade is not dead until Oct. 19, which is the trade deadline. Mankins would have to sign his tender to be traded and it doesn't look like that will happen right now. As for compensation if Mankins departs next year, the Patriots would be looking at a 2012 compensatory pick that would be the result of a complex formula (likely a 3rd rounder).

Jim L. (Macon, GA)

Mike, what do you think the Patriots do with Logan Mankins if he returns in November. Does he have to go on the 53 man roster? I can't see them activating him for any games. Your thoughts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Jim, I think a lot will depend on what shape the offensive line is in at that point. Mankins will need to get into football shape, so I wouldn't expect any initial contributions if everyone is healthy. But Bill Belichick always says he does what is in the best interest of the football team and having Mankins would make any team better, so I think we'll see Mankins taking snaps before the year is out, with the health of the team the key consideration in terms of how many.

Jeff Pitcher (Exeter, NH)

Hey Mike, great coverage as always. How soon should we expect Branch to have an impact and get targeted 5+ times a game? As we saw in Minnesota Moss was not up to speed on the playbook and just seemed to run his "Throw Moss the ball deep" pattern over and over again. I think Branch should have an impact as early as this Sunday as he has a leg up on learing in the offensive system. Am I wrong to assume this?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

I feel the same way you do, Jeff. Branch should be active and they will probably ease him into the mix in a certain package (perhaps the 3-receiver set). It will be a challenge for him to be part of a no-huddle package at this point, but I see no reason why he wouldn't be on the field for about 20-30 plays and targeted in the passing game if he's open.

Nel (Boston)

Mike previously you said the Pats did not have to take Mankins back. It's been reported by a local TV station that they do have to take him back since they offered him a tender. Which is it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

Once Mankins signs his tender, the ball is in the Patriots' court Nel. They could simply release him, but I don't expect them to do that.

Tim (Woonsocket)

Mike, All I hear about throuought New England sports talk is how getting rid of Randy Moss is a negative and we will no longer be able to spread the defense, I watched the Patriots lose to the Jets (a game they should have and could have won) because we tried to be one dimensional and air it out to Moss deep. I feel as though without Moss our offense can flourish. Whats your take?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Tim, I think the offense can still be productive, for sure, but it will obviously have a different look. This offense still has a lot of weapons -- in fact, I would argue as many weapons in the passing game as any team in the NFL.

enjoythegames (Cleveland,OH)

Mike, Do you think there is any relation between the knowledge that Logan Mankins intends to sign his tender and come in before game 10 and Nick Kaczur being put on IR?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

I don't see a connection there. I believe they are unrelated.

Andrew (Leominster, MA)

Mike, some very high praise from Belichick to McCourty!

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

No question, Andrew. Belichick put McCourty in the same class as Ray Lewis and Lawyer Milloy in terms of his understanding of the game. He said that in his 36 years as coach, there are only a few players who he's watched film with and they can tell you everything that is taking place on the field -- from the cornerback to the nose tackle. McCourty is one of them. That helps explain in part why McCourty -- an unpopular pick to some at the time -- was the team's selection.

ECF (DC)

Mike, your podcast w/ Bruschi is great. I feel like we are going to get a lot of answers to questions we've had in recent years. On your most recent episode, he explained the Will vs. the Mike. I've often tried to understand the OLB position better. I've heard Sam, Jack and "Star" used across various 34 schemes; could either of you explain what the differences are?

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

Thanks ECF. Working with Tedy Bruschi has been a tremendous experience. He has forced me to raise my level and has been a great "teammate." I've learned a lot from working with him. I'm going to pass this along to him and hopefully we'll include it in next week's podcast. My understanding is that the Patriots just call them "left" and "right" in the 3-4 alignment, but no one will have it covered better than tedy.

CC (San Diego)

Have you ever given thought to pulling a Peter King and holding an informal meet-up with all Pats fans invited to join to chat football, whether in Boston-area or on the road (SD in ten days)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

CC, this is an interesting idea. We had talked about doing something earlier in the year and couldn't pull it off. I'll run it by our folks and see what we can do.

Brian (CT)

Hi Mike does the fact that branch has supposedly decided to re do his contract: [Branch has agreed to reduce his base salary for 2011 from $5.95 million to $2.2 million] make giving up a 4th rounder any better for the PATS in that deal?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Absolutely Brian. That basically ensures that Branch is here at least through 2011. With his old salary, it was unlikely that he would be here in 2011. It is my understanding that the Patriots wouldn't have made the trade without the restructure.

Randy (Florida)

Hello Mike,After the trade of Randy Moss, I wondered the same as everybody about how the Patriots would be able to open the middle and short yardage for Welker and Co. It appears to me that even though Branch is no Randy Moss he still demands accountabilty because from the past he has torched many defenses. He doesnt have to be Moss all he has to do is be as good as he was before he left. A few long balls to him should help and of coarse if the running game keeps developing.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Randy, I see what you are saying, although I personally wouldn't go that far. While I think an opposing defense will still respect Branch, it will likely be more inclined to play Branch without safety help over the top than Moss. That's one of the big questions I have when it comes to the Patriots' offense without Moss. Often times, Moss cleared things out for Welker.

Jason S (Boca Raton, Fl)

Hi Mike, what are the chances the Patriots slap the franchise tag on Mankins after this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

I don't think they'd do it, Jason. Just a hunch.

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Quick update from Mike Rodak at Patriots practice -- Veteran RB Fred Taylor (toe injury) remains out of practice.

SprungOnSports (Long Island)

What do you think the game plan will be on defense against Baltimore? They have so many weapons.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Glad you asked, SprungOnSports, because I've been thinking about this a lot. To me, this is the game to play a four-man line. I'm going with a heavy package and getting away from the 3-4 because I see the Ravens really being attack the OLBs with off-tackle runs. I also have the Dean Pees factor in mind. The former Patriots defensive coordinator is now Ravens linebackers coach and I want to throw something different at Baltimore figuring that they've worked closely on the 3-4 with Pees's knowledge and background this week.

Bunk (Baltimore)

Hi Mike. Branch has said that rejoining the Pats will not be as difficult as it could be because he remembers alot of the plays. I'm curious how a team can be running essentially the same plays it did five years ago, under different offensive coordinator. Have the Pats really not changed their basic set of plays over the past decade? It seems their have been some dramatic changes in the offense over that time based on different personnel and coaches.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Bunk, the Patriots have added to their system each year. They can pull from a lot of different areas when putting together a game-plan, and it helps that quarterback Tom Brady has been the one constant. So I think that best sums it up -- the Patriots have a lot to fall back on and they can adapt on a week to week basis.

Jay (Baltimore)

Hey Mike, With the trade for Branch, did the Pats send their 4th rounder or the one they received from the Broncos?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

Jay, not sure on that one.

Johnnymag (New Hampshire)

Mike, what's your take on Taylor Price? is he still behind on the playbook? or finally caught up with things. Also, if you think this guy is going to be as effective as a Tate or and Edelman, hands, speed, cuts, etc etc

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

I think Price is looking at a red-shirt type year unless there is an injury ahead of him on the depth chart. I think the coaching staff is high on him and his potential, but they view him as a player who needs more time.

Jason (Hantsport, NS)

Do the terms of the MacNeill deal offer any insight into the Mankins' situation? Nothing has been said yet but does Randy leaving open the possibility of extending Welker?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Jason, I don't see McNeill and Mankins being related very closely. Different positions in terms of market value. As for Moss leaving and how it might relate to a Welker extension, I don't see a huge connection. I didn't see Moss as likely to be back in 2011, and I think Welker would have been a priority over him regardless.

ben (wellesley, ma)

Mike-I see the game this weekend as a very tough test for the Pats. They got manhandled in the playoffs last year by the Ravens. The Ravens played much more physical than the pats and I don't see that changing in Sunday's game. I believe the pats can win this game if the middle of the defense plays well. If Wilfork, Mayo and Meriweather can "bring the pain" we have a chance. In your opinion, who are the key patriots in this weeks slugfest?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I agree, Ben. Some games it's about trickery and scheme. This one, to me, is more about physicality at the line and winning the power battle. That's why I'd lean toward a big-beef package with a four-man line and protect my outside linebackers by getting out of the 3-4.

slappy3312 (Orlando)

Mike, I guess its just bad luck that the Pats are playing the Ravens this week, but I just don't see how the offense puts up more than 17 points which is an awful lot of pressure to put on the defense. Please give me some hope.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Hi slappy. I actually like this spot for the Patriots. The Ravens are playing their fourth road game in six weeks and that can take a lot out of a team. And while I think the Ravens' defense is excellent -- specifically in the red zone and on third down -- it hasn't faced an offense like the Patriots. The Patriots have one of the best attacks in the league. I think because we're so close to it, it's easier to take that for granted.

Clark (Muncie,IN)

Mike, That is a great idea to start a 4 man line to counter the Dean Pees effect. My question is, week one vs. the Bengals we did play some 4 man line with great success. Why have we not seen that look for more than just a series or two during one game? Is BB saving this package? Would it be, Wilfork and Warren at DE and Wright and Pryor inside? Ted seemed to like the Wright vs. Matt Birk matchup. That would free up Wilfork to match up with Micheal Oher. Or did you have something else in mind. Big fan of the pod cast! Keep it up.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Thanks Clark. The heavy four-man line we've seen from the Patriots to this point has been in a nickel package, which adds an extra defensive back. We haven't seen it in true 4-3 form. As for how I would set up the line, I want my biggest guys on the field so I'd go Brace at LDE, Wilfork at NT, Pryor at DT and G. Warren at RDE. That gives me Wright to rotate in at all spots, with Deaderick and Love other options.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I could also make a case for Wright in there next to Wilfork, as I think he's the team's best interior pass rusher.

Jeff (Needham, MA)

Hey Mike, after watching the first 4 games of the season it's clear that the defense needs work. The best defenses in the league can stop you on every down, while we're worried about "hiding" the defense through ball control and have thus far relied on errors made by the opposing offense to stop them. What changes need to be made to bring our defense up to the level that we've seen from the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers or New York Jets this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

I agree, Jeff. You can't be 32nd out of 32 teams in the NFL on third down and expect to win a championship. The biggest thing I see is struggles in pass coverage. They have to tighten that up. I think they'll be OK against the run in the end.

DJ (Ann Arbor)

Julian Edelman seems like the forgotten man so far this year, after a great rookie season and (we're told) a strong offseason. I know he's been hurt, and Welker's return makes WW the number 1 slot guy. But now that Edelman is healthy and Moss is gone, does Edelman become a bigger part of the Pat's offense? Or does Branch keep him on the bench? (Agree with you, btw, that the two point conversion looked like the old direct-snap, Brady pretends there's a bad snap, play that they used to run with Faulk.)

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

I think we'll see more of Edelman, DJ. I've had him on the field for only 37 snaps at this point, which accounts for him missing the first game. Branch might eat into his playing time a bit, but not exclusively in my view.

Jason (Louisville)

Are you surprised Adalius Thomas hasn't been picked up?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Yes, Jason, that does surprise me.

Otis (Boston)

The Pats seem to be disconnected at times on bth sides of the ball but more on D than O. Has Hoodie taken on too much in acting as the defensife coordinator himself?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I don't think he's taken on too much, Otis, because I view it the same way as Sean Payton runs the offense in New Orleans. Maybe it's a case of where some of the coaching around Belichick isn't at the same level it once was when Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel were here.

Greg (Boston)

Who on offense do you think has a big game? I'll guess the big man Gronk - who better to throw to in the red-zone? ;)

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Great point, Greg. I mention Gronkowski in my key matchup later today. The Ravens have allowed just 4 TDs in 12 opponent trips inside the red zone. That's one of the best marks in the league. When the space gets tight on the field, a player like the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski becomes an important weapon.

Drew (Philadelphia)

Mike, I respect you, but you sound like a cheerleader for the team. The Ravens are clearly better across the board than the Pats. Did you watch them play the Steelers, they are sound on offense, and hve one of the top three defenses in the league, no way the Pats beat this team

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Thanks for the respect Drew. I did watch the Ravens play the Steelers and that was an impressive win. I also watched the Ravens lose to the Bengals on the road, and that is also a factor I considered when analyzing his team. I agree that the Ravens have one of the top three defenses in the league. Do you agree that the Patriots, who rank first in the NFL in points scored, have one of the top three offenses?

supwithyou (MA)

Mike, whats the least favorite part of your job? I'm guessing it is making prediction... So to make your life harder, what are your predictions for this Sunday? :)

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Patriots 24, Ravens 21 -- a game that comes down to one or two plays.

Rob (Carlsbad, CA)

Mike - how would you rank the 2009 2nd rounders 1-4?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

1. Chung; 2. Vollmer; 3. Butler; 4. Brace.

Rick (Portland, Maine)

Mike, why does everyone want to talk about the Deion Branch acquisition in terms of ?replacing? Randy Moss. Anyone knows you can?t replace Moss from a pure talent stand point so why even discuss it. Let?s remember the Patriots' philosophy that they are building a team, and not just assembling talent. For Moss to be so unhappy after a huge break-through road win in Miami just because he wasn?t the center of the game plan shows that he was no longer buying into the team concept. I find his attitude under the circumstances to be incredibly selfish regardless of his reasons (business or otherwise). Welcome back to the team Deion.

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Consider your voice heard, Rick.

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - do you figure on the Pats will put Big Vince back in the middle to try and stuff the Ravens' run game? Or will we be seeing more of him at DE, like in the Miami game? Is the best front line a larger one against Baltimore?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

I personally like Wilfork in the middle, Matt, but Tedy Bruschi cautioned me from making that leap because the Ravens are so effective with off-tackle runs.

James (Chicago)

Mike, with the remaining games on their schedule, the potential we have on both sides of the ball, and special teams, is this group we have right now a Superbowl contender? I know it's early, extremely early, but if they post a big and definitive win over Baltimore this weekend, can we start to think, hey maybe, just maybe, the Patriots have a legitimate shot on taking home the Lombardi trophy and jump into that elite category that teams will have to fear home and on the road? Thoughts? Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

James, with the Patriots on the bye last weekend, it gave me a chance to look around the NFL and what I saw was a lot of inconsistent, bad football being played. I would currently put the Patriots in the 1b class of teams behind the Steelers, Ravens and Jets. A win over the Ravens, in my view, would vault them into the 1a group.

Gavin (Barbados)

Hi Mike, From what you have seen so far this season do you think Cunningham can develop into a top pass rushing linebacker? And how has he been doing setting the edge in the run game?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Gavin, I think it's too early to make that call on Cunningham in terms of a top pass-rushing linebacker. I think he's contributed more than I thought he would at this point, and that speaks to his potential -- as well as the Patriots' lack of other options. I still see Cunningham get hooked from time to time in the run game, which is to be expected.

JL (Concord, NH)

How would you describe Arrington's playing time so far this year? He looks acceptable, but it seems like some of the plays that he makes are based more on luck than proper coverage.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Strong in run support and up-and-down in pass coverage would be how I would sum up Arrington at this point.

Bobby (Concord)

Hey Mike, do most of the players stay in the area when they get several days in a row off, like during the bye week? Or do alot of them have homes elsewhere that they go back to even for a few days? I can't imagine wanting to travel much on off days, but I'm curious how the players approach it.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

It's a mix Bobby. Safety Jarrad Page, for example, went home to California for the long weekend. Tully Banta-Cain, on the other hand, stuck around.

Craig (Bridgewater, MA)

The speed the Patriots have on special teams is much improved from what I saw last year. Do you expect this unit to help steal a few more wins while Belichick gets the defense up and running?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

Good point, Craig. Tough to say how it will play out, but the matchup of the Ravens' kickoff coverage against Brandon Tate is something that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he is concerned about. Ravens kickoff man Billy Cundiff is tied for the league lead with 11 touchbacks and they will be looking for more of those Sunday in that key part of the game.

Erik (Bolton Landing NY)

Good Afternoon Mike. It is my belief that the game this weekend is one of the most important games on the Patriots schedule this year given everything that has transpired this week. Also I think this will be an enormous game for coach Bill. A win and we gain a tremendous amount of momentum heading into one of the toughest parts of our schedule, and BB will look like he knew exactly what he was doing when trading Randy. A loss and your questioning everything about this team including BB decision making. Biggest mental game of the year for the pats or not ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Erik, I think it's a measuring-stick type game, for sure. You also have a tough trip to San Diego next on the schedule. I thought the Miami game was just as big, though.

John (Boston)

Hi Mike - do you see Brandon Tate's role on special teams diminishing now that he will presumably have a larger role in the offensive plan with Moss being gone ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

John, I don't see any way the Patriots would reduce Tate's role on special teams. He's too explosive in that area.

Hans (Medway)

Mike, I noticed that Ron Brace barely played against the Dolphins. Is the only reason being that the Pats moved Wilfork to that DE spot, and they didn't want Brace to play DE on the other side? I'd like to see a starting line of Brace, Wilfork, and Mike Wright.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Hans, I noticed Brace's lack of action as well. I think part of it was moving Wilfork to left end, which is Brace's spot. But I also think there was probably a performance-based element to the limited time as well.

Justin (Brookfield, WI)

Does Kyle Arrington get the nod starting at RCB again this week? I think whoever starts there is going to have a tough assignment. Now with Wheatley back, are we going to see him at all or is Butler still #2?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Wish I had the answer, Justin. Butler rotated into the Miami game in the fourth quarter and that had me thinking that maybe the coaching staff was getting ready to put him back in the mix in a top role. I think that would ultimately be what's best for the team. If Butler is not the choice, then the backup role would come down to who plays better on special teams -- Butler or Wheatley. I'd lean toward Butler there.

Rick (Pelham, NH)

When is the last time the Pats traded away a guy who went on to have a great career? They always seem to hit it right, and I think Moss will be no exception. They moved Seymour, and he's been good, but not great. Same for Cassel, Vrabel, and the rest of the crew. Has any player traded away in the BB era gone on to make a probowl with his new team??

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Vinatieri and Samuel were the first two players to come to mind as those who had success with their next team. Earlier in Belichick's tenure, Greg Spires, a DE, moved on to Tampa and played well.

Brent (MD)

Does Wheatley have a shot at replacing Wilhite in slot coverage. Wilhite's play (and the DB's overall) really seems spotty to me.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

I don't think so, Brent. I don't recall ever seeing Wheatley in the slot in camp. He was pretty much locked in to an outside position.

Andrew (Los Angeles)

Hey Mike, it's been rough wearing my "Pick Six" 28 sweatshirt. You still high on Butler? Will we see him back on the field soon?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I am still high on Butler, Andrew. He's going through a tough time right now but I think he'll come out the other side and be better for it in the end.

Pat (Boston)

I think the major questions this weekend is if any of the OLBs can set the edge against the running game of the Ravens. Who is best suited for that on the team?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

In the 3-4, you really only have four options -- Ninkovich, Cunningham, Banta-Cain and Crable. I don't see Gary Guyton as an option, he's more of a pure ILB. I'm not crazy about any of the options this week, so that's why I'd suggest they go four-man line and make the DEs the edge setters.

Jim (Illinois)

One factor I think helps our defense is speed. Last year, especially against the Ravens in the playoffs, I felt like our team was old and slow. Now we have Chung, Mayo (back to form), McCourty flying around the field. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Definitely a much faster defense, Jim.

Wes (NC)

How much more will brandon tate be used in the receiving game?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Wes, Tate has been on the field for 55 percent of the team's offensive snaps this season -- about 35 snaps per game. I could see that number rising into the mid-40s now.

Pat (Boston)

Mike, do you see Spikes getting increased time this week against the Ravens, or is Ray Rice too quick for him?

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Pat, if the Patriots play the base 3-4, I expect to see Spikes quite a bit. This should be his most extensive playing of the season if that is the defense they play, with the idea of stopping the Ravens' running game being the key.

alex (rome,ny)

I know our pass rush stinks.. is it due to personnel or schemes?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Alex, I don't see the pass rush being the main issue for the defense right now. It's actually been better than I thought it would be. Theyhave seven sacks through four games and have pressured fairly well, albeit inconsistently. I think the back end of the pass defense has been more of the issue.

cory (medford)

mike,dont you think the pats should attack the raven's through the air? They clearly have a weakl secondary, especially without Reed. If the Jets had passed in the first game against them I think they would have won the game. I just don't think we can run on Ngata and company

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Agree, Cory. We'll see how the Ravens play -- if they blitz a lot or try to play coverage. Regardless, it will be crucial for the Patriots to adjust because their best chance to move the ball will be through the air.

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

I'm going to extend this chat a bit longer here. Let's go until 1:15 p.m.

Mike (Somerville)

Any Chance we line Hernandez up as a WR? How many plays is he usually on the field and I'm sure this will increase

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Mike, Hernandez does line up as a receiver quite a bit. On the season, I've charted him on the field 67.9 percent of the snaps. That's the second-highest total among receivers and tight ends, behind only Randy Moss (81 percent).

derick (maine)

mike how bout some "lawfirm" love?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Great story, Derick. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has emerged as the lead back. I remember making a roster projection in the preseason and he was on the bubble in my view at one point. His phyiscal style, in which he seldom gets dropped for negative yardage, seems like the right complement for what the Patriots are doing in the passing game.

Brett (Afghanistan)

Is there a rule against having Woodhead ride around on Gronk's shoulders?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Brett, what's up with the small jokes? If you've seen me, you know I'm not in position to be making fun of a small guy.

Lowercaseg (Atlanta)

What is Jarrad Page going to bring to the Pats this year? Is he going to be a surprise player?

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Physical presence on special teams and depth at safety as the No. 4 man in the rotation. Could be part of a specialized package with a specific team in mind (e.g. when Rodney Harrison played LB against the Colts in a 4-3 look).

Craig (Sarasota Florida)

Mike, Is Merriweather back in the starting lineup and is it accurate that him and chung are the starters at Safety now? Will Brandon Tate still be the guy on kickoff returns or does this change because of moss's departure and more of a receiver role

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Craig, I think Meriweather will be back with the top group. He played every snap in the first half last week, which seemed to be a reflection of him regaining his spot.

David Givens (New England)

My knee is feeling great, Mike! If you see Coach Bill ask him where my phone call is.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Great seeing you on NESN, David. Keep up the good work.

Sean (Hudson)

Mike, did you read Bill Simmons' article about the Moss - Vikings tweet? Ever had a similar experience?

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Sean, I didn't have a chance to read that article. But I can tell you a great learning experience that I had covering the Hudson Hawks back in the day, when I reported something the coach didn't like from a game against Marlborough (he felt I was too hard on the players for their behavior, and maybe I was). You never forget those experiences along the way.

Jack (East Freetown)

Hi Mike...So would the injury report for the Reiss household look like this as you prep for tomorrow's school/work day? :)Daughter Reiss Ear (Questionable)

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

Jack, we're just going day to day here. We'll put that out at 4 p.m.

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

:)

Ace (Sterling)

Mike, what happened to my well-thoughtout question composed at 11 AM for this chat?

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

All right Ace, I'm going to go back and find it now. Might take me a while.

Ace (Sterling)

These personnel changes in the Patriots could turn out to be fortuitous and give us the small advantage we need against one of the best clubs in the NFL right now. Are you also thinking that this might just be one of those games that the team rises to the occasion for a big win?

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

There it is Ace. It's tough to get to them all, and that's why I wanted to extend the chat a bit. The Randy Moss trade obviously shakes things up and I think the Patriots will respond well. Whether it's enough to win the game, I predict it will be, but let's be honest: No one knows how these games will play out. That's why the NFL is such a good product. I will say this, from being around the Patriots: This team looks like it is building some confidence.

Jim (Illinois)

I am big Pats homer on my fantasy team, and as such I have both Hernandez and Gronk. Who should start?

Mike Reiss
  (1:15 PM)

For catches and yards, Hernandez. For potential touchdowns, Gronkowski. Tough call. I see Gronkowski getting his hands on one touchdown pass in the game.

Jolly (Stamford)

Hello Mike - what has your impression been of Danny Woodhead and do you see his role with the team expanding ?

Mike Reiss
  (1:16 PM)

I'm impressed, Jolly. He's played 35 snaps -- 7 against Buffalo, 28 against the Dolphins. He's picked up the system quickly. I see him morphing more into that Kevin Faulk role, and that will be the true test to see how he pass protects.

Steve Belliveau (Clearwater Fl.)

I dont see how Slater holds a active spot on the 45,please help me get this.

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

Steve, Slater is one of the Patriots' best special teams players. His six special teams tackles are second on the team behind Tracy White (7). I think that's the main reason he's on the 53-man roster, and 45-man game-day roster.

Bruce (Minneapolis)

Hey Mike--Is Ed Reed playing on Sunday? Do players come off the PUP after six weeks, or after their team's sixth game? Thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

Bruce, no Ed Reed. It's through six weeks on the PUP so he is not yet eligible.

Rick (Pelham, NH)

About Adam V. and Asante playing well after leaving the Pats, they were free agents who left for more money. You can't keep everyone. My point was about Randy specifically. I can't think of a time the Pats traded away a player who went on to be great for his next team. They seem to always trade players at the right time.

Mike Reiss
  (1:19 PM)

Got it, Rick. I thought we were talking everyone.

Michael (Rhode Island)

It seems to me, Mike, that Branch seems more of a Wes Welker type of receiver in the current offense. Can Brandon Tate provide a deep threat?

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Michael, I think Branch can still stretch the field, and is more than a slot guy. I actually think Welker has proven he is more than an underneath guy, too. I'd be careful pigeon-holing the receivers into categories. I actually think they're all pretty well-rounded.

Steve (Framingham)

On the defensive 3rd down problems, it seems that there is always a WR or TE sitting down in the soft part of the zone. Is this an issue of no pressure on the QB, poor coverage, a combination, or something else?

Mike Reiss
  (1:21 PM)

Steve, I see it as a combo. You see the pressure at times and the coverage breaks down. Other times, you see solid coverage but the rush doesn't get there and the play stays alive.

Neil (South Boston)

Mike, what the heck is the deal with Fred Taylor?

Mike Reiss
  (1:23 PM)

Taylor has a toe injury that he re-injured in the Bills game -- third quarter -- and they're bringing him along slowly. I thought he might return this week -- we've started to see him more in the locker room -- but it looks like he might need more time.

Jon (Stoughton, MA)

Mike on the Branch trade it is the higher of the two 4th round picks going to Seattle.

Mike Reiss
  (1:23 PM)

Thanks Jon. I was hoping to confirm that, but have not had the chance to do so yet.

Phil (7'th Floor, First Cube on the Left)

Hey Mike, quick yes-or-no question. Are the Chiefs for real? Given their roster and coaching staff, I'd say it's a relevant question for a Patriots forum.

Mike Reiss
  (1:24 PM)

I'll say yes, Phil, because of the division they play in.

pepper johnson (boston)

hi mike,i know there's been alot said about the defense. is there any 3rd down stats with the pats d? i don't remember ever seeing a team have a more difficult time getting off the field on 3rd down. i think that could have had an effect on moss's value. controlling the clock would keep the defense off the field, which will be important in this upcoming stretch of games. can you elaborate? thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (1:27 PM)

Let's end on this one, Pepper, because it's very topical. The Patriots' defense ranks last in the NFL, with opponents converting 54.7 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Ravens are ranked fifth offensively on third down (45.7 percent of the time). This is a huge part of the game, as it figures to come down to these key situations, on third down, red zone etc.

Mike Reiss
  (1:27 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next Thursday. Looking forward to what should be a great game Sunday.