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November 11, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and thanks for joining today's Patriots chat. Just back from the team's locker room.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Here is what I took out of today's locker-room session: Defenders talked about the Steelers being a big, physical offense. They are an inside running team, so the importance of getting off blocks and playing physical top the list. I also expect safety Patrick Chung to play. He said is knee is feeling a lot better.

David Jeffrey (Ottawa Ontario)

With the noise of discontent coming out of Cincinnati and Ochocinco maybe in his last year of his contract can see teh Patriots making a move for Ochocinco to be their deep threat in 2011

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

David, I'm not familiar with Ochocinco's contract off the top of my head, but if he was available, we know the affection that Bill Belichick has for him.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who is the Best & The Worst QB For the New England Patriots since you Covered the New England Patriots?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

There have only been a few, Chris -- Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. Pretty good list, for sure.

Har Journalist (Vancouver, Canada)

Hi Mike do you think Wes Welker?s drop in production is due more to Randy Moss being traded away or is it due to the fact his Knee isn?t 100% healthy and he just isn?t the same player he was before the injury? Thanks Mike

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

I think it's a combination, Har. Welker himself has acknowledged that he's not all the way back from the knee injury at this point. I also think this offense has missed Moss's presence.

Dan (Groton, CT)

Mike, What are your thoughts on the play calling as of late? There has been a definite increase in 2 and 3 TE sets. Earlier in the year, as well as most of last year, Bill O'Brien was taking a lot of heat for the "vanilla" and predictive playcalling. Is it better execution or is he starting to find his way?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Dan, I think the next challenge for O'Brien is finding a way to get Julian Edelman more into the mix. This offense has run into some problems of late and it needs to tap its playmakers. I think they are underutilizing Edelman.

Corky (Destin)

Hi Mike: Big brown bummer... Did the Browns expose weakness that other teams will now expand on? quess next few games will tell, but give us some wisdom to have hope...

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Corky, the main thing I thought the Browns did offensively was beat the Patriots with some scheme runs. This is something Tedy Bruschi pointed out when we rewatched the game, and it put stress on inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. I think we'll see the Steelers try the same thing to see if the Patriots can stop it. On defense, they disguised their looks pre-snap. I don't think this is anything new, so I don't see these problems multiplying based on the game. The Patriots just had a dud.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike,In the past you have alluded to the complexity of the Patriots pass offense and how that is a reason they are less apt to go after talented FA WRs, albeit unfamiliar with our system. Given how predictable and anemic our pass offense has looked at times, what is so complex about it? In my opinion I think we lack pure receivers, guys that "can get open, and catch the ball"

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

Kyle, I don't think familiarity in the system is a must, but it helps (e.g. Deion Branch). This is a challenging system, with a lot of layers to it, but a WR could sign in the offseason and get up to speed quickly (e.g. Randy Moss). So it's not black and white in my view -- that a player has to be familiar to fit here. I wouldn't rule out a receiver signing in the offseason.

Chris (Natick,MA)

Mike, the busiest man in Bristol! We haven't seen too many screens the past few weeks and I figure that depends upon how hard a team's edge rushers come and leave those flats open. Do you anticipate seeing some screens thrown at Pitt Sunday or is it just to easy a call to make and they will be ready for it? I am of the school that you line up and do what you do best and try to make the other team stop it. Also, after a shaky start in preseason, I think Mesko has done a pretty darn good job, especially with the lousy snaps he had to recover from. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Good point on the screens, Chris. They've tried a few in recent weeks, with mixed results. I would think we will see more of them against a team like the Steelers, which can really get after it. On Mesko, I agree. Solid rookie season to this point.

Mike A (Pennsylvania)

Mike, what's your feeling on how big of a game this is on Sunday Night? In my opinion the NFL is such a 'what have you done for me lately' type league that if they lose this game, no longer sit tied atop the division, and lose to in a row people (mostly the media) are going to give up on this team and really start talknig about missing Moss. On the flip side if we beat a Steelers team that many consider to be the best in the league, it provides good evidence that the Cleveland game was a fluke and it restores confidence in the team.My question related to that is, how much do you think that type of stuff (media outlook on the team) effects the players and their performance? Can Big Bill convince the team its just one game either way, win or lose prepare for the next opponent, or do you think the players begin to lose confidence if they lose?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

Mike, I think it's an important game, but I could still see the Patriots in the playoff mix with a loss. So I don't call it must-win. I don't think the perception stuff is a big factor to players, unless everyone is picking against them and it motivates them (e.g. Miami). I don't think this team lacks confidence.

George (Providence, RI)

Mike, I really enjoy your chats, I was wondering about the status of Patrick Chung as I think he brings alot to the defense. How does he look in practice, does he seem to be getting better healthwise? Also, when someone is listed as"limited" in practice, what exactly does that mean, are they in pads and just walking through the practice or are they just not involved in contact or what? Thanks for your insight.

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

George, Chung talked today in the locker room and my sense is that he is playing Sunday, barring an unexpected setback. When a player is limited in practice, it generally means they didn't participate in every team drill. The limitations could vary from player to player.

Patrick Chung (Foxboro)

Do you think that not having me on the field against the Browns affected our defense against the run?And why was I not chosen as the teams most improved defensive player?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Patrick, shouldn't you be at practice now? I did see James Sanders miss one tackle on Peyton Hillis, so I guess we could say you might have made that one. As for the Most Improved Player spot in the ESPNBoston.com podcast, I don't think we could have gone wrong with that one. I went with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead.

Mike (Chicopee)

Mike, I have always been a huge fan of your reasoned opinion, however you have been saying for 2 years that Bill O'Brien is a good playcaller and a good coach, but have never given evidence/reasons why. It still seems to me like the play calling is unimagintive, stale and predictable (see comments from Ray lewis and Cleveland browns players). Are you prepared to give an unpassioned defense of O'Brien other than "I think he is a good coach"?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Mike, if time permits, take a listen to this week's podcast on ESPNBoston.com. Tedy Bruschi shares his opinion on the topic toward the end of the podcast, and I think his opinion holds a lot more weight than mine because he played the game. Bruschi says O'Brien is a good coach. If that's not enough, then we can revisit next week.

mcnulty (MA)

What's with our playcalling? It's so vanilla and predictable. Tate doesn't seem great at getting separation with route running, so we need to get him the ball in more dynamic situations. Same with Hernandez.

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

My overall thought is that with a few minor tweaks, the Patriots will be fine. Some of it is bad throws by Tom Brady. Some of it is bad routes run by receivers. Some of it is a bad play-call. It is too simplistic to point to one thing -- the play-calling -- as the reason for the offense's struggles of late. I thought the fourth-and-1 play-call was a good one, for example, when Sammy Morris had a 22-yard catch.

Paul (West Springfield, MA)

Mike, what's your assessment of how Sunday's three-man guard rotation of Mankins, Connolly and Neal performed? Do you think the strategy of giving all three near equal time is likely to continue?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Paul, I think it was OK and done solely to ease Mankins into the mix. Once Mankins shows he can play a full game, I think we'll see the end of the rotation.

Rick (Providence)

6-2 at the half way point, I will take it. I see the glass as half full. I love Brace though he disappeared for a few games. I think the D-line is doing well. Against the Browns it appeared the ILBs shot gaps and got caught up and Hillis killed us. I am glad that game happened before Pitt and Indy. My main concern is out third down defense. From last year to this year it is horrible. I see it as a combination of no pass rush and bad coverage. Belichick is too smart of a coach to have the worst third down defense in the league. Do we need to bring in another Romeo? Who is calling the defense because he isn't getting the job done.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Rick, it's Belichick running the defense. The third-down numbers are a concern, for sure. The only thing that makes them a bit more acceptable is that some of the third- and fourth-down stops have been situational and have won games (e.g. fourth-and-1, Adrian Peterson).

pat (New York)

Hey Mike,thanks for keeping the football season interesting.Everytime I watch the Patriots offense I find myself getting frustrated with Brady. He seems to miss receivers alot. Are Branch,Welker,Tate,and Hernandez capable of getting open consistently and making the plays or are we seeing the beginning of the end of Brady.

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Pat, if Brady is the team's top worry, I'd say they will be fine. Brady's accuracy was off Sunday, and it's been spotty at other times this season. He's completing 63 percent of his passes this season, but he's been at 61, 59, 59, and 52 the last four games. He has to be better than that. Sometimes the receivers aren't getting open, but there have been other plays where he's just thrown bad footballs (e.g. to Rob Gronkowski in Cleveland).

Joe (Boston)

Just thinking how big of a mistake taking Butler over Davis (Mia) - what were the Pat's thinking? Do you have any insight?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Davis had some off-field questions, if I recall. I'm thinking that was probably tied to it, Joe.

Aki (Connecticut)

With Gostkowski gone for the year with surgery, do you think he will regain his kicking strength and continue kicking touch backs when he comes back?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I guess you never know, Aki, but the early indications are that he should be back.

Glasgow (Scotland)

Looking at it objectively, with the losses the Pats have had to deal with in Warren, Bodden, Moss, and now Gostkowski, and the reliance on rookies - they are doing well to be at 6-2 and the playoffs will be a bonus?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

I think that is fair, Glasgow. This is an important time on the calendar. Patriots are 75-23 in November since 2001.

Brendan (Yorkshire)

Any clue what is going on with ron brace? He has seemed to play well when called upon this year but a couple of games ago brandon deaderick got playing time ahead of him. If i remember you said some of it was situational but do you think there was something else going on?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Brendan, I think it was a case of Deaderick playing his technique better. Nothing more, nothing less. Brace has since worked his way back into the mix.

Ben (Needham)

Hey Mike,Long time read. I love the blog. I've been noticing a cause for concern among our receiving corps: ball security and drops. It seems like Hernandez can't make consistent catches over the middle - something he was touted for in college, Tate can't get open and when he does, he has trouble coming down with the ball, and Gronk fumbled on the goal line and spaced out on the kick off last week. I'm worried this issue will be magnified as we begin the second half of the season. Brady needs to have full confidence in the guys he's throwing to and right now, that doesn't appear to show on the field. His stats against the Browns are a reflection of that - with his lowest completion %age of the year.What are your thoughts on how the offense will perform throughout the rest of the year, given the issues we've been having?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Ben, the Patriots rank second in the NFL in dropped passes. That is uncharacteristic of what we've seen from this team in recent years. I think this offense will get better. A few tweaks are needed. They are not that far away in my view.

Chuck (Taunton)

Mike, the Patriots are ranked 32nd on 3rd down defense. Is that a function of giving up a few yards on 1st and 2nd down and defending 3rd and short more often than other teams? What's the average yardage they're defending on 3rd down, and how does it compare to the rest of the league?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Chuck, I don't have those numbers off the top of my head, but maybe this adds some context: The Patriots give up an average of 5.89 yards on first down, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. The Giants are the NFL's best at 3.80.

Mike (Gainesville, FL)

Hey Mike, it really hurts to see Mike Wallace become the deep threat/big play maker with Pittsburgh that Patriots so desperately need, especially since he was selected right after Brandon Tate. Do you know if the Patriots considered Wallace instead of Tate?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

Mike, I could be off on this, but I think Wallace didn't have great production in college and thus he was a projection of sorts for NFL teams. I'm not sure if the Patriots considered him, but I seem to remember one scout pointing to Wallace and saying "That's the challenge in the scouting process."

George (San Antonio )

Mike, do you think the horrible defense that was played against the browns mostly on the running game was just a lack in preparation or a bigger problem?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

George, I'd go with less preparation, more execution.

Rich (Austin)

Hi Mike, If a defense disguises their pre-snap looks until the last second, does it run the risk of being late getting to their assignments. Is this something the offense can take advantage of?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Right on, Rich.

BK (Boston)

Hi Mike!I see taylor returned to practice this week... what are the chances he's been healthier than perceived and they've just been saving him for the second half run and playoffs, knowing the he only has so many carries in him for a season?Will he play Sunday?Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

BK, I don't see it. After talking to Taylor on Wednesday, he actually thought his season was over, and surgery was required. He is thankful for this second chance. I do think he'll play Sunday, but it's just a hunch.

Joel (Boston)

Mike - is Deion Branch still injured? I have to think his drop in productivity has more to do with his hamstring than the team is letting on. If not, then I'd be even more concerned as to why he's not more involved. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Joel, Branch said Monday his hamstring is almost back to 100 percent. He also played more Sunday in Cleveland, so I don't think the injury is a big factor right now.

Glenn (Boston)

In the past, it was almost a given that any rookie/untested QB facing a Belichick-led defense would have serious problems. Now, that 'aura' seems to be gone. Is this due to schemes or players? Where has the amoeba-esque defense of the Patriots gone?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Glenn, I'm not sure I'd agree with that. The first game that came to mind was 2007 against the Eagles, and A.J. Feeley carving them up, if my memory is correct.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

The general thought being that I seem to remember some untested QBs having some success against this team.

Ramin (San Marcos, TX)

Where was Alge Crumpler sunday? The Patriots seemed to overthink the gameplan vs the Browns instead of just doing what has worked all year. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Crumpler was only on the field for nine plays, Ramin. It looked to me like they wanted to get the young TEs in there, because they are their best pass-catching options at TE. I don't know if they overthought things, as they are a game-plan offense that alters the plan from week to week, as much as the execution was off.

Jon (Raleigh)

Hi Mike, I know that Mayo is having a great season and making tackles all over the field, but do you think he needs to make some big plays like some sacks or interceptions to be percieved as an elite linebacker in the NFL?

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Jon, I think that's fair. He's a top linebacker now, but those big plays would push him to the elite level.

Adam (London)

Should we be more concerned about Tom Brady's foot injury? He hasn't missed a practice all season even after a car accident. Though I do remember the 1998 season when Drew missed a week of practice with a finger injury and lite it up on Sunday night football. It was a come from behind win vs the Bills when Wade Phillips and his team left the field before the final p.a.t.

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Adam, I think concern is fair, as long as it is kept in its proper context. I look at it this way: After Sunday's loss, players talked about how a bad week of practice led to a bad performance in the game. If they were putting so much stock in practice, and now Brady isn't there, why wouldn't there be some concern? I do think Brady will play, but let's see how much it affects him.

Luke (Boston)

75 - 23 in November in ten years? At approx. four games a year in the month that's only 40 games...did I miss something?

RC (NJ)

Mike, who should the pats worry about on Steelers offense?

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

Luke, I should have been more clear -- 75-23 AFTER Nov. 1. My bad.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

RC, I'd start with QB Ben Roethlisberger. Tough to bring down. Keeps plays alive. Then the running game. Can't let them control the line. They're big.

Ira (Newton)

Mike, great work here on the blog. I'm curious to see how you rank Brace, deaderick, pryor going forward. Who do you think will be most important to the strength of the line through the end of the year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Ira, I don't think we'll see Pryor this week. I'd put Brace and Deaderick at the same level, almost like two players combined into one.

The Cat (Brookline)

Mike, I think that lack of QB hits/pressure is going to be a downfallthis year. I agree that the "sack" stat can be overrated and that amount of blitzes can be misleading, but it seems like opposing QBs have way too much time in the pocket, such as McCoy last weekend. What are your thoughts on this?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

I think it's fair Cat. They seldom get consistent pressure when rushing the standard four.

Marc (Framingham)

Mike - Hello from the F-hizzy! Does Edelman have a future on this team, especially with Branch and Welker running underneath routes? I dont see Julian as an outside guy

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

I think he does have a future, Marc, and it's on the coaches to integrate him into the plan.

Andrew (Madison, WI)

Hi Mike, great fan of your writing. I thought the law firm ran very tentatively against the Browns - unlike the way he's run all year (and very much like that guy dancing in Denver right now). I thought the line was opening up holes for him, but his hesitation allowed him to get caught with backside pursuits. Any idea if he's 100%. Will we see Fred this week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Good observation, Andrew. That wasn't one of Green-Ellis' better performances. Looks to me like Taylor has a real shot of playing Sunday night.

Byron (Sharon, MA)

Hey Mike, I was wondering what you thought of Tony Carter? It seems that we having been lacking an effective slot CB and I noticed his name coming up a lot in practice. Does he get a chance to play this season? (I know you said Whilhite was effective last game but for the season I'm not so sure)

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Byron, the way I look at it is that the Patriots don't release Terrence Wheatley if they don't feel good about Carter. We don't get to watch practices, so it's tough to tell, but that's my read on it.

Max (Medford)

I know Rob Gronkowski is coming off his worse game as a pro, but he was also targeted more times then in any other game. Despite his struggles, do you see this as a sign that his role in the offense is growing? Without Moss they need someone new to step up and Gronkowski seems like the most likely to me.

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Max, I think that approach with Gronkowski was game-plan specific. I wouldn't read too much into it going forward.

myra kraft (brookline)

what are you worried about more; our inability to stop the pass or our inconsistency on offense?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

I lean more toward the offense, Myra. I still think the defense is growing, but I expected more from the offense at this point.

Justin R (Portsmouth NH)

Mike: This Sunday's game in Pittsburgh looks like it will be the one where the Patriots define their season as either a league contender or as a good team that may or may not make the playoffs.

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Not sure I'd go there, unless they put in another Cleveland-like performance. They could lose in Pitt, win at home against Indy, and I still think they are right there.

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - will the PAT video feature continue to be a regular entry? I liked it a lot, and would enjoy seeing it continue up to, and including the Playoffs (should the Pats play well enough the rest of the way to make it).

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Thanks Matt. We're planning on making it a weekly feature on the site. We filmed another one this week.

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Quick timeout to post a blog entry from Mike Rodak...let's call it a 30 second timeout.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

We're back...

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - What is the strategy for the Pats Offense in this Steelers game? Conventional wisdom says to run the ball to keep the D honest and set up the playaction. But to date this season, on 1st-down rushing attempts, the Steelers' D has allowed 3 yards or less over 75% of the time. Will we see lots of Welker/Woodhead screens early? Big 3-TE sets? How do the Pats beat this D?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

I think it's a spread-them-out approach. Three and four receivers, and stand up in protection.

James (Los Angeles, CA)

HI Mike, My question is about julian edelman. He has the arm, former college qb, and speed, fastest qb at combine, and he got off to a hot start in preseason and end of last. What happened ? He fits in very nicely in obrien's 2 te sets because of how he can catch the bubbles hitches slants and screens and make people miss. Also, with the installment of a new kicker and long snapper, do you think belichick would consider giving up the possible 3 points for a quick kick inside the ten or possibly the five with mesko as the holder standing up and kicking it away?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

James, he's just not playing a lot. I think he was on the field for nine plays last week. To me, the coaches need to find a way to get him on to the field more. On the second part, I think Belichick would do that in a situational-type setting, based on game conditions.

zack (somerville, ma)

Hey Mike - if you add Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden to this team, I think their prohibitive Super Bowl favorites. Run defense improves by leaps and bounds, McCourty becomes the SECOND best CB we have, and this is a high caliber defense. Agree?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I don't know if I'd go that far, Zack, especially when considering all the injuries other teams have had. Consider the Steelers, this week's opponent. They have lost both starting tackles.

Jackson Eaves (Opelika, Alabama)

Mike, I am probably biggest pats fan in Alabama. I was wondering the chances of us picking up a free-agent to help out with the second half of the season? Maybe a wide out to spread the field?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

I don't see it, Jackson. If there is an addition at receiver, I think it would be more playing time for rookie Taylor Price or Julian Edelman.

Josh (Boston)

Hey Mike I got a quick question related to moss and its very hypothetical. If the titans were say, unhappy with randy and his production, can they cut him and randy somehow make his way back to the patriots uniform?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Possible Josh, but I think we could say unlikely at this point.

Peggy (New York New York)

Is Adalius Thomas still without a team? Belichick sure got the last laugh didn't he?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Correct, Peggy. I guess I was wrong last year when I was saying that I would have Thomas rushing more. If 31 other teams decided he wasn't worthy of that role, that speaks volumes.

Ryan (Portsmouth)

I completely agree that Edelman needs to get more involved, but do you think he has a lingering injury that won't allow him to be as effective in the role they want him in? On a side note...I realize he and welker aren't the prototypical "deep-threat" but why not flip it on it's ear and send the slots on go routes and wide-outs on combacks and posts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

I don't think so, Ryan. Edelman is fully healthy, or as healthy as a player can be at this point.

Fred (Boylston)

Mike, what are your feelings about our CB depth this yr and in to next? With McCourty looking good and Wilhite as a suitable slot guy. I feel good with Bodden coming back and hoping Bill addresses other areas finally in the draft. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Fred, I also wouldn't rule out a Butler rebound, but I know Belichick feels CBs are like pitchers in baseball -- you can never have enough of them.

jim pierce (lake winnepesaukee)

what's with sammy morris? is he in the mix to carry the ball?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Jim, I think he's slowed down a bit. More of a special teamer/backup RB at this point.

Jason (Denver, CO)

I just wanted to point out that Jermaine Cunningham did a great job sniffing out the trick play the Browns scored on. Unfortunately he was chasing the play from the backside. If he were a veteran could he have clued the rest of the team in and possibly prevented the TD? It seems like a rookie communication problem. In any event it has me excited for what this kid could eventually grow into. Thanks for reading, keep up the great work.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Good point, Jason, and it was Cunningham who also forced the Hillis fumble. I put that trick play on the coaches. Usually they are sharp and recognize that stuff, and call a timeout. That wasn't their day.

Kristen (Toronto)

How much did the Patriots mentality hurt them Sunday? Seemed to me like the Patriot way of one-game-at-a-time was a little lost on the young ones - and a couple old ones. What is your impression?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Kristen, I don't think they really overlooked the Browns. I think they had the right approach during the week, and realize they aren't good enough to take anyone lightly. It was just one of those days. A dud. Every team has them.

Rory (Dublin, Ireland)

I know Ingram has been terrible lately but to cut him completely seems a bit unfortunate- does he have any practice squad availability? Or does that one full year of just snapping and nothing else take that away. If that is the case, any argument for making practice squad eligibility based on snaps?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Rory, Ingram does not have practice squad eligibility. Interesting thought on making eligibility based on snaps. I like it.

Jimbo (PA)

Mike, who do you think wins the game this week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

I picked the Steelers in a low-scoring game. I think the Patriots will play better than we saw in Cleveland, and if this was home, I'd lean toward New England.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

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

gopats (19067)

can Spikes makes plays other than 5-6 yrds past the line of scrimmage?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

He can gopats, but it seems to me that his big issue now is getting his eyes caught in the backfield instead of reading his keys. You might be able to get away with that in college, but not the NFL.

GoUMASS (Chatham)

The Colts have essentially no running game again this year and yet they somehow (obviously Peyton is a big factor) manage to have open receivers. If O'Brien is a decent coordinator, why can't he manage to develop a game plan that takes advantage of one of the great QB's of this era?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

It's a difference in approach, UMass. The Colts do what they do. The Patriots alter their plan more on a week to week basis. I think a strong case can be made for both approaches.

Rick (NJ)

Mike, I am a Steelers fan and much respect for the Patriots. I have 2 questions for you. 1. Which player on Steelers Defense should the Pats worry about the most? 2. The Steelers will be without the starting LT and starting LG for the game, do you see the Pats attacking that side of the Line??

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Rick, I think the linebackers are the players the Patriots have to focus on -- pick one and he's a top player. As for the Steelers' line, I wouldn't restrict it to one side. The Patriots need to get their overall edge back on defense -- left, middle and right.

Maggie (Nova Scotia)

I know you often defend him, Mike, but I really, really question Bill O'brien and his playcalling. I'm not on the team, but I bet I could predict what plays the Pats are going to run in my living room before they run them and be right 8 times out of 10. That's not good. There is no spark on the offense, except when Brady creates it by accident (see Tate TD against Vikings). Is O'brien really the right man for the job?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Maggie, it's official. Bill O'Brien is the No. 1 target of chatters here on ESPNBoston.com. I think he is the right man for the job -- just as I thought Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels were -- but it seems I'm in the minority.

Tiffany (Reading PA)

Mike, is Brady practicing today?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Will find out shortly Tiffany and will post to our Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com.

Peyton Hillis (Cleveland)

Mike, Do you think the pats would benefit from a big strong power runner like me or a faster/less physical darren mcfadden type runner type in the future?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I like a power runner, in the Coery Dillon-type mold. I always felt like that type of runner was a nice complement to the Brady-led passing attack.

utpal desai (houston tx)

hii mike.. do u think the patriots need to be more aggresive on the 1st down rather than waiting for 3rd down conversion ,which has not been effective since past 2 games?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I think it's a balance, but it's probably fair. The Patriots are averaging 5.46 yards per first down play, which ranks 18th best in the NFL.

Eric (Charlestown)

Mike, how did Gostkowski end up getting hurt? I didn't see anything happen during the game and was curious whether he was hurt kicking the ball or trying to make a tackle downfield. Do you project that the Patriots will be attempting more fourth downs now that Graham is on board given that his range isn't as good as Gostkowski's?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Eric, he started having trouble in pregame warmups.

Mike (Springfield , Ma)

Do you think the trade of randy moss hurt the team more than helped?? Our 3rd down offense has def took a hit as well as a number or other areas it seems...

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

I think it has hurt the offense at this point, but the full story has yet to be written.

JimG (Nashua, NH)

Mike - do you feel the Patriots receivers fail to get much separation and therefore brady has a very small window of opportunity to throw the ball to a given target? I saw this as a problem last week as he was throwing lasers out there and sometimes the receivers could not hang on.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

I agree with that Jim. I wrote that thought in my notebook while at the game. "Not big windows for Brady to throw."

Serena (Newport)

Mike, I've been frustrated with the media coverage of the Pats so far this season. One week, the Pats are a second tier team with a no-good defense; the next, they're topping the power rankings for the first time in two years. Then they play a bad game and they are apparently on the outskirts of the playoff race. So I come to you and I ask for a legitimate observation of the team at the halfway point. No b.s., no bi-polarness, no "power ranking" (I don't even understand what that means really...doesn't a team's record dictate how much power it has?). Is this team as good as we hope? As bad as we fear? Somewhere in the mediocre middle? I trust your balanced views more than most others.

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks Serena. Probably the best advice I ever heard from a player was back in the mid-1990s. He told me, "As you embark on your career, remember this -- don't get too high with the highs and don't get too low with the lows. That's what most reporters do. By keeping the middle ground, you will earn players' respect." The player was a little-known CB named Steve Lofton and he played for the team in 1997. I've never forgotten that. ...

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

... So with that as a backdrop, I'd tell you that I think this is one of the better teams in the AFC. It has hit a bit of adversity here, and it will lose agian, but I do think the team will be in the playoff chase when all is said and done.

Jet (Boston)

Good morning,Given the receiver struggles lately why not give Taylor Price a chance? With Branch hobbling around.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Jet, I like the thought. It all comes down to how well the coaches feel he knows the offense. This would be a tough spot to put him in, but I'd like to see it regardless.

Kris (Maine)

Out of curiosity, do you ever get a day off during the season, Mike? Seems like your blog is constantly updated 7 days a week. So either you have little elves that help you or you work 90 hours a week. I'm hoping for the former.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Kris, we have a great team here at ESPNBoston.com, and that helps. It's also a seasonal job, so you know when it's the season, you're in it.

Chris (Charlottesville, Va)

From a couple of the player interviews about the Cle game the players said they had a poor week of practice before hand. When I hear Wilfork and Brady saying these things I can't help but wonder why as leaders they didn't step in and get the guys motivated and working harder. Is just in retrospect they notice these things or is it not enough practice time to get things fixed? Seems like if they saw it coming they could have done something about about it.

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

I think they tried Chris, but to no avail. Wilfork even said, "I was hoping we'd snap out of it." Just one of those days.

Michael c. (Washington, D.C.)

I agree with you on Edelman, but do you think he's still struggling with his foot injury? On the rare occasions that he's returned punts, he doesn't look as quick as he has in the past. Otherwise, it makes no sense that he hasn't been more involved. Your thought?

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

Could be, Michael, and I just might have missed it.

Mike (Auburn)

Every Cleveland kick seemed to land between the 25-15 with no chance of a return and no chance of tate touching the ball. It doesnt seem to be that hard of a kick. Why wouldnt every team do this. Seems a better strategy then kicking deep and hoping for a touchback but risking a big return against

Mike Reiss
  (1:13 PM)

Good one, Mike. It's just conceding field position. Those pop kicks could come out to the 35 or so with a minimal return, and that's some field position there.

Lav (Milford)

Hey Mike, Love your stuff. You said earlier that this game is not a must win, but do you agree that they either need to win this one or the Indy game? Based on schedules, the Jets have an easier finish. I can see them easily going 6-2 the rest of the way. The Pats if they lose to Pit and Indy will then need to win the remaining 6 to stay even and with the Jets and Green Bay in that mix, they could easily be 11-5/10-6. I don't think 10-6 will be enough and I can realistically see them missing the playoffs on this one at 11-5 based on tiebreakers. Assuming Indy wins the division again, this game almost is a must win.

Mike Reiss
  (1:15 PM)

Thanks Lav. I don't even know if I'd go that far. Lose at Pitt and at home against Indy -- you still have the Jets coming in Dec. 6 and that would be the must-win. It wouldn't be ideal, and it would clearly knock them out of the top of the pack, but I don't thikn it would pull the plug on their season.

Mike O (Pflugervile, Tx)

Right now could we play for Superbowl?

Mike Reiss
  (1:16 PM)

Let's end on this one, Mike. I see this NFL season as wide open. Anything is possible. It's hard to be optimistic after that Browns game, but I think the Patriots are better than that and they will show it.

Mike Reiss
  (1:16 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Enjoy the day and we'll catch up next week.