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December 2, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon here from Gillette Stadium.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe we're in December already. Just finished up in the Patriots' locker room, where Vince Wilfork, Fred Taylor and Danny Woodhead were a few players drawing big crowds.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

In trying to get a general feel for how players are viewing the Jets, one theme stood out to me: The Patriots pretty much see the same team they did in Week 2, minus a few changes (e.g. Santonio Holmes). Special teams a concern, as the Jets have one of the best groups in the NFL. The Wednesday off was to keep the legs fresh. Players were still in for meetings and mental work.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Let's try to go until about 1 p.m. on today's chat.

Brendan (South Boston MA)

If the Pats beat the Jets and Tom Brady is the reason for the win will that clear the way for him to be MVP?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Brendan, I don't think the MVP will be "clinched" regardless of what happens Monday night. A lot can change over the last four games, especially the way Philip Rivers is playing.

Glasgow (Scotland)

I'm worried about the Jets: how do the Pats cover Holmes, Keller, and the other receivers and still stop the run? Do you think the defence can handle it? I foresee a narrow loss here and a tricky wild card run.

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

I think they will do a better job than Week 2., Glasgow. I see three matchups in this game -- Patriots base 3-4 against the Jets' two-back personnel. Patriots 4-2-5 nickel (3 safeties) against the 3-receiver set. And then a special Brad Smith matchup.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike, yesterday I read one of your articles where you seemed to flip flop on your C. Matthews position. Are you ready to admit that he probably could "set the edge" just as well as TBC and Ninkovitch?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Kyle, I'm not sure Matthews would have been a good edge-setter in the base 3-4, but the point I was making in the mailbag was that his value as a sub-rusher alone would have been worth a first-round investment. Considering that the Patriots have been in the sub more than 50 percent of the time this season, it adds value to a player who would have a specialized role like that.

Corky (Destin)

Hi Mike: This game should be Epic! What do you think Tom needs to do to control the tempo of the game?Second How do we generate some pass rush in this one in short of sending the whole defense...

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Corky, I'm going to pass along a Tedy Bruschi-based thought on this one. Tedy talked in our Bruschi's Breakdown this week about the use of the no-huddle. He used the Browns' game as an example -- pointing out that when the Browns were disguising their intentions and moving around before the snap, the Patriots countered with a hurry-up. That's a nice counter to that defensive approach, because when defenses do that they need more time to set up their blitzes. ...

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

... As for how the Patriots might generate pressure without all-out blitzes, I think it's simple: Players like Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham -- top edge rushers in the sub package -- need to win more one-on-one battles than they did on Thanksgiving.

Andres (providence ri)

Hi Mike. Do you think the jets have lived up to their preseason hype?. Obviously they are 9-2, but they are not the dominating team, people had them to be.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

I do, Andres. And I give them credit because I was a doubter. I thought they looked like a "fantasy" football team -- one that just assembled a bunch of talent without considering locker-room chemistry and some of the key dynamics that often go into creating a successful team. They've proven me wrong.

MarkJ (Japan)

Decimated DL should be a concern. Does BB regret release of Crable?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

I don't think there is any regret there, MarkJ.

Rich (New Jersey)

Big game Monday night with the Jets. What do the Patriots need to do both offensively and defensively to get the victory? And does the winner of this game set the tone for the last 4 weeks & into the playoffs?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

No doubt, Rich, the winner of this game gets the inside track for a No. 1 seed and first-round playoff bye. If the Patriots lose, they would need the Jets to lose twice in their final four games -- and also win out themselves -- to have a chance at the No. 1 seed. I don't see that as likely. As for what the Patriots need to do, I'd say offensively the key is balance -- mix that run and pass and create those play-action opportunities which keep the defense on its heels. On defense, start with stopping the run. Also don't forget special teams. Jets very good there.

Brandon (Mississppi)

Love the blog mike. Read it every day. Hadn't heard much about Ty Warren. how's his rehab going? Do the pats expect him back next year? Same with Bodden?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Thanks Brandon. Just saw Warren in the locker room today. He is making good progress. Bodden is as well. Both are expected to return to full health for next season.

McNulty (Boston)

Hi Mike, I'm wondering if you agree that Brandon Tate seems to be turning into the next Bethel Johnson? Why do you think the Pats seem to have trouble drafting RBs and WRs? I hope Taylor Price turns out well...

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

I still think the arrow is pointing up on Tate, even with some of his recent struggles. Part of the reason they struggled on the kickoff return on Thanksgiving was the Lions outscheming them and overloading. I don't think there was much Tate could have done on a lot of those kickoff returns. As for his dropped pass, that's a concern. But I'd give him more time than slapping the Bethel Johnson tag on him.

Tyler (Sacramento, CA)

Mike, over the last 3 weeks, Aaron Hernandez' role has has been reduced while Rob Gronkowski has stepped up. Is this a result of more play-action by Brady with Gronk disguising as a blocker before leaking out?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Tyler, this is a good obsveration. The reduction in Hernandez' stats has stood out to me. My belief is that part of it is tied to Gronkowski being more of a dual threat -- he is a stronger blocker and a bigger target over the middle. In that Pittsburgh game, for example, when the Steelers decided that a cornerback would cover Gronkowski, that's something the Patriots wanted to stick with. So my feeling is that it's more matchup-bsaed than anything that reflects poorly on Hernandez.

Chris (Charlottesville, Va)

Mike, we often take our best defensive player (Wilfork) off the field on third downs and we are the worst team in the league on third down % coincidence? Am I crazy to think Vince could collapse the pocket rushing straight up the middle?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

You aren't crazy, Chris, and it's a topic that I debate often with some family members who believe Wilfork should never leave the field. My counter is that when you have a player who is 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, and who plays that tough nose tackle spot in the 3-4 defense, there is an aspect about keeping him fresh that is important to consider. We've seen Wilfork play a little more on third down in recent weeks. I could see that continuing.

Mike (Somerville by way of Westwood)

Hi Mike, I've been thinking about Monday Night and get stronger and stronger feelings that the deciding factor will be the linebacking crew for us. Perhaps more Guyton/Fletcher type along with Mayo to cover the screen plays and slant routes that Sanchez loves to throw to Holmes, agree?!

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

Mike, those Westwood Wolverines couldn't get it done against Holliston on Thanksgiving. The Patriots brought back a nickel package on Thanksgiving that had Mayo, Guyton and Fletcher, so we know it's in the arsenal. Sometimes I think Guyton plays a little stiff when trying to bring down running backs and quicker receivers. But he is one of their top sub linebackers so I expect we'll see plenty of him Monday night.

Bill (New York, NY)

Mike, isn't all of this talk about Philip Rivers being the MVP a little ridiculous. His team has lost 5 games and statistically the Chargers are the best defense in the NFL. Brady on the other hand has led the Pats to the best record in the NFL despite the Pats being the 2nd worst defense in the NFL. Brady has to be MVP hands down.

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Bill, I'm not sure it's so cut-and-dried, especially with five games to go. The Chargers are coming on and if they win out, I do think Rivers will be in the discussion. But right now, I do think it tilts toward Brady.

J. Barry (Plattsburgh, NY)

Mike, now that we have signed Woodhead for two more years, do you think we will need the services of Kevin Faulk next year? Woodhead seems to block and receive out of the backfield just as good as Faulk.

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

I think any team could always use a player like Kevin Faulk, but my first thought is that because Woodhead is playing the same type of role, it could force Faulk out of the picture.

Chris (Natick,MA)

Hi Mike. Tiredof hearing all these experts talk about how Revis will be on Branch or Welker to shut them down.. The thing that makes a shut down corner a shut down is his speed and ability to close. The Jets want teams to try and play outside the numbers so they can get maximum impact from their corners. I think the way to disrupt this is to run them through traffic which the Pats do fairly well now. It takes away the speed advantage. I think you will see little or no deep routes outside the numbers and LOTS of underneath to minimize Revis and Cromartie. This will leave the deep middle of the field open for the TE's one on one with LB's. I think this is the best match up for the Pats int he passing game, thoughts? P.S. I also think the Pats can run against this team.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Chris, I think these are some great thoughts. Cromartie is a taller corner, with those long legs. Not always the best matchup for players like that against smaller, quicker receivers.

Jason (Denver, CO)

Mike, everyone is still talking about Tomlinson's revival. What seems to be slipping through the cracks is, he hasn't averaged better than 4 yards a carry since week 5. The area where he is most dangerous is on the checkdown passes that the team uses to bail Sanchez out. For some reason other teams haven't been accounting for him in these situations. I believe that those checkdowns are the linchpin of that offense. If the Pats can keep an eye on Tomlinson when he slips out of the backfield, than the Jets lose the ability to extend drives. Shonn Greene has been only marginally more effective over that same period of games. The Jets are riding their reputation from earlier in the season, and I'm not buying it. They are great in short yardage situations, but stopping those outlet passes to LaDainian is the key to staying out of those. Do you believe we can defend the run without overcommitting to it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Another great thought, Jason. Tomlinson leads the Jets with 45 receptions, which reflects how much Tomlinson is a factor in the passing game. I think the big thing -- and this comes from Tedy Bruschi's analysis -- is tackling. Don't let a 4-yard gain turn into an 8-, 12- and 16-yard gain.

Adam (Los Angeles)

Mike, I still haven't seen Hernandez much in the last 3 games and I think he's an important figure in the offense... Do you see this as a permanent reduction in playing time or will they be back to 3 TE sets? I'd be curious how many snaps he's played each of the last 3 games.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Definitely not permanent, Adam. This offense evolves from week to week. I chart the offensive snaps each week and those are posted on our blog on ESPNBoston.com the morning after each game. A quick archive search will provide the answer as I don't have my database handy right now.

slappy3312 (About to take my law school final exam)

Mike, I'm gonna eat some crow quick (you answered my Dez Bryant question following the first round of the draft), McCourty has really emerged and I'm starting to think he should shadow the best receiver from the other team every week. Also, I gotta give O'Brien credit, his playcalling the last few weeks has been superb.

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Good luck on the law-school final exam, slappy. The one thing I'd say on McCourty, and I mentioned this on the podcast this week with Tedy Bruschi, is that it's a good lesson for media types like myself about over-reacting the night of the draft based on one pick. I bet if we looked back on some of the media clips from that night there would be a lot of mea culpas.

Rick (CT)

Mike could you update Pats 2011 draft choices, especially rounds 4-7, thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Rick, the Patriots are witholding that information, and the league will not release it. We know they gave up a 2011 pick for Quinn Ojinnaka (likely a 7), 2012 draft considerations for LB Tracy White, and unspecified draft considerations for S Jarrad Page. Wish I had more for you. What we do know is that they have multiple picks in the first, second and third rounds.

adkjani (fargo)

Mike I for one have really thought the move to pick up Crumpler this past offseason has paid huge dividends. One reason why BJGE is running so well is because of Crumpler's blocking abilities. Look how well Chris Johnson ran last year with him. It seems like on every replay of a big run he's involved with a key block. I'm sure he's also helped Gronk and Hernandez a lot in their development. Don't you think he deserves more credit for the Pats offensive success? Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Crumpler has been a good addition, for sure. I think he's the type of player winning teams need to have -- sort of like a Sammy Morris, or a Larry Izzo, or a Heath Evans. They are guys that don't often get the headlines, but they are glue guys.

Chris (pitt,pa)

Hi Mike,is it time to give mankins his due and pay him? The whole attitude of the team looks tougher with him in there, and throwing troy p off brady was great

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

Chris, I think the Patriots are willing to pay him, but just not what's he feels he's worth. I think the Patriots could extend a bit more than their last offer, but Mankins would still need to come down from his asking price. If Mankins was looking for Jahri Evans-type money, it won't happen here. On the whole, I'd agree -- the offensive line looks better with Mankins in there.

Dave (Lowell)

Hi Mike, two questions related to Darius Butler. 1. with the Jets having three outside type (as opposed to slot) receivers, is Butler a better matchup there or would you expect Wilhite? 2. Butler played some WR at UConn. I don't think anyone can question his speed/athleticism. Any chance he takes a couple snaps at WR?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Dave, I don't think we'll seee Wilhite active in this game; he's been sidelined with a hip injury. So Butler is the third corner by default, but the Patriots are using their safeties as extra defensive backs in sub packages for the most part. As for Butler at receiver, I don't see it. Maybe more of a chance on kickoff returns, if we're thinking a bit outside the box.

Brian (CT)

* Hi Mike, will Teddy Bruschi's ceremony give the PATS an emotional edge Monday night?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Brian, I think it will create energy from a fan perspective. I expect Gillette Stadium to be as loud as I've heard it since it opened in 2002. I'm not sure how much it will affect the players, though.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, with Devin McCourty's surge, what will the Pats' CB situation look like next year with Bodden back? Do you think McCourty will take a Revis-like role?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

John, McCourty definitely is going anywhere. He'll be locking down the left side.

Marco (BRAZIL)

Hey Mike, don't you think the pats are a little overrated as a playoff contender?? Although we have the best QB in the game, our team has a young defense with no pass rush and no explosive/physical players on the offense, Do you think the pats can overcame that and get us to the SB?? thanks big fan

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Hi Marco, my general feeling on the Patriots is that if Tom Brady keeps playing the way he has of late, and the defense keeps forcing turnovers in key spots, anything is possible. There are flaws, for sure, but I think we could look at every team and find flaws.

Dan (Manchester, NH)

What information do coaches up in the booth have at their disposal to determine whether they want to challenge a play or not? Do they have access to the TV broadcast for replays? Do they have access to the angles the referees look at when they go "under the hood" to review a play? Are they allowed to use video shot by their own staff (not from the sideline, of course :)? Or do teams just have to rely on what's being shown on the Jumbotron?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Dan, as I understand it, the only information they have is what it shown on TV or the scoreboard. Nothing else.

Dave (Boston)

Even if he's close to 100%, do you think the Pats keep Fred Taylor on the shelf until the playoffs? Seems like he can only handle a few games per season these days.

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Dave, I think we'll see Taylor get some carries before the playoffs. He was active on Thanksgiving, but just didn't get on the field. I don't think the coaching staff planned to dress him and not play him, so I expect to see him on the field at some point before the season ends.

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Dave, I think we'll see Taylor get some carries before the playoffs. He was active on Thanksgiving, but just didn't get on the field. I don't think the coaching staff planned to dress him and not play him, so I expect to see him on the field at some point before the season ends.

Glenn (Boston, MA)

Hey Mike...obviously going to be tough to run on the Jets, but I expect the Pats to try. However, any chance you see the Pats spreading out five wide, with a speed group? Branch, Welker, Tate, Edelman and Hernandez? Maybe to get the ball out quick (to avoid the pressure) and take advantage of mismatches.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Glenn, we've hardly seen the Patriots go with that type of grouping this season. So it would be a big change-up if they do, and they'd have to be confident that they could protect. I like the thought, assuming the ball is out quick and the protection can hold up.

BamaPat (Mobile, Ala.)

Mike: I think the media is glossing over Brandon Tate's drops. He's starting to remind me of Hart Lee Dykes. Or better, Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran. Shouldn't they give the Price kid a chance until Tate can prove that he can actually catch a medium to deep pass?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

My sense on Price is that the coaching staff/Brady doesn't yet have the full confidence that he has a mastery of the offensive system. So while he might catch the ball better than Tate (a projection at this point), the fact they can't be sure he'll be in the right spot is probably what is most on their mind.

Matt (Medfield)

Mike, Big game (Pats 28, Jets 27) and it got me thinking of old news: Adalius Thomas never signed with anyone correct? Not even his old Defensive Cordinator wanted him this year. Does this along with how the patroits clearly have a better locker room this year completely justify Belichicks first putting him in his dog house last year, then eventually dumping him? What do you think he is saying to himself about his former coach now? My prediction: " I guess I should have eaten more of that humble pie I loved to joke about, maybe I would have learned something to keep me in the league"

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Fair, Matt, although I don't pin it all on Thomas. Sometimes in those situations, two sides have to meet in the middle to find a way to iron out differences.

Ryan (Boston)

Week 2 matchup, neither team was what they are now with getting players back. Which team would you say gets a bigger boost from being more complete with players from suspensions or holdouts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

I think the Patriots have undergone more changes (Mankins, Woodhead, Branch for Moss), but the impact is equal when considering the Jets now have Santonio Holmes (clutch at the end of games) and a fully healthy Darrelle Revis. A Holmes/Revis combo is pretty big, too.

Big T (New Bedford,MA)

Hey Mike,do you think that its fare to say,up to this point Jermaine Cunningham has been pretty decent for a fomer college defensive end making the transiton to OLB.Especially in a complex system like the Pats,where the OLB are ask to do more,your thoughts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Absolutely Big T. I didn't expect to see him adapt to it as quickly as he has. He's basically supplanted Tully Banta-Cain as a top option at OLB in the 3-4.

Daniel (District Heights, MD)

Hey Mike, hope you had a great holiday. For all of the talk about Tom Brady no has mentioned how important the running game must be Monday night. And the importance of shutting down LT who has hurt the Pats quite often. What are your thoughts on this.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Thanks Daniel. The running game will be important, for sure, because of the balance it creates and the play-action possibilities it creates. The Jets rank fourth in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (86.3), so it will be tough to run it, but I still think the Patriots will make a commitment to it.

Wendi (ny,ny)

Mike,how can we be assured that the Pats are going to play 60 FULL minutes of football? It seems they either come out swinging (like the jets in week 2) and then fizzle the second half, or they start slow (the lions game) and play catch up the second half. Can you tell me how far they have come as an organization to beat these jets on Monday. I live here, i have to endure rex DAILY. Give me some faith, please!!

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

We can't be assured, Wendi, but the focus seems to be there this week. I just heard Bill Belichick say something along the lines of, "If you can't get excited for this, you don't love football." You can feel the energy around here.

Brian (CT)

Mike, knowledge wise how much of an influence has Teddy Bruschi meant to your budding professional career?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

It's been great, Brian. I appreciate you asking because it gives me a chance to share those thoughts with more people. Tedy breaks down games with me each week before our podcast. I call it my weekly class in Football 101. I really appreciate it.

Lee (Providence, RI)

Mike, everybody points to the Pats secondary as a problem. But McCorty and Chung seem highly regarded. Sanders has played well. Does it come down to Arrington and Merriweather not performing well?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

I don't think so, Lee. The biggest thing to me is that the passing game is a combination of coverage and pass rush. The Patriots could use a boost in the latter category and I think that would help out the coverage that much more. Not saying the coverage is perfect -- sometimes it's way off -- but it's a combination of the two.

Nel (Boston)

How can Bill stand being the coach of a 32nd ranked defense? Doesn't this prove that players matter more than coaches?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Nel, on the whole, I think Bill Belichick is more about wins than a specific No. 32 ranking on third down defense. But as a coach who drives a hard bargain and seeks constant improvement, I'm sure that's one of the top areas on his list that he is drilling the players on. As for the last part, about the players mattering more than the coaches, I think most anyone would say that. Without players, we don't have a game.

Mike O'Brien (Pflugerville, Tx)

So Mike who are you picking this Monday night? Also for the 3rd meeting (In the playoffs) who has the edge?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Mike, I am going Patriots 24, Jets 17. Close game late and Tom Brady leads a scoring drive in the fourth quarter to win it. As for the playoffs, let's wait and see how the final four games play out -- and what injuries occur -- before making that call.

alty (montreal)

how come crable hasnt been in the discussion of monday's game, the jets have been pumping him for information for the last three weeks, should this be a factor that worries pats nation?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Minor, minor factor, Alty. I don't see it as a big deal.

Frazier (Philly)

Mike, any chance Darius Butler regains his starting position at CB as Kyle Arrington has been pulled in the last two games now?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Frazier, I thought the Thanksgiving game was telling, with Arrington back in the starting lineup. He played throughout the game, but just moved to a different role in a sub package late in the game. Thus, I see Arrington keeping the job for now.

Jim Bob (Oregon)

Hey Mike, instead of trading down 100 times in April's draft, why don't the Pats use a 1st and maybe a 3rd and trade for the unhappy Larry Fitzgerald!

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Had a couple of Fitzgerald questions, Jim Bob. I'm not sure what it would take to get him, but I'd just say that sometimes a big name doesn't always produce the desired result. Just ask the Bills and their waiver claim of Shawne Merriman this year. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but sometimes I think it's easy to get infatuated with big names.

David (CT)

Mike - A lot has been mentioned about the need for the Jets to disrupt Brady - not so much as sack him but put pressure up the middle to prevent him from stepping up rather than rush from the edges like Steelers/Colts did and let him sit in the pocket. My question is what do you think the Pats front 7 need to do to disrupt Sanchez?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

The biggest thing I see, David, is make him go through his progressions. Make him hold the ball longer than he wants to. So I like the idea of getting up on the receivers, jamming them, and disrupting timing that way.

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Let's go for another 5 here...

Freddy (Boston)

Don't lie, Mike. Your instincts want to put a field goal difference final score for the game, but you've recently been called out for your constant 'field goal close' game predictions! What would the REAL Mike Reiss say the final score is going to be?

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Ha! It was brought to my attention that I had a string of picking field-goal games. After some self-scouting, I've decided to open up the margins a bit. I became a bit like Marc Wilson back in '90 -- too predictable.

Dave R (Boston, MA)

Mike, which land mass is more difficult to get off of: Revis Island, or McCourty Peninsula?

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Still think it's the Island, Dave. McCourty has had a great rookie season, but we've still seen our fair share of breakdowns, too.

Greg (South County)

Hey Mike, from one UMass alumni to another...any thoughts on the rumor circulating that the Minutemen will join the MAC in 2012?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Greg, nice to chat with a fellow UMass alum. I was excited to hear about the possibility. That was something UMass wanted to do when I was a student there in the mid-1990s, but it never got over the hump. I like the idea, and also playing some games here at Gillette Stadium.

Seth (Portland, Maine)

Mike, what approach does Belichick use exactly with his defense? For example, with Rex Ryan we know he likes to blitz and create pressure.

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Seth, the first thought that comes to mind is fundamentally sound. It's not a blitz-heavy scheme, but you know players are going to be in position and they will have a tough front to run on.

Ken (Indy)

I love Cunningham. But how does he supplant TBC without a decent number of sacks. Didn't TBC lead the Pats in sacks last year? BB's mantra (NO edge, no chance) is true and is killing us.

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

Ken, I think the reason Cunningham has replaced Banta-Cain at OLB in the 3-4 is that he is a stronger player against the run. Banta-Cain seems to be more of a one-trick player at this point -- rush the passer. I thought that showed up on the fourth-down play in Detroit -- he is rushing up the field while the running play comes around his side. Banta-Cain is still playing a lot in sub packages as a rusher, and I think that is the best role for him.

Kevin (New York)

Hi Mike,It's great to catch your chats when I can. Why do teams in searching for a new kicker go to a kicker that has failed in the past with previous teams to a kicker right out of school? College graduates a high number of great kickers and never get drafted. Are we supposed to be surprised if Graham fails us in a tight game decided by a field goal?

Mike Reiss
  (1:13 PM)

Interesting question, Kevin. I think it's mostly because they value the experience at that position and it's a spot that has different dynamics than most with its unique pressure. If you take someone right out of college, you have a large unknown with how that kicker will handle that pressure. Even though a veteran kicker might have failed with another team, he probably has something on his resume that says 'aced a few pressure situations' -- or otherwise he wouldn't have stuck around as long.

Nick (Worcester, MA)

Mike I watched Shawn Springs on ESPN First Take the other day, he sounds like a very bitter man as it pertains to Belichick and his defense. Do you think Shawn is right in his assessment or is he just bitter?

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

I missed Springs' segment, although I did notice it was posted on our site. I'll have to watch it again. I would say an agenda would have to be considered there based on how things ended.

Dave (NJ)

Mike, what is the Pats biggest need in next year's draft? CB opposite DM, pass rusher or OL?

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

I'm going the pass-rusher route, Dave.

Doc Rivers (Boston)

Mike, how long do you think the Brady-Belichick tandem lasts? Don't really want to think about it, but would like your opinion.

Mike Reiss
  (1:15 PM)

Another 5-8 years sounds right to me, as long as Brady stays healthy.

Tim (Framingham)

Mike, how much credit do the Pats give Brad Smith in their gameplanning. Frankly, from what I've seen his wildcat presence is ineffective. Granted his explosion last week.

Mike Reiss
  (1:16 PM)

Tim, they are very concerned with him, specifically on special teams. As for his presence on offense, it's all about tackling. He's a tough one to bring down.

Mike (Venice Beach)

Most important issue: please explain Brady's logo cap.

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

TB12. I think it's his own personal "brand". Not sure what that is all about, Mike, but perhaps something he's planning for post-career.

Joseph King (Andover)

Mike,I think turnovers will be key on Monday. I wonder if Darius Butler wouldn't be an upgrade for this game - although his lack of playing experience this year will certainly hurt. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

I'd stick with Arrington, Joseph. A bit more physical and I think playing physical at the line is going to be important to disrupt Sanchez's timing.

Paul (North Haven)

Mike, How long is Crumpler signed for? The guy's a beast of a blocker and I sure would like to see him stick around a while.

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

Through the 2011 season, Paul.

Jason (Denver, CO)

Hey, what happened to the picks in the podcast? I didn't hear any this week, disappointing...

Mike Reiss
  (1:19 PM)

Jason, we don't pick the game in the podcast. Instead, we wait for the Bruschi's Breakdown to do that each week.

Mike (Medford)

Mike someone just told me that if the playoffs started today, New England would travel to Jacksonville in the first round. While true, that just sounds wrong, doesn't it?

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Let's end on this one, Mike. I think it highlights the importance of the game against the Jets. Because the first tie-breaker is head to head, and there are five games to go, the Patriots need this one.

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting today. Will look forward to next week's chat and a great game Monday night.