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January 6, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium. Thanks for joining today's chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

As I logged on, I see there are already 124 comments by chatters. Remarkable. Thanks for the interest. Even though it's a bye week, there is plenty to talk about.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

One thought from the stadium. Bill Belichick has been very hard on players the last two days. Two full-pads practices. Showing them tape of all their bad play. Provides some insight as to how Belichick is motivating players and focusing on self-improvement.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Let's chat until 1 p.m.

Hoogie (Lexington)

Gut feeling, who are the Pats playing next Sunday?

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Ravens. If I'm Bill Belichick and I'm slicing up my "preparation pie" this week, that's the team that is getting 75 percent of my attention. Don't see the Jets beating the Colts, and I like the Ravens to pound the Chiefs into submission.

grant (paris)

After that great game by Edelman do you see him becoming a bigger factor in the offense in the postseason or next year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Grant, I think it's one of those situations where Edelman really fits best in Welker's role. I don't think their styles are different enough to be a good complement to each other, so that means Edelman would only come on the field in three- or four-receiver sets. With the abundance of two-TE sets the team uses, I see Edelman's offensive role once again being limited in the playoffs (outside of a trick play or two).

Har Journalist (Vancouver Canada)

Happy New Year Mike I was wondering what are your predictions for the four wild card games this weekend? Do you see any upsets happening? You can read my thoughts on the weekend here http://harjournalist.wordpress.com/ Thanks for your insight Mike.

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

We just touched on the AFC picks (Colts, Ravens). On the NFC side, I like the Saints and Packers.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

What is the worst Patriots team that you ever saw?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

1990. That was one of the few times when it was probably a good thing that games were blacked out on local TV.

MarkJ (Japan)

12 th player award for Algernon; his contribution in run offense was so huge. My question is which of the 16 was the best game of the year? I'll pick NYJ@NE, a classic New England style game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Like the thought on the 12th Player Award. I had posted something on the blog, asking "Who would you pick for the 12th Player Award?" So thanks for contributing to that, MarkJ. My choice is Danny Woodhead. As for the best game of the year -- the first that came to mind was the Colts game. James Sanders' game-ending pick. As Bill Belichick said to Sanders on the sideline, "That's a champion." Or something like "That's the type of play a champion makes."

Jan (Auburn, NH)

Mike, I think I've read during the bye week in the regular season the pats self scout, find tendencies and try to change things up a bit. Any word on if they are doing that this week? I think that would be very beneficial seeing how the two most likely opponents we've already played.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

That is what the players are doing. Meanwhile, the coaches broaden it out and also focus on potential opponents. But the coaches don't want the players thinking along those lines.

Andres (Providence RI)

Hey Mike. After watching the dolphins game, it looks like WR Price has a lot of talent, even if it was just 3 catches. Is there a logjam of WRs on the roster with good skills? Branch, welker, Tate, elderman, and price. My 12th man is TE Alge Crumpler. Not just his play, but leadership and the mentor role he took with 2 rookie TEs.

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Andres, I'd agree. Price looked good. As for the logjam, my first thought is that depth is so important in this league. That's an ideal situation.

tom (nh)

Moss for 12th player. Him leaving got more guys in the mix and made the Off more dangerous and able to kill clock.

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Thanks Tom.

Nick (Cubicle, Work)

How is Danny Woodhead doing?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Woodhead was back at practice Wednesday, wearing a red, non-contact jersey. I fully expect him to be on the field Jan. 16 in the Patriots' playoff opener.

Brooklyn (Toronto)

Kyle Arrington has been struggling of late and Darius Butler still remains iffy. Who do you think gets the bulk of the snaps next to McCourty next weekend?

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

I'm going with Arrington. I think he's earned it.

Craig (Braintree)

1990 was the first time I got tickets given to me (last game of season). It was cold too.

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

I remember it well, Craig. Seems like another lifetime ago, right?

Behn (Kitchener, ON)

The media is comparing this season to the Pats 2007 perfect season and in some cases saying this team is better. What's your feeling and what is the team saying about it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

I think the 2007 team was better, Behn. Without sounding like Bill Belichick, though, all that really matters is which team is better in that 60 minutes of action in the playoffs.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

I really believe that. I laugh when I read things like, "The Patriots have a clear path to the Super Bowl." I think they are going to have to win three dogfights.

corky decker (Destin Fl)

Hi Mike: Was really glad to BJGE get his grander, and for Bill to keep handing him the ball deep in the endzone on 4TH DOWN, that was really special and kinda unlike Bill...Did you speak to Bill about that? I really like our backs going into the playoffs!

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

Corky, I did ask Belichick something about that on Patriots All-Access this week, but it was in the context of how the team responded to Green-Ellis getting the 1,000. His answer was along the lines of this being a team in which the players are supportive of each other and want to see each other do well.

Lee (Rhode Island)

Do you think the recent signings of Murrell and Ellison are simply precautionary or do you think they actually might play next week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Ellison could play. Patriots have some concerns on that D-line. I think it's a big issue and am surprised more aren't talking about it.

Balazs (_bb) (originally from Hungary)

Hi Mike! Although Woodhead is the clear cut choice, but if it is not him, then I'd give the 12th player award to Ninkovich. He was not just solid all year, but even a playmaker sometimes, at a very difficult position to please BB. Did more than the team got from AD in his last years. ... Mentioning the OLB spot, should I worry about Cunninghams calf injury more now that Murrell was signed and he is out of practice?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Another good choice. I am intrigued by Ninkovich because he was basically a sub rusher/special teamer in 2009. This year, he's mostly been a first- and second-down player/special teamer. Does that mean next year he becomes a four-down player in the Mike Vrabel mold? I'm curious. ... As for Murrell's signing, I think it is clearly a result of Cunningham/Banta-Cain/Moore injuries, but am not sure how serious they are. Saw Cunningham walk through the locker room this morning.

Carl Goodrich (Philadelphia)

In round 2 of the playoffs, why do the Pats play on Sunday and not Saturday? Playing on Saturday would give them an advantage in both round 2 (less time for opponent to prepare) and round 3 (an extra day compared to opponent). As the #1 seed, shouldn't they get the better day?

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

Carl, I believe that is all dictated by TV and $$$$, not about what's best for the No. 1 seed.

Glasgow (Scotland)

1) Any more info on what Deaderick did (or didn't) do? 2) Im getting concerned about the D line: too many injuries and new bodies in there - the playoffs are won with the big bodies - should Pats fans be concerned?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Not sure on Deaderick and prefer to stay out of the speculation. It was the same thing with Spikes' suspension and the reason for it; sometimes things get tossed out there to make the situation look "better" than it might be. So until those facts come in, I prefer to stay away from even speculating on it. As for the D-line, I do think it's a concern. That being said, it's fairly commonplace for that to be the case with a lot of teams at this time of year.

Frank B (Taunton)

Looking for an answer Mike! How can a QB be allowed to wear a darkened shield over his face mask? Doesn't that eliminate the safety reading the QB's eyes? Vick even wore this in his last NIGHT game! Help! Thank you.

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Not sure on this one, Frank.

Tim (Newton)

Hey Mike, just enjoying this season right now. But I want to look a little ahead. With all of the success this year, I've almost forgotten that Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden (among others) will presumably be coming back. My question is about Bodden in particular. With McCourty solidifying the #1 corner spot, Arrington playing very well, and still Butler lingering, where will Bodden find himself? Battling for the #2 spot? On the outside looking in?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

I think Bodden, if he returns to form, is the No. 2 corner, locking down the right side. But the key thought here is "if he returns to form." There is no given on that one.

Gino (Norwood, MA)

Hey Mike, my question was just about the announcement of the MVP. I have tried to do some research but there doesn't seem to be a definitive date to announce it but I assume it'll happen before this weekend's games?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

Thanks Gino. I drive through Norwood on my way to the stadium each day. Was told the MVP announcement will come at the Super Bowl.

Chris (charlottesville, va)

Looking at the possibilities for the first playoff game what aspect of KC/Bal/NY do you think are their respective biggest weaknesses that the Pats will take advantage of?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

KC, don't think its defense can hang with Patriots offense. Baltimore -- cornerback spot is a weakness so Pats could spread them out. NYJ, don't think they can hang with that offense in a game that will be in the high 20s.

Filomeno Bruce Baeza (Austin,Tx)

Hey Mike, for the past couple of years the Pats have been titled as a "bad" defense. After losing all the great vets, It seemed like all they had were young,reckless rookies until now. Do you think this young D will still intact to become a lethal threat like we know they can? Or will business and other factors come into play?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I think the defense will only get better as some of the young players get more experience, and more talent is integrated into the mix.

gb (MV)

Hey Mike, Remember in the offseason when we heard that the Pats wanted Daniel Fells @ TE and "had to settle" for their second option of Alge Crumpler? What a blessing in disguise that was. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Had this thought the other night, gb, when I saw Fells drop a pass in that NFC West deciding game for the Rams (vs. Seahawks). I do recall Crumpler being the second choice. Guess we'd file this one under the "sometimes the backup plan works better than the initial plan."

danny (canton, ma)

Brandon Meriweather gets named to another Pro Bowl. In your evaluation of him, is he the best safety compared to the other safeties of Sanders, Page and Chung.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Meriweather would be third on my list for this season, behind Chung (1) and Sanders (2). He wasn't as consistent as the other two in my opinion.

John from JP (Jamaica Plain, MA)

Mike, I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm worried about the O-line after this year, since they've been so intrumental in Brady's protection and 2010's resulting success. Light's a restricted free agent, Mankins with one foot out the door, Koppen had a good second half but is getting old, Neal might not return (or at least 2011 is probably the last year), Kaczur is returning from injury, Ohrnberger is a question mark. What do you think the Patriots plans are in this crucial area?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

I expect a pretty high draft pick along the line. I think what the team has done this year, losing the players they did along the line, is remarkable. Not many teams could have their 5th guard on the depth chart starting (Ryan Wendell) and rush for a season-high 217 yards like the Patriots did in Buffalo. That is very impressive to me. It's hard to build quality depth in this league.

Johnny Boston (Arlington, MA)

Hi Mike,One has to wonder if the depleted defensive line will be our achilles heel next wknd. Whether the Ravens, Jets or Chiefs come to town, all three teams run the ball effectively. Eric Moore has been a very pleasant surprise, yet his primary role has been that of an edge pass rusher. Here's hoping Mike Wright and Myron Pryor return soon, as Love, Cohen and Ellison figure to be where the opposition attacks when given the opportunity. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

This would be my biggest concern if I'm Bill Belichick. Gerard Warren looks like he's laboring to the finish line when I watched the last two games. Kyle Love looks fresh, but he's still young and learning on the job. As we know, you have to win the battle at the line. Some big physical o-lines are up next on the Patriots' schedule.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

I was thinking about the "12th player" award the other day and I had a hard time coming off of Connolly. I , amongst others, was really worried about him filling in for Mankins as he seemingly was not consistent when he had his opportunities last year; the cat really stepped up this year and has been a great addition to the O-Line. He certainly gets kudos for his awareness and running instinct on the KO return but if not for his solid play on both sides of Koppen this year Brady may not have had the year he did. My vote for one of the big uglies who help make the skill players look good.Do you think the Pats can/would keep Hoyer when his contract is up or will he be looking for a starting gig when that eventuality happens. Crompton was liked by some scouts and could have developmental potential in his own right.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Connolly another good choice. This ties in to the whole depth theme and how the Patriots have built it along the line. ... On Hoyer, too early to project in my view.

Josh McDaniels (Denver,CO)

Mike, where do you see me in 2011? head coach? OC? Back with the Pats? I had a tough go out here in Denver but I think I still have a chance in the NFL...do I?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I remain a big believer in you, Josh, but felt you needed someone picking the players for you. The head coaching job is big enough as it is, and it didn't need to be made bigger by taking on all personnel duties. I like you as an OC in Carolina, working with a young quarterback. I think the step back will be good and set you up for the next head coaching opportunity a few years down the line.

Alex C (Westminster, MD)

Hi Mike, I was wondering if you had any updates on the status of Mike Wright? Is it possible for him to return for the Pats divisional game?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Wright remains out of practice, Alex. But if the Patriots didn't feel there was a chance he could return, they'd put him on season-ending IR. So there is still a chance, although one wonders if we're heading to the end of the road here.

Matt Damon (Los Angeles )

Mike, how encouraging is it that Brady is still in his prime at age 33? It seems like with Brady showing he can compete at a high level well into his 30s and such a young offense/defense around him, this team looks to continue it's success in the NFL for the foreseeable future. Not really a question, just an observation I'd hate to hear if I weren't a Patriots fan.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Thanks for the greetings from Hollywood, Matt. I'll take this opportunity to say it's nice not to see any comments in the chat questioning Brady's dedication to his craft because he wasn't at offseason workouts. There was a run there where that was a hot topic.

Dennis (WPB, FL)

Mike, you asked for the 12th man selection and several responded quickly with most saying Woodhead or Arrington and I agree both are great selections. However, here is the one difference which stands out to me, both Arrington and Woodhead came in after the Jets game and started to contribute. Ninkovich has been consistent all year long and nobody could predict he was going to start let alone provide solid performances week in and out reminding me of a Mike Vrabel type player. So when you ask for a player whose contributions exceeded initial expectations, my vote goes Ninkovich.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Score one for Ninkovich.

Michael (Portland, ME)

Any thoughts on Welker's inactive last week? Health? The dropped balls the week before?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

My thought: A chance to give others an opportunity.

Behn (Kitchener, ON)

What were your thoughts on the BB Sound FX NFL Network show this past Tuesday? Did anyone ask BB at his press conferences about it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Great stuff. I talked to him about it briefly. I think he enjoyed it as well. Means a lot to see his kids in there.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

think the Ravens pose the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC because they could take advantage of the Patriots lack of the depth on the defensive line. The Ravens have a powerful offensive line and good backs that could control the Patriots small DL when Moore is in playing the 3-4. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I'd agree to a point, David, but I still like the Patriots to win that game. After all, the Ravens struggled against the Bengals in the season finale. Sometimes I think I fall into the trap of building up an opponent too much while focusing too much on the Patriots' deficiencies because the Patriots are the team that I focus so intensely on.

supwithyou (MA)

Mike, what about the opposite-of-12th-man? Someone who hasn't performed as well, as initially thought? Some would say Moss, but he is no longer in team... Fred Taylor?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

I thought Taylor would contribute more. The injury bug strikes.

JR (Redmond, WA)

Hi Mike,Did that look like a helmet-to-helmet hit on Woodhead when he fumbled last week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

I thought that one was close, JR. Will be interested to see if there is a fine there.

Eric (Andover, MA)

When they say a player has X number of Pro Bowls does that include both games they were voted to play in but didn't for whatever reason and any games they played in replacing someone. For example, Wes Welker is replacing Andre Johnson - do they both get a Pro Bowl appearance on their resume? Lets say the Pats make it to the Super Bowl, I assume that means 8 more alternates would have a Pro Bowl appearance. Hypothetically, if Chung is Merriweather's replacement and they make the Super Bowl, does he get credited with a Pro Bowl appearance because he got passed up to the next guy? It just seems like the Pro Bowl is such a joke and half of the league is a "Pro Bowler" every year. Your thoughts on this "All-Star" game?

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Agree with you, Eric. I don't believe the alternate is supposed to "count" on a player's resume, but I'm not 100 percent sure of that.

DA (Stamford, CT)

The resigning of Marques Murrell seems to be just for the week and for the sole purpose of an extra body in practice. So my question is how do you think he motivates himself aside from a prorated 1 week minimum salary? Or is there another possible IR situation brewing?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Talked with Murrell briefly in the locker room. For a player who wants to continue his career into next year, the motivation is there to keep things going, jumping at any chance. As for the possibility of another playing going on IR and Murrell being let go when Brandon Spikes' 7-day roster exemption expires, I don't think we can rule it out.

Corey in DC (Washington, D.C.)

Any reason to be nervous about Hernandez and his hip injury? He sat out practice and the Bills game last week and seems to be out of practice this week. Is the team just being cautious?

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

These are always tough, Corey, but we all saw Hernandez in the locker room today and if it was really serious, I don't think we'd see him. I'm going to stick my neck out there, and on a hunch say that he'll back on the practice field next week.

Cathy (Millis)

How involved with the team is Coach Belichickl's son? On Tuesday, NFL Network's "Sounds of the Game" featured Coach Belichick, and his son was around him a lot - usually holding a clipboard. Is he being trained for some position?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Some of those clips were from past years, Cathy, but you do see Belichick's kids around the team. Both were in his post-game press conference after the Dolphins' win. I think it's more family time than anything. These coaches work brutal hours and it's a way to stay connected with your kids/family under those conditions.

Jim Keddy (Kennebunk, ME)

Did Pryor return to practice?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Yes, just had his eye scratched, but was OK. His back, however, remains a bit of a concern.

Sameer (Nashua, NH)

12th Player Award Winner - Kyle Arrington. Played almost every snap since he seized the starting job from Darius Butler, made contributions on special teams, and lined up as a Defensive End against the Colts and Lions.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Thanks Sameer.

stan the man (north woods, nh)

Mike,First, I agree that the "12th" man should be known as the "54th" man instead. This is, after all, BB's NE Patriots 'TEAM.' To single out just one player is hard, BUT Danny Woodhead came to Foxborough from the Jets during the 2nd week of the season, learned and now lives the NE culture... he was clearly frustrated with his fumble in last Sunday's so-called "meaningless" game, and even had to have his helmet taken away from him so he wouldn't go back in and risk further injury. (With nothing to prove, Woodhead just wanted to go atone for his fumble.) The guy is a notch above many "drafted" players and otherwise 'gifted' others, AND he helps out on special teams and does whatever is asked of him. For those reasons and more, Woody's the man. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Good one, Stan.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, what are your thoughts on how the Dolphins are leaving Sparano to twist in the wind? In a related note, how much more dangerous would the Dolphins be with Jim Harbaugh running the show?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

My thoughts: What a disgrace. I was under the impression that the Dolphins' owner was a big-time businessman, someone who donates a significant amount of money to Michigan's business school. All I could think of when I read about this situation is that they won't be teaching what he's practicing unless the course is called "How not to handle your head coaching situation in the NFL." Tony Sparano deserves better.

Filomeno Bruce Baeza (Austin Texas)

My 12th man awards would be betweenTE:Rob GronkowskiRB:Danny WoodheadCB:Devin McCourtyS:Pat Chung

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Thanks.

Tim (Newton)

Sort of off topic Mike, but I've always wondered. Do you follow any other sports? Not professionally, I know you're now a 100% football guy, but do you follow other sports closely at all? Teams?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Thanks for the interest Tim. I love going to Fenway for Red Sox games. Keep my eyes on the Bruins and Celtics, but really just on the periphery. But I don't enjoy any of them as much as following football. It's crazy, but when I'm computing through snap counts, or watching a game with Tedy Bruschi, there's something energizing about it. It's almost like you're trying to solve this ever-changing puzzle. On the other sports, I'm more interested in the people. For example, what makes Terry Francona tick? I saw him on TV the other night and he was talking about what it's like to manage in Boston and how much he follows what's written/said on TV etc. That stuff intrigues me a bit.

Brian (CT)

Hi Mike, great idea with selecting the 12th Player Award winner and I like the individual list of players you put together.My choice is a bit different thinking more along the lines of when the PATS came out as a TEAM during the SB against the RAMS.Keeping the 'TEAM' theme going here I cant choose between A) the countless # of Free Agents that stepped in as a group or B) the rookie class as a whole who has gone above and beyond most Patriot fans expectations. I'll give you the choice between my two 12 Player(s) finalist Award winners, A-Free Agents or B-Rookie class?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Thanks Brian.

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

I'll go with the rookie class.

Pat (New York)

If you're the patriots and can pay only one guy,do you keep Matt Light and use Kaczur,Connelly,draft pick trio at guard,or do you keep Mankins and use a Vollmer,Kaczur,draft pick trio at tackle?Do you have any insight as to which has more depth in this years draft,tackle or guard?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

I'd go Mankins in this scenario, Pat. Not sure on the depth in the draft at OT, G.

Ben (Needham)

Hey Mike, Three quick questions... 1) Is Gary Guyton going to lose his starting spot to the returning Spikes even after he's played so well the past four weeks? Gary seems like more of a big play guy than Spikes doesn't he?2) If you had to pick one potential free agent available this off season that you think would best fit the Pat's system, who would it be? (disregard CBA agreement status).3) Can a playoff team sign a player cut from a team who didn't make the playoffs?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Ben, here are some answers: 1) I do think Spikes will take over for Guyton in the 3-4; 2) One realistic free agent: Ricky Williams (to complement Green-Ellis and Woodhead) He was the first guy to come to mind; 3) No, those players are still under contract to those teams until the 2010 league year ends in late February/early March.

Kartal (Denver)

Mike, virtually every mock draft has the Patriots taking Ingram with the Oakland pick. Do you see the Pats taking an RB so high with BJGE and Woodhead playing so well?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Kartal, if it's at 32, I wouldn't be surprised depending on what else is out there.

Glenn (Tyngsboro)

Mike, shouldnt you call the 12th player the 23rd player?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

I like that too, Glenn. Patriots used to call it 12th Player, that's why I went with that one.

Nel (Boston)

Did Bill make a mistake by not putting Wright on the IR? He could have been grooming a DT for quite a few weeks already.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I think Wright is a player worth holding a spot for. 5.5 sacks. Sometimes you just run out of time, but I don't think the alternative would have been significantly better than the possible reward you get by waiting.

Will (Tampa, Fl)

how about Dan Connelly, for the 12th man. he wasent even the first choice to replase Mankings but did a great job at LG, than fliped over and did a great job at RG. And there is always that 71 yd return

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Good one, Will.

Brian (Newtown, CT)

Hi Mike -- do the players gather together at Gillette to watch the wildcard games? It seems like that would be a good way to (a) keep the team bonded, and (b) look for stuff together as they live-scout potential opponents. Does BB call the players in this weekend, or are they on their own?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

They will be on their own.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, watching Taylor Price in warmups and in the game last Sunday, it was easy to get excited about him. He is big, fast and very smooth while displaying great hands. Clearly, he is still refining his game. However, it made me feel that he is going to demand more playing time next year, which in turn caused me to think about the contract status of our starting WRs. Can you update us on where things stand in that regard with Branch and Welker? Thanks in advance.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

I love that you watched in warmups, John. That is hard-core. Welker and Branch are both signed through 2011. Welker could be in line for an extension, however.

Jason Brown (Nova Scotia..now Waterville, ME)

Hows Gerrard Warren's knee doing? Is this a case where the bye week allows him to be close to 100%....we need him healthy for the run..

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Looks to me like he's struggling, Jason, and they are managing him carefully (17 snaps vs. Dolphins; 8 vs. Bills the week before). They need him as fresh as possible for the postseason.

Ron John (Bean-n-Gone)

Hey Mike,What kind of team do you think we'll see coming out of the gate come that first game of the playoffs? Has the success of the season gone to the young players' heads? And, will the Patriots be ready to play, or are we all in for a relapse a la last year's meltdown against Baltimore?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

I believe they will be well prepared and ready to play their best 60 minutes.

Mike G (Milford, NH)

Mike, hypothetically if New England wins the SB and has the 32nd and 33rd picks, could they pass on the 32nd pick on day 1 to reset their draft board for day 2 and have the first 2 picks of day 2?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

I don't see any reason that couldn't happen, although knowing the way the NFL works, they might change the rule.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Oops. Couldn't resist that little dig at the NFL. I'm just glad that the OT rules changed for the playoffs, because that was such a big issue for the league this year.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Oops. Did it again.

Nate (Levittown)

Regarding the '12th man'..Woodhead has been great no doubt, but I think BJGE deserves it a bit more. Full season contributor, nearly always makes positive yards, rarely leaving the offense in 2 and long situations, has a vice grip on the ball. Let's not forget you eveb had him not making the team in an early season 'projected roster', that's how tenuous his hold was. Never complained, did his job well when given opportunities, and has provided the crucial balance to the offense. Woody may be a bit splashier and exciting with his speed and the 'midget' persona also makes him more appealing, but I think BJGE represents more about what being a 'True Patriot is about. Work hard, improve, do your job and step up when given the chance. Dan Connelly and Arrington certainly fit those descriptions too, but Benny exemplifies them best in my eyes.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Thanks Nate.

Chris (Orlando)

Mike, I know you've mentioned your picks for who the toughest matchups are for the Pats in the AFC playoffs, but who do you think (assuming things work out as we all hope) would be the toughest matchup in the NFC for a Super Bowl tilt? I'm not a Vick fan, but with the troubles the Pats have had defending mobile QBs in the past, he kind of terrifies me.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Saints and Packers are the teams that stand out to me, Chris.

James (Scottsdale)

Mike, I know you say the Ravens might be the toughest matchup, but to be honest I would love to see Brady rip that defense apart and watch Terrel Suggs bite his tounge after the game. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

I don't think you are alone, James, but it's tough to rip that defense apart, especially in the front seven. They are tough. They'll hit you in the mouth. It's all about how you hit back (paging Logan Mankins, paging Logan Mankins.)

Alex (Brockton)

Mike, last night Michael Felger brought up some interesting stats about Tom Brady in the playoffs, in his last 8 games he is only 4-4 with 14 TDs and 12 INTs. Do you think Tom Brady is feeling any pressure to return to his playoff dominance he had in his first 10 games?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Alex, I saw that segment on Comcast SportsNet and I was thinking about how I would have answered Michael Felger, who I really enjoy listening to/watching because he makes you think. I probably would have said, "Fair point, the numbers don't lie, but who would you rather have entering these playoffs?"

Papi Shimon (NYC)

Hi Mike,Danny Woodhead has to be at top for 12th Player Award. At the same time, BenJarvis Green-Ellis FAR exceeded expectations. No one had him rushing for 1,000 yards at the start of the season. He was on the bubble at one point!

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Thanks Papi. Appreciate the comments you make on the blog and keeping it lively in that forum as well.

Mike (Boston)

Hey Mike, what has your impression of Pat Chung been this season? Earlier on he looked like he was the best player in the secondary but since then it seems like he's slowed down a bit. His stat line is still impressive but it seems since his knee injury he hasn't been the same player always around the ball. What can you attribute this to and can we still expect him to become top tier safety?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I think that's fair, Mike, and part of it is probably that he's still growing as a player, and the other part is health related (knee). Last season he played 20 percent of the snaps. This year it's around 78 percent if I recall off the top of my head. So that tells me the coaching staff has more confidence in him and I don't think he's done anything to diminish that.

Dave (UK)

Hi Mike. The main preseason concern this year was the defence, often focused on the pass rush and thus the ability to presure opposing QBs. From what I see whilst occasionally the pass rush has come up big, consistent pressure has been applied to opposing QBs through the scorebard and improvements in the secondary play, thus leading to a large haul of turnovers for the defence. To whom do you give most credit for creating the turnover differential thats played a substantial role in creating the best record in the regular season? And do you see any issues with it continuing through to the Superbowl?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

I see it as a combo, Dave. The pass rush/secondary deserves credit, but the way the Patriots jump out early in games (103-39 edge in the first quarter) allows them to turn offenses into more one-dimensional units and play games on their own terms. As for what happens in the playoffs, it's tough to project.

Mike (Westwood, MA)

Hey Mike, love the blog. My biggest concern going into the playoffs with this Pats team has to be the defensive line. Last year we saw the Ravens break runs for large chunks of yards against a somewhat depleted and exhausted d-line. With Brace on the IR, Deaderick suspended, Pryor coming back from injury and Wright still suffering from lingering concussion symptoms, why is it that every analyst/media member is so confident this team will be in Dallas come February? Isn't stopping the run one of the focal points come playoff time? Given the talent of Mendenhall/Charles/Rice/Jones/Addai/Brown, all of whom are gifted backs and the Patriots will see in the AFC, I'm a little worried.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Thanks Mike. I don't know how anyone can be that confident. Yes, the Patriots will be favored in the two games that would lead up to the Super Bowl, but would anyone really be surprised if they lost? I wouldn't. Anything can happen and I'm with you on the d-line concerns. I still think they have enough to overcome it, but it's far from a given.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Let's go for another 5 here. After answering a few more, I'll go back through and find all the 12th man/23rd man/54th man thoughts and post those too.

Lonie Paxton (Denver, CO)

Mike, In your opinion, how good is Matt Katula and how well has he performed thus far? Is he as solid as I, or is he an unknown risk factor? The last thing you guys need is a blown FG.

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

I think Katula has been solid. He said on his first day that he hoped it was the last time reporters would be talking to the long snapper, because he knew the only reason people would be talking to him is if he messed up. He's succeeded, even though I saw some reporters talking to him today (presumably for a piece on Shayne Graham).

Peter (Maine)

Hey Mike, how much do you think Ed Reed being back there for the ravens would effect a possible rematch? The guy led the league in interceptions despite missing 6 games.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Big time. Haven't seen much of Reed this year, but based on what I've seen in the past, that's a game-changer right there.

Kris (New York, NY)

Mike, teddy brought up the concern on what kind of shape Brandon Spikes would be in coming off the suspension. From being around the patriots, this week how does he look and could we expect for him to split time with guyton.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Tough to tell right now, Kris. Wish I had more on this one for you.

rick (ct)

Mike, since you are an ESPN guy any chance you could do draft theme chat with McShay after the superbowl?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Love the idea, Rick. Todd is a man in demand but maybe I can tug on those Swampscott/Massachusetts roots and rope him in.

RW (Boston)

Do you get an MVP vote, if you do, who is your vote? With the announcement of the MVP winner being delayed, what is to stop AP voters from delaying their vote and waiting for some playoff results? Do votes need to be in before playoffs?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

I don't have an MVP vote unfortunately, but it's a no-brainer to me: Brady. Those votes have to be turned in within the week, as I understand it, so they can't change based on the playoffs.

alex (rome,ny)

Mike, Have you been to many other team's team facilities (meeting rooms, locker rooms etc.) and how do they compare to Patriot's?P.S. next time you drive by rome we should hang out at the casino :)

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Saw the Falcons this year during joint practices and got a tour through their facility, but not too many others. The biggest thing with the Patriots is that everything is here at the stadium, which is ideal.

Jason McCourty (Tennessee)

Love the work my brother is doing under BB. What are the chances that BB makes a pitch for me? Would I be successful in the BB system? I really want to play for a winner!!

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

If I'm not mistaken, Jason, you are still under contract to the Titans and you're an asset to them. I don't see you going anywhere.

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - is Jerod Mayo your pick for the Pats' defensive MVP? Vince? I might even go with McCourty... (It's nice to have a few choices.)

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Wilfork would be my choice.

Houdeman (Maine)

Is Deadrick allowed to play for the team this year? If so, when?

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

I think we've seen the last of Deaderick this year.

David (Norwalk, CT)

Mike - I'd like to suggest Logan Mankins as the 12th man, or, more specifically, his attitude. The O-Line was doing a great job before he came back, but it looked re-made since then. Many players have credited Mankins with bringing an "edge" to the line play, and you can see it during a game. This is a unit that isn't taking B.S. and they're not intimidated by anyone.

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Thanks David.

Marcus (Ellington,CT)

Mike, I would nominate Matt Light for 12th man. With his salary and the emergence of Vollmer there was the possibility he could have been cut heading into the season. Not only was he healthy for 16 games, but he had one of his best seasons to date ! With the o-line in mind, do you see the Pats going after Mike Pouncey in the draft, given his versatility and his brothers ability to make such a smooth transition to the pro game ?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Good one, Marcus. Light has shown he's still got quite a bit left in the tank. He's a top free agent priority for the team, I would assume.

McNulty (Boston)

Which team would you rather head into the postseason with, the 2007 Patriots or the 2010 Patriots?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

I still lean toward 2007, McNulty.

Rick (Providence)

Taylor Price really impressed me and got me excited for the future. I look at this roster of young players and can see the Patriots being competative for the next 4-5 years with Brady at QB. Looking ahead to the draft can you see Bill trading many of these picks for future picks. Other than stocking up at D-line OLB and at Corner we really don't have many glaring needs.For the 12th man I would vote for Sea-Bass

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Future looks bright for Taylor Price, Rick. One thought here is that I'd caution on thinking the roster is stocked because that often times assumes a player will stay at the same level he is. Performance often fluctuates from year to year, and contract issues can crop up, so that's an ever-evolving picture and the depth/quality always needs to be replenished. The Patriots are in great position to do so. On the whole, I see a solid team that should only get better.

gretel (los angeles)

12th Player Award has to go to Alge Crumpler: elected captain by his new team, his blocking, receiving, and, above all, leadership for the rookie TE's and the entire offense have been invaluable.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Good choice.

Elvis (Flying)

My two cents: I like Ninkovich for the 12th player - he's been key to a defense that has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the season, and he (in part) filled a void that was probably the D's biggest concern at the outset of the season.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Thanks Flying Elvis.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Thanks to everyone for the chat. Going to finish up by posting all the thoughts on 12th Player. Enjoy the wild-card round of the playoffs and we'll chat again next week.

Pat (Kennett Square, Pa)

BJGE gets my vote for 12th man, he has been rock solid all season. The Patriots have been surprisingly sound on the defensive front this season, especially without Ty Warren. Gerard Warren has been exceptional and players such as Love, Brace and Deaderick have really stepped up. Are these young players talented enough to be long term solutions, or would you expect DL to be the number one priority in the draft?

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

P.S. -- One more answer from me. I believe the DE spot will be a big priority in the draft.

Lonster (SoCal)

As far as a 12th player award I'd have to go with Danny Woodhead, what a great find. I can't believe the jets would let this guy go. Do you think the system here is a big part of his success or would he be just as good playing for any other team?

Mark (Dublin, Ireland)

Mike - 12th man (player who has exceeded initial expectations) - surely it has to be McCourty - whilst a 1st round pick - his pick was roundly criticised and dissected and he then goes out, nearly plays 100% of snaps in the season, shows capability of being a shutdown corner, leading team in INTs and forcing a turnover, getting a sack. Fair play to Arrington and Woody is hard to top - but IMHO I think you have to give consideration to Devin.

Glenn (Tyngsboor)

Mike, I believe that the 12th player is Spikes. When he was on the field, he probally made more tackles per snap than any other player. Plus, that int against Sanchez, I mean Sanchize broke the Jets back.

Derek (Dallas, TX)

Rex Ryan is our 12th man.

Dan Connolly (USA)

12th man to me. Plugged him in the line (When most didn't think he would work) did a great job until Mankins came back and had one of the Best/Funniest returns ever <--- Game Changing Returns!

Jeff (Ohio)

How about 12th man to Caserio and staff for finding these guys and plugging them in. They know exactly who BB needs.

nate (Levittown, pa)

With regard to the 12th man....Woodhead has been great no doubt, but I think BJGE deserves it a bit more. Full season contributor, nearly always makes positive yards, rarely leaving the offense in 2 and long situations, has a vice grip on the ball. Let's not forget you had him not making the team in an early season 'projected roster', that's how tenuous his hold was. Never complained, did his job well when given opportunities, and has provided the crucial balance to the offense. Woody may be a bit splashier and exciting with his speed and the 'midget' persona also makes him more appealing, but I think BJGE represents more about what being a 'True Patriot is about. Work hard, improve, do your job and step up when given the chance. Dan Connelly and Arrington certainly fit those descriptions too, but Benny exemplifies them best in my eyes.

Jesse (Norwood)

Hey Mike, my 12th man would be Nick Casario and NE Scouts who drafted this rookie class.

Lonster (SoCal)

As for the 12th man award I'd have to go with Danny Woodhead, what a find. I can't believe the Jets let him go. Do you think his success is due to the system or would he be just as good playing for any other team?

nate (Levittown, pa)

I think Green Ellis is getting shorted in the 12th/23rd man talk. Woodhead has been great no doubt, but I think BJGE deserves it more. Full season contributor, nearly always makes positive yards, rarely leaving the offense in 2 and long situations, has a vice grip on the ball. Let's not forget Mike R had him not making the team in an early season 'projected roster', that's how tenuous his hold was. Never complained, did his job well when given opportunities, and has provided the crucial balance to the offense. Woody may be a bit splashier and exciting with his speed and the 'midget' persona also makes him more appealing, but I think BJGE represents more about what being a 'True Patriot is about. Work hard, improve, do your job and step up when given the chance. Dan Connelly and Arrington certainly fit those descriptions too, but Benny exemplifies them best in my eyes.

Justin (Rapid City, SD)

As far as the 12th Player Award goes too, as far as I am concerned, the entire team played pretty darn good throughout the course of the season and played at a high level in pressure situations. Even the front office should be in contention. Maybe even Mike Reiss should be the 12th man.

Mike Reiss
  (1:21 PM)

I'm not eligible, Justin :)

Derek (Dallas, TX)

Rodak for 12th man

Mike Reiss
  (1:22 PM)

I'll allow it!

Joe (RI)

12th man is Belichick. He provides an advantage no other team has.

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

12'th Player: Sal Alosi's knee and Michelle Ryan's feet

Andy (Lowell)

BJGE for 12th man. The guy was buried in the depth chart and managed to be the only 1000 yard rusher in the AFC East. It's a lot easier to throw the ball when there is a threat in the backfield

Pizza Man (Brooklyn, NY)

Crumpler is the 12th man. He had some huge blocks this year leading to big plays.

Mike Reiss
  (1:24 PM)

Thanks to all for those submissions. Hopefully I got them all. I noticed some great comments that I wasn't able to get to. Maybe we can revisit in the blog over the weekend.