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October 20, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:58 AM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

Mike Reiss
  (11:58 AM)

We'll get started here in a few minutes. Just tying up some loose ends. Today's lead-in question was which remaining game on the schedule piques your interest the most.

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

In our weekly podcast, I picked the Eagles game. Tedy Bruschi went finale vs. Bills.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

I'll post some of your thoughts as we make our way through the chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

While we're chatting, would it be possible to ask someone to go to our Patriots blog and remind some of the commenters to auto-refresh the page. It seems there is usually someone who might be waiting for the chat to start.

Hoogie (Lexington)

Any word on Cannon coming off the PUP, or is this just going to be a medical redshirt season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

Hoogie, I've been digging for that info, to no avail. It looks like he's intensified his workouts, but he's done a nice job eluding me in the locker room. I am pretty good when it comes to short-area quickness (insert laugh), but the big man has been tough to corral.

Josh (Miami)

With all of the talk of Ocho and Haynesworth and their performances, why is there no discussion of $5MM FA signing Shaun Ellis, who has been virtually non-existent while playing more than Chad and Albert combined?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Josh, I think this is a good reflection on the power of name recognition. Because Ellis doesn't have the same high profile name recognition as Haynesworth and Ochocinco, the expectations weren't as high. To me, he's filled a Ty Warren-type role. Nothing stands out, but he shows up from time to time (e.g. drawing a holding penalty vs. Cowboys; pressure on Rivers leads to INT in Chargers' game).

Kevin F. (Framingham,MA)

Hi Mike. A few observers have noted that with Kevin Faulk returning, we may see a few more screens in the Patriots arsenal. I have no doubt that there is more to a screen pass for a RB than just going to a spot, catching the ball, and following your blockers, but didn't realize that the current core of RB's may not be qualified or comfortable in running the play. I would think at least Woodhead would be a good candidate for an occasional screen pass with his quickness, decisiveness, and his ability to operate in space. Maybe a future post can break down the intricacies of a screen play and why someone like Faulk is better suited to the play beyond the obvious (good hands and experience). P.S. - I remember when Vereen was picked, many thought he'd be a very good 3rd down back and a candidate to run those types of plays in the future. Thanks Mike, great work as always...

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Kevin, I disagree with the thought that Faulk's presence could lead to more screens. More than anything, I think the pass-protection element is where Faulk comes into play. I see him playing in the two-minute offense and making sure No. 12 is OK, but honestly, I thought he was slowing down even before the injury. So I don't see the screen-to-Faulk all of a sudden becoming a huge play for them. Maybe once or twice, but nothing out of the ordinary. Also, on Vereen, I think he will ultimately be more than a third-down back. He just needs more time and the lack of offseason, plus injury, has set him back.

es_3000 (enemy jet-land)

Hi Mike,Last year McCourty was amazing. This year it seems like he is having a harder time. We haven't heard he is injured and he is another year in the same system with the same coaches - I would have predicted improvement. Can you speculate on what is happening? Will he return to playing as well as he did last year?Thanks,Erik

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Wish I had a better answer on this one. Still think he's a good player, just hit a rough patch. So I'll go general and just say that sometimes I think all a player needs in a situation like this is to make one big play (e.g. INT) and that can get things turned around. Obviously, there is more to it, but I don't think he's suddenly become a bad player. Just can't put my finger on it.

Patrick (Providence)

The most intruiging game left? Amazingly, probably the Buffalo game at the end of the year. While I think that the Pats win the division by then, it could be a game that the Pats need for homefield and the Bills need for a playoff spot.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Thanks Patrick.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, would you be kind enough to make a predictiton for the football game on Saturday PM at Gillette?Oh, would you mind a small bet? Something like wearing a college T-shirt or a gray hoodie at the next Belichick press conference?

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Love it, MarkJ. For those not in tune, we are talking about UMass vs. UNH. I went to UMass. Let's think of something, MarkJ. I didn't realize you were a UNH guy.

Chris (ABQ, NM)

Hi Mike! Long time reader. first time writer. I noticed against the Cowboys that Coach Belichick seemed to dial up more pressure in the form of blitzes than he had in the first five games - at least, it seemed that way to me. Also, Brandon Spikes clearly has a role there. Do you foresee this becoming a trend? I think that it's a good strategy - the team obviously struggles in coverage, and at least increased pressure will force faster decisions by the opposing quarterback.

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Thanks for writing in Chris. I didn't see an abundance of blitzes, but what I did see was Spikes reading the back and then reacting accordingly a few times. So if the back stayed in to pass protect, then Spikes would come. There were other times when Spikes just blitzed regardless. That's a good part of his game, and yes, I could see it happening more often.

Stan (Beverly)

Hi Mike, considering how well the defense played against the explosive Cowboys, do you think the return of Mayo and time off could potentially turn this into a top 10 defense by the season's end? They seem to be getting better and better every week.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Stan, they are close to top 10 right now when it comes to points allowed, which is the most important stat (ranking 14th, at 22.5 avg.). So yes, I could see an improvement, although the counter-point is that the defense wasn't playing as well when Mayo was in there. I think the reason for that is more than Mayo, but it is something to consider.

Devin (Boston)

Hey Mike, are you starting to believe that the Patriots defense can actually stop a nose-bleed now?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Yes, third-down D the big improvement. 3 of 11 for Jets. 4 of 12 for Cowboys.

Eliott (Marion, MA)

Mike, loved the hoodie coverage this week. Have you heard anything about a Patriot halloween party this year? If so, what are the odds Randy crashes it in a Ochocinco costume?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

Eliott, here at ESPNBoston,com, we have to cover the Xs and Os and the Hoodie-based S, M, L and XLs too.

Dave R (Cambridge, MA)

Mike! Huge game by your boy Andre Carter, and so pumped to see Brandon Spikes bring the wood the way he did last week. I had given up dreams of the Mayo/Spikes bash brothers combo in the middle, but now I'm back on the bandwagon. How about you?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Dave, I'm glad you brought up Spikes. It seems like yesterday when someone was asking about Spikes maybe becoming a three-down player someday and my answer was "Spikes is a niche player in this defense -- he's Ted Johnson, 1st and 2nd down run-stopped." Can I have that answer back? He looks like he has a chance to be a three-down guy, and while he struggles a bit in coverage, it's hard not to like the energy he brings.

Nick (Denver)

The Jets game is most interesting to me, since the Pats haven't beat them in their place during the Rex era. That game should be a chance for the Pats to knock the Jets out of the race for the division.

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Thanks Nick. Booked the trip to Denver for December. Looking forward to a great Saturday in the city before Patriots-Broncos.

Mike (Stoneham)

Hey Mike, now that we're at the bye week, I was wondering if you have ever considered doing an analysis of all the patriots players and their performances to date for a column. Would love to hear your insight on the individual performances so far this season. Keep up the good work.

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Real good idea, Mike. Time could be an issue, as on the bye, I do try to get away for a bit and make sure that I'll be married for another year :)

michael (england)

Hello mike, a view from across the pond!, my impression of the AFC in particular is that the patriots and ravens are the obvious teams to beat (after 6 games). Ravens look tough on defense (as usual) but on offense they can be slowed and flacco tends to get erratic and looks too often for rice out of the backfield. My question is with the percieved improvement of the pats defense, who in your opinion is in a better place going forward? pats or ravens? i would put the jets in the upper echelon with these two but i fancy chargers after the bye, 2-4 with a trip to bills followed by pats would be too tough tough to overcome for jets in my opinion (mayhem could break out in heir locker room if they miss playoffs).

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Good one Michael. Tedy Bruschi mentioned in our podcast that the teams are on a collision course. I think you could make a case for both teams, but I'll go Patriots. Reason No. 1 -- Brady v. Flacco.

Jason D (NYC)

Mike, I am so tired of hearing the cries for Price over and over. The coaches must be evaluating him in practice and by now know what they have. And that is, a player not as good as Ocho. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Jason, I think this is the type of situation where there are multiple layers. You move Price ahead of Ochocinco and you have to consider how that affects Ochocinco going forward. If you think it's a potential negative, and the difference between the two is not significant, then I understand sticking with the status quo. In the end, I think Price has a lot of the same challenges as Ochocinco. Neither has won over the confidence of Brady. We are starting to see a little more inclusion of Price, so this will be something to monitor in the coming games.

John F (Boston)

Why did Brandon Lloyd go so cheap? there had to be more than 1 bidder.

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Last year of his contract, John. Teams don't want to give up more for a "rental".

Steve (Westfield)

Not much has been talked about the kickoff returns in the past few games. With Edelman out, there has been a big drop off in my mind. Ridley doesn't seem like a "natural" back there. I'm curious why Price or Vereen didn't get a shot at it. Hopefully Edelman will return soon in hopes of getting a more explosive return guy back there.

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Good question, Steve, and one I don't have the answer to. I agree, though, Ridley doesn't look like a natural.

Sean (Boston)

Mike, do you think Ochocinco's presence is stunting the growth of Taylor Price? Could Price be getting more reps if Ochocinco weren't standing in his way?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

I do believe that, Sean, but more from a training camp perspective. That's when the confidence could have been built. Harder to do it now in the regular season.

Taylor (The Dalles, Oregon)

As to your question, Pittsburgh will be a good game and the Jets have a lot to prove but they looked horrible against Miami. Best game on the schedule? Buffalo for AFC east supremacy

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

Thanks Taylor.

Eric (MA)

The biggest and toughest game of the year post-bye week will be the Jet game in New York. The Jets are the biggest test and match-up extremely weel against the Patriots (very few teams do). The Jets will have home field advantage and revenge in mind. Some will say Buffalo - but that will be at home and I think Buffalo will falter a bit and lose a little of that Cindarella charm before they meet again. Just a hunch.

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

Like it, Eric. Night game. Prime time. Think there will be some hype for that one?

Eric (MA)

I listened to Leigh Bodden on 98.5 the Sports Hub on Tuesday and he had an interesting answer to a question posed by Mike Felger regarding a specific coverage call: the situation was 3rd and 4 for Dallas and Bodden played a 7-8 yard cushion on his receiver Dez Bryant. The play resulted in a 5 yard completion on an out route by Bryant for a first down. When asked if he was told to play that ?soft? he said yes that was the call. The Patriots plan is to ?make? a team march down the field and string together long drives. This struck me as funny because they are known as a poor 3rd down defense and with this philosophy in mind (not challenging opposing WR on 3rd down) and Bodden basically confirmed it. The defense believes that teams will not be able to consistently. I understand protecting against the big play but I have a problem with this philosophy. Even if you didn?t hear the interview, what do you think of Bodden?s explanation of allowing a first down completion? AND, even if you didn't hear the arguement, this type of D is what we witness every Sunday...

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Interesting one, Eric. I didn't hear the interview. Something doesn't sound right to me. Any defense that says, "Yes, here, take this first down" doesn't seem like a good one. I'd like to listen to it before sharing more thoughts.

rick (ct)

Mike, I'm confused on the status of M Cannon. He was mentioned with the 3 PUP guys but I thought his status was different and didn't expect him to be cleared to play until near the end of the season, if at all. Is he practicing?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Rick, Cannon is not practicing, but should he be cleared by the end of Week 9, he can still play this year. It's a question mark and Bill Belichick has been reluctant to provide details when asked in a press-conference setting.

Eric (MA)

Say the Pats add Brace and Deaderick to their active roster against Pittsburgh, whose place do they take? At DT I see Wilfork and Love starting with Haynesworth as a sub-package specialist and I think Warren has earned a spot with his good play these past 2 weeks. Does that mean they carry 5 DTs? Does a DE lose out on the addition of these guys. I think Cunningham sits (inactive) and they carry 11 linemen. What do you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

Eric, I could see a player like CB Phillip Adams being let go again. Ditto Ross Ventrone. I don't think this will be a big issue to create space and don't think it will be anything major. Gerard Warren, perhaps, but I like his presence and what he brought to the defense against the Cowboys. To me, that earns him more time here.

Dave (Lowell)

If it weren't the last week of the season (and most likely meaningless) I'd say Buffalo since we're 5-0 against non-Buffalo based NFL teams. Wth Indy a shell of its former self, I'm looking forward to a rematch with the Jets in New York. Should be a fun game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Thanks Dave. Had a great time up at a Lowell Spinners game this summer. They do it right.

Steve 5495 (Clearwater Fl.)

Always! the jets game. My question is Vereen vs faulk who brings more to the table? can we keep both?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Faulk in the short-term, Vereen in the long term. Yes, I see no reason why they can't keep both.

The Ghost of Al Davis (Afterlife)

Two number ones for Carson Palmer? I have an alibi for this stinkeroo of a trade.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Stunning. Seems reckless to me.

Alvin (Pelham, MA)

I'm in no way happy that Jerod Mayo is sidelined, but it's starting to look like a blessing in disguise. With the increased playing time for Brandon Spikes, I'm starting to feel comfortable with him against the pass. We may see he & Mayo on the field for all three downs by the end of the season. Do you agree?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

I do, Alvin. It seems to me they've simplified things the last few weeks and the results have been good. Sometimes less is more. That's what I've taken from the last few weeks.

Pepper (Maine)

Who do you think will get a contract extension first Welker or Mayo? And how soon could atleast one of them be done?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

Pepper, this is all a guess. I'll pick Mayo. I do think Welker will be here in the end, but my sense is that the sides aren't close right now.

Matt (Somerville)

Mike, with Carson Palmer going to Oakland, and that team apparently going all-out to make the playoffs, would they be a potential trade partner with the Pats for Ochocinco? You'd think a familiar target would be a good way to help Palmer get acclimated, and Ochocinco seems to still have the physical skills to be a useful tool in an offense he is comfortable in. That just isn't the Pats offense. Does Oakland have anyone of comparable value who could help the Pats?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

Interesting thought, Matt. Unfortunately, the trade deadline passed on Tuesday. Even if there was no deadline, I think it would be tough for Carson Palmer to reunite with Ochocinco. The two seemed like oil and water there at the end of their time in Cincinnati.

Alvin (Pelham, MA)

Out of the remaining games, the game that interests me the most is the December game @ Invesco Field against the Broncos. Even though the Broncos are struggling, the Patriots always seem to have trouble playing in Denver.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Thanks Alvin. Tebow too adds a twist.

Matt (Somerville)

Hi Mike. Stevan Ridley played the first series in the game against the Cowboys; I thought he had two good runs, and then on his third he was stuffed for a loss. He didn't get another touch on offense the whole game. Was the coaching staff unhappy with him because of that third rush for some reason, do you know, or was it just a case of BJGE running well? I would have liked to see Ridley mixed in a little more, he has a big-play skillset.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

I asked Bill O'Brien about that and he said it was game-plan related, and just a matter of specific packages being called on.

markian (nyc)

any chance the pats let welker walk? i've watched them let great patriots go in the past when the price tag seemed too high -- vinatieri, seymour, milloy. hope they can get a deal done

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

No chance. To me, it's an extension or the franchise tag. I feel confident Welker will be here in 2012 at the least.

Professor Frink (Springfield)

I'm interested to know what you think about our corner situation. Do you think Kyle Arrington is developing into a legitimate #2 corner? I'm also curious to know what your eyes tell you when you watch Leigh Bodden. What's the difference this year to his 09 campaign, where he looked like one of the better corners in the league?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Good one, Professor. It depends on the week. Week 2 against the Chargers, it didn't look so good for Arrington. But he's played well in other games, taking advantage of some footballs that seemed to be ill-advised throws from opposing QBs. I think he's a 2/3 type of guy. Solid. Good in run force too (see him take on D'Brickashaw Ferguson in Week 5). As for Bodden, hard to tell. Wish I had more.

patriots secondary (foxboro)

mike, there hasnt been to much talk about us after facing Santonio and Plax then Miles and Dez and playing quite well, i think we are starting to finally gel - even though we have a ways to go we are certainly improving...no?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Absolutely. Secondary has played better the last few weeks.

Aaron (Manhattan)

What are you thoughts on Mayo returning after the bye week?

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

I envision it happening.

danny woodhead (foxboro)

mike, with Kevin coming back what the heck is gonna happen to me? i thougth i was the future third down back here!

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

I could see your playing time being cut a bit, Danny. When it comes to pass protection this year, Kevin is an A-plus.

charles (ri)

mike, everyone is saying the right things about 85, i think he will break out (maybe im the last one to think so) but i feel like the patriots would have cut him if he wasnt doing what they needed him to.

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

I just don't see a breakout, Charles, but I agree that they would have cut him if he was becoming a problem. I give Ochocinco credit. He's been true to his word, buying into the program, and keeping out of the spotlight. He said it was about winning for him and he's backed that with his actions.

andre carter (foxboro)

Mike, i am really starting to get to the quarterback, and i dont think its by chance that it is happening with albert back in the lineup. we need that guy to free us up edge pass rushers, dont you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I think there is something to that, Andre, but would be careful about making it solely about Haynesworth. He's definitely been a factor, but he's far from the only factor.

nate (oxonhillmarland)

Do u think pats will keep Bodden pst this year ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Nate, I think it's year to year with Bodden. That's a significant base salary (4.9m, I believe, off the top of my head). If he shows more signs of declining, no guarantees there.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

In that I am going to the Denver game I have that one high on my list along with the game against Philly. The Eagles are stumbling along right now but the team's offensive weapons will provide a good measuring stick for the Pats defensive progression.Seriously, how did we end up with Ocho-Cinco on our roster at the price we had to pay? He is proving to be the error prone on field receiver that Carson Palmer has had to deal with the last two seasons. Ocho was a solid deep threat in his prime with Housh running the difficult routes and Dillon keeping the defense honest, but he is far removed from those glory years. I suppose we have to keep him at this point but he could end up being far less productive than Tate was last season at a far greater cost.

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Thanks munchkin. As for Ochocinco, looks like a miscalculation. My thought: No team is perfect. No need to keep rubbing Belichick's nose in it. Can't fault the aggressiveness.

Marcus (Ellington,CT)

Hey Mike ! Most looking forward to the Giants game. Should be a good measuring stick game to see what kind of progress the defense is making. I was hoping you could fill us in on how the practice player to active roster back to practice player scenario works. Is there a limit to how many times a player can be moved to or from the active 53 man roster ?Thanks !

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

No limit that I am aware of, Marcus. Giants could be a sneaky tough game.

Steve 5495 (Clearwater Fl.)

Have you noticed the former pats. not showing up on the stat sheets? Hoodie got this right too!

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Unreal, Steve, isn't it? I keep a running tally each week on our Patriots blog and the recent decline is noticeable. I feel like it is important, from a reporting perspective, to make a mental note for cutdown time next year about not overrating players (e.g. Yeatman, Smith, LeVoir, Maneri). Sometimes when it's all you see, it's easy to get caught up in that.

Doug Porter (Jacksonville, FL)

When the Patriots have a bye week, do you typically time any time off as well?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I do, Doug. I'll lay low Saturday and Sunday, spending time with my wife and daughter. It looks like it will be a nice weekend, so we'll fire up the grill, gather with some friends, and hope that no big news breaks.

the hooded genius (CT, New England)

Do you have any insight into Vollmers injury? Is it anything that could affect him long-term?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

If not managed the right way, back injuries could always be put in that category. But specific to Vollmer, I think he should be OK, barring an unexpected turn. Does make you wonder if the Patriots rushed him back too soon.

Eliot Brun (New Bedford, MA)

Do you see Shane Vereen carrying the ball atleast once against the surprisingly bad Steeler's deffence next week? I've been anxious to see what he can do...

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Eliot, if anything, I see it going in the other direction now that Kevin Faulk could be part of the mix. The deeper we get into the season the tougher it could be for Vereen to break through if there are no injuries.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Have the Patriots ever extended a players contract before during the season? I am hoping they do it with Welker.

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Absolutely, David. Dan Koppen one example that immediately comes to mind, and he's not the only one.

CB (NY)

Though the game @ Philly will be interesting, I agree with Bruschi that the Bills in wk 16 is the best game to come. Not only is it a home-game rematch against a divisional rival, it could potentially have playoff seeding implications depending how the season shakes out. Even more exciting, it could be a situation where the Bills NEED to win and the Patriots WANT to keep them from doing so. Regardless, a late season divisional matchup between two good teams is always good to watch.

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Thanks CB. When the schedule came out, I looked at it and said "Miami and Buffalo, could be coasting into the postseason" but the picture looks different now.

Joe (New York City)

Mike, I remember you from your MetroWest days when I lived in Acton, MA! It?s great to know good things happen to good people and hard work pays off, congrats on your ongoing career.How do you see Kevin Faulk being integrated into this offense (assuming he?s 100%)? And who loses snaps, Woodhead, Ridley or both? I like really like the rotation we have right now, but also love Faulk, so I'm going back and forth on this one.Also, most looking forward to the next Jets game (I'll be attending in enemy territory!)

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Thanks Joe. MetroWest Daily News/Middlesex News is where my career began and I owe a lot to them, and the great people at the paper like Lenny Megliola. Enough about me, though ... Kevin Faulk, to me, provides the greatest value in pass protection. I would begin by integrating him into the mix in the two-minute offense. So I'd almost split the two roles -- Faulk in the specific 2-minute, with Woodhead playing on the majority of third downs around those hurry-up situations. So I see Woodhead/Vereen being affected most.

Joe boston ma [via mobile]

Why don't we see more of Ochocinco we traded for him for what so he can sit on the bench whats up with that let the man play thats why we got him in the first place isn't it.

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Basically, it's simple to me, Joe. Welker and Branch are better, and why would they want to take Gronkowski and Hernandez off the field. Ochocinco is the 5th option right now. It's an expensive 5th option, and clearly it hasn't worked out the way they hoped, but in the words of BB "it is what it is." No team makes the right decision all the time. I guess I'd sum it up this way, "If Ochocinco is this team's biggest issue on offense, based on the present picture, they are in good shape."

Drew (New Orleans)

In recent years, some Patriots defensive backs seem to have had trouble developing, and in some cases seem to have taken steps backward in their development (Darius Butler, maybe Devin McCourty). A number of them seem to have had difficulty making plays on the ball even when in decent position (such as Butler and Wilhite). Who coaches the Patriots' defensive backs, and do you think coaching in this area might be an area for improvement?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Drew, it's Matt Patricia with the safeties and Josh Boyer with the cornerbacks. I think both are good coaches. I don't see a change necessarily producing better results.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike, what do you think the Pitt D does against our full arsenal of skill guys? You know they are not going to let Gronkowski run freely against single coverage again after last year. Can they cover every one else and still get pressure? I don't think so.

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Kyle, I haven't looked close enough at the matchup, so I lean on the past when answering this one. Patriots spread, and if they can protect, they should be able to find favorable matchups. That's been the formula in recent years.

charles (ri)

mike, bill said some interesting things on his recent interview with inside the NFL - that the pats havent had a win like they had in a while...indictment on his past teams or incouragment for his team gaining that mental toughness to win games (that we know he felt they lacked in 09 thanks to a football life)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Charles, I'm not sure if you saw that interview or just read it on the blog, but I thought that was a very powerful quote from Belichick. I didn't take it as an indictment on past teams, but more as a compliment to this team. I'm generally an optimist, so take this thought with that in mind, but I do sense a good vibe in that locker room. I think they have a good mix of guys with the chance to do something special here. The picture can change from week to week, but a win like that, in my view, can only be a good thing.

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

P.S. -- Yes, I thought about the difference between this team and '09, just like you. But I don't think Belichick was thinking of '09 team when he said that.

Tyler (LA via NH)

Hey Mike, who do you think benefits most from the bye week for the Pats? I'd imagine a guy like Haynesworth who's been dealing with a bad back all season could use the rest to continue to take on an increased role in the defense or maybe Mayo who could hopefully get healthy enough to play against the Steelers next week.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Right on, Tyler. All the injured guys.

Patrick (Keene, NH)

Hello Mike. My question is regarding Chad O. While I agree he's underperfomed and is not a vital cog. I believe he will come out of the bye week ready to make an impact Your thoughts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I'm not as bullish as you, Patrick. To me, he's a niche player right now -- the 5th option in an offense that wants Welker, Branch, Gronkowski and Hernandez on the field as much as possible.

tom brady (foxboro)

mike, some folks are saying aaron rogers is in my class - yea the kid can chuck it but i have won 3 superbowls and two mvp's (one completely unanimous) how is this even a question?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

TB12, Rodgers is putting up some impressive numbers this year. I think that's where it starts. He's your league MVP if the season ended today. It's a fun discussion, I suppose, but why do we have to choose? You're both great.

Stephen LaRue (Ogdensburg, NY)

I guess I'm most concerned about the next game against the Steelers. There defensive backfield should allow the Patriots passing game to thrive as long as they can account for Polamalu. The Pats front seven will have to be on their game because it looks like the Steelers run game is rounding back into form and Big Ben is alway tough to bring down so tackling will be at the forefront. The Philly game down the road should be tough too because they're not dead yet. Do you think the defense can continue to improve based upon the past two weeks? Seems like they are starting to get some pressure which in turn helps the pass coverage? Over the middle seems to be quite a bit of trouble though. Hopefully we see more of Vereen and Ridley too. Going to miss no Patriots game this week. Thanks for everything Mike!

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Thanks Stephen. Yes, I think the defense can improve. Make no mistake, there will be some speed bumps along the way, but I think this team is positioned well right now, with things looking up.

Kent (Washington DC)

The Redskins game piques my interest the most. It gives me the rare chance to see the Pats in person, and more importantly I enjoy watching the locals squirm.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Thanks Kent.

Joe (Villanova University)

It's time to give up on ochocinco. He offers nothing to the team at this point. I know you say he's a "niche" player, but how do we know taylor price can't be more than that? The kid needs to be given a chance, his ceiling right now is much better than ochocincos. What's the worst case, he can't possibly be worse than ochocinco

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Joe, I totally see your point. I guess I look at it this way from a Bill Belichick perspective -- if Branch turned an ankle next week, why thin out your depth when you don't have to? Keep 'em both. In terms of opportunities, play the best guy, while also keeping in mind the trickle-down effect of that decision. You want to keep both guys invested in the program. These things can be tricky and a lot of it is also managing personalities.

Guy Forget (Nuggetville, USA)

Mike, love the chat! Howimpressed were you with Andre Carter last week? Will the Pats make any moves on the defensive front for the second half of the season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Very impressed with Carter. I think the main moves on defense will be integrating Deaderick and Brace back into the mix.

Al (Newark, NJ)

Hi Mike, Asante Samuel was available for trade, and the Eagles made it known that they were looking for veteran D-Line help. With Brace and Deaderick returning from the PUP, I had a thought that the Patriots would be stacked at the D-Line and would make a move to get Samuel. Do you think this was something the Pats looked at and do you think this could have benefited the team?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

My hunch is that they didn't look too closely Al. I think they are done with Samuel.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

The most interesting game to me is the second NY Jets game. It's a big road game.Beating the Jets for the second time this year would put the Jets in a very difficult position in the AFC East.

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Thanks David. Always value your participation in chats on a weekly basis. Like the bite you bring to the table, too.

Tore (New Zealand)

The Cowboys rushed 4 and got to Brady a ton. This made the passing game very difficult and reminded me of the super bowl against the Giants. The blue print has been published like it was after the Eagles game in 2007. What will the Pat do about this?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

You're right, Tore. I think one thing to keep in mind is that few teams can pull that off. The Cowboys have some special personnel there. But this is the type of matchup that gives the Patriots the most trouble. Getting the run game going is one of the biggest things they can do to combat that, and limiting mistakes in the passing game. It's not a sizzling answer, I know, but I don't think football is complicated all the time.

Ryan (NYC)

I'm going to the regular season finale against the Bills - wasn't expecting it to be meaningful at all (like last year's finale against the Dolphins) but now I've lucked into what could be a division-clinching rivalry game. That's the game I'm most excited for. Here's hoping we do as well as the last season during which we lost to the Bills.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Thanks Ryan.

DJ (Ann Arbor)

First, two thoughts after watching NFL Replay of Cowboys game: 1. As well as the defense played (holding them to 16), most of their yardage came after missed tackles. 2. Free Brandon Spikes! Now two questions for you, Mike: Do you think this can be a better tacking defense this year, with this personnel? And will we see more aggressiveness from this defense, especially with Mayo back and Spikes getting up to speed?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Yes on the tackling, DJ. That's just fundamentals. On aggressiveness with the D, not necessarily. I like the "less is more" approach right now. It looks to me like what they're doing is simplifying things.

Matt (weymouth, ma)

Who is the second best team in the AFC East? Its going to be awesome to watch the Bills Jets go head to head in a couple weeks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

It's all matchups to me, Matt. I am still a believer that the Jets will be there in the end.

Chris (Annapolis MD)

The Carson Palmer trade made me wonder about what Tom Brady would net the Patriots in a trade. Would the 1st overall pick (this year with Andrew Luck), another 1st, and a 2nd make the Patriots even think about it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Five No. 1 picks! No, seriously, I don't think it would be a topic of discussion at this point. I can't imagine the Patriots doing it.

Bubba (Boston)

Is Cunningham still on the team? What happened to him? I haven't seen or heard a word about him in weeks. Is he yet another wasted second round pick? Which brings me to the second question, why do the Pats continue to team down into the second round when they have such a bad history with thoughs picks?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Yes, Bubba, he's still on the team. Really the only time we see him is on the punt return unit, playing on the line. Looks like he's taken a big step back. Andre Carter has pushed him into the background. He's a non-factor right now.

Rob (Borough of Manhattan)

Mike, after watching all the teams play during the first six weeks, my feeling is that the Ravens and the Patriots stand out as the top two teams in the AFC. Do you agree? Who do you think would win if these two teams played today on a neutral field?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Agree, Rob. As for who wins, I lean Patriots right now, but that's a close game.

Chuck (Swansea)

Was there something in the CBA about a limit on the number of padded practices during the season? How many have been "used" so far and where do the Pats stand compared to other teams?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Yes, Chuck, believe it is 14. Think they are at about 6 right now.

Chuck (Swansea)

Mike, gotta go with the Jets game for the #1, but I'm hoping the Buffalo game on New Years day ends up being huge. Could we see Buffalo and the Jets battling for a wildcard spot in week 17? Will Bill "rest his starters" if the Pats spot is locked up?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Thanks Chuck. In that scenario, I think Belichick plays his guys.

Jake (NYC)

Hey Mike - who do you think is the scariest opponent on the Pats remaining schedule? I know the Eagles haven't exactly lived up to preseason hype, but I have a feeling they're going to get hot at some point and that we're going to have a real hard time containing that offense in Philly if they're firing on all cylinders.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

I think the Eagles is a good choice because that's a road game. I agree with that.

Will (Dorchester)

Hey Mike, What's up with Ras-I-Dowling? Belichick seems to fall in love with injury-prone cornerbacks whose production at the college level doesn't justify their draft status. Is he just another Terrence Wheatley?

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Will, Dowling is a different type of corner than Wheatley (e.g. bigger), but I know what you are saying in terms of the injuries. Disappointing to this point, but I say we give it more time before writing Dowling off.

B Lloyd (St. Louis)

I don't understand why the Patriots wouldn't trade a 5th round pick for me? I'm familiar with the offense from McDaniel's time in Denver, led the nfl in rec yds last year, am a legit deep threat, and the best part is you could get a 3rd round draft pick as compensation when you I walk as a FA next year! Was it a mistake not to pull the trigger?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

You make a compelling case, Mr. Brandon Lloyd. To me, I think you have answers in-house if you're moving on from Ochocinco with Taylor Price. So I was OK with it.

Joe (Charleston, SC)

Mike, how concerned are you about the lack of a production at the wide receiver position beyond Welker/Branch? Do you think the 2 TE combination is a formula for success that is sustainable for 16 games and the playoffs, or do you think we need another weapon? Ochocinco doesn't seem to be getting the job done and Price hasn't seen the field. Are Slater/Edelman the guys for this?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

No big concern, Joe. Hernandez is like a third receiver. 14 targets for him last week.

Matt (weymouth Ma)

People are saying the Patriots schedule is brutal the next few games, I dissagree. I think we match up well against Pittsburg and NYG as there records are better than how the teams have looked. Philly hasnt looked good but could have it together by the time we play them. But overall I would bet we go 3-0 against those teams, do you agree?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I think there will be a loss in there, Matt, just not sure which one.

Chris (Annapolis MD)

Mike, its never too early to look at 2012, especially during the bye week. The struggles of McCourty, and the health of Ras I Dowling are troubling. I am one of the many who believe the Pats need more young talent in the front seven but I am afraid the Pats will be forced to spend even more draft picks on secondary help. What are your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Pass rusha!

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

OK, that was my poor attempt at humor. I think the front seven is the place to look. Can't keep piling chips into the secondary and coming away with little to show for it.

Chris (Annapolis MD)

The Steelers have been successful in developing young receivers by throwing them in to the fire and letting them build confidence, (the colts play their receivers early too). The Patriots clearly are not good at developing WR's. Why don't they adapt their player development?

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Great topic, Chris. My sense is that it's a case of simplified offense vs. complex offense but would need more time to study that.

Dan (Sheffield, UK)

Hi Mike. This year I'm finding it really difficult to get a handle on the AFC East, with the Bills and Jets surprising me for quite different reasons. I can't shake the feeling that the Bills will fall away and the Jets will come on strong, but what are your predictions for how our divisional rivals will fare?

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

That's my sense, too, Dan. Just like you said it.

David (Philadelphia)

Hi Mike, I'd like to talk about Shane Vereen, the rookie who I thought would make the biggest impact on this team. How do you think he looked in pass protection last Sunday? I didn't think he did that poorly on the first play - there was just no one open. I don't remember what happened on the second play. Do you think the bye week will help him further integrate himself into the offense?

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

David, it was such a small sample that it was hard for me to draw any real definitive conclusions from it. But with Faulk on the way back, assuming he's healthy, I think Vereen might find it hard to break through.

Jon (Raleigh)

Hi Mike, I think Rob Ryan has proven himself to be a top tier defensive coordinator, do you see him taking a head coaching job? I wouldn't want to see him in Miami

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

I'd hire him, Jon. I like him and players obviously play for him.

tim g (boston)

Mike, do you think in the long run Mayo being out for this time will be a good thing considering we won both games. the LB's look like they were coming together and w Spikes develping i'm starting to think it was needed.They relyd too much on Jerod.

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Don't know if they relied on him too much, but it seemed to bring out the best in Spikes, no doubt in my mind on that one.

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Went a bit overtime here. Let's hit a few more.

Tom (NH)

What can we expect out of Brace and Deaderick this year? It seems like Brace especially is quickly approaching "sink or swim" time..

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Tom, I think the big thing with them is that is a new defense so they fit differently. Brace is now a DT in this four-man line. It's what he played at BC and if he can't make it in this scheme, I don't see it happening for him here. Deaderick could be a backup to Ellis at LE or figure into the DT mix. I see both being on the 53 at some point in the next 3 weeks.

Nick (Denver)

Saturday in the city in Denver? Head to the slopes Mike - I'll meet you there!!

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

I had a few different ideas, Nick, the type that Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey might approve of.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

That was a joke. That's not really my way.

Drew Bledsoe (washington)

Does Ras I Dowling make it back to field after bye along with mayo?

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Drew, the fact Dowling wasn't at practice Tuesday and Wednesday has to be a concern. Right now, it doesn't look good.

GiseleTB12 (Western Mass!)

Tom's elbow-you mentioned earlier you thought it was a concern moving forward? Still feel the same way??

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

Have to just rest it and keep an eye on it. Concern probably too strong, but you never like to see your starting QB with his throwing arm in a wrap during the game. I don't think it's a coincidence that he didn't practice Tuesday and Wednesday. Have to rest that golden right arm.

Andrew (Leominster, MA)

Mike, did ANYONE predict Steven Ridley to be as effective as he's been? I remember the draft "experts" slamming the pick pretty hard back in April, using words like "reach" etc...

Mike Reiss
  (1:12 PM)

I can't think of too many, Andrew. If you look hard enough, I listed him as an option in the sixth round for the team. They drafted him in the third. So put me down on that list, too.

Taylor (The Dalles, Oregon)

Hey Mike, bit of a throwback question that's also topical. What soured Deaderick last year in the minds of the coaches? Whatever it is, do you think he can produce this year for the team?

Mike Reiss
  (1:13 PM)

Taylor, I think they like him on the field, it's more the "this-is-how-you-do-things-as-a-pro" type of thing.

Reissy Mane (the club (strip club))

How big has Brian Waters been for this Oline. This guy is a beast and a leader.

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

Excellent addition. Bill Belichick highlighted him in his "Belichick Breakdown" for a solid block on Sean Lee on Gronkowski's 20-yard screen on Sunday. Seems like a true pro.

Bob (NH)

Next three games are tough. Unrealistic to hope to go 2-1. The Giants game has my interest.

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

I think 2-1 sounds right.

gooby (quincy, ma)

hey mike. been a while since i checked in last. i've been a huge kevin faulk fan over the years, but i thought he was really slowing down last year. i'd much rather see the two rookies get worked into the mix. in your opinion, does faulk make the active roster?

Mike Reiss
  (1:15 PM)

Where have you been, gooby? Agree on the slow down for Faulk. Still think he helps in pass protection. Nothing more important than protecting No. 12. So yes, I see Faulk on the active roster.

Braveheart46151 (Indy)

I coach high school football and we have our big rivalry game this week. It'll be tough to get the boys up for their next opponent because how intense our rivalry is. What did you see that BB did to prep the team for the Cowboys coming off of the Jets game?

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

Brave, the biggest thing I think BB does is remind the players that each week is a new week. Yes, it was great that you had a big win the week before and you have a 24-hour rule to enjoy it. Then you have to turn the page, because if you don't win this week, it makes that rivalry game mean less than it would have. You've got to prove it all over again. Good luck. I'm sure the kids are lucky to have you as coach.

Zach B. (Cincy)

I asked this via Twitter as well - Didn't another O-Lineman get hurt earlier in the year when his ankle/knee got rolled up on during a Brady QB sneak? It's a very effective play, and I would say crucial at certain times during the game, but does the execution of the sneak play need to be examined more closely to ensure no further injuries result to linemen?

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

Yes, that was Dan Koppen. Not sure how much that is a result of the play, or just a bad break.

Ravi (Cambridge, MA)

Mike! With Kevin Faulk coming back, will the Pats make a roster move or will they carry 5 RBs?

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

I think they carry 5. Just a hunch.

Zack (Somerville, MA)

Mike - all due respect to the great Mr. Bruschi, but that Buffalo game is going to be Patriots' backups against a 9-6, downtrodden Bills team. I'm just not a believer. Instead, the Jets game will be the most interesting, as it will again be their "Super Bowl" for the 2011 season.

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

Thanks Zack.

Mark (Astoria, NY)

Does Ihedigbo play opposite Chung the rest of the season? Our D seems improved with that tandem.

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

Mark, I think it's the best combination right now.

Jon (Raleigh)

Can we start referring to Ridley as the Riddler. As it is a riddle how he can have such a good start to the game and not get anymore carries.

Mike Reiss
  (1:19 PM)

LOL

John (Norwich)

December 4th game against the Colts..Mannings first game after being cleared to play..ohh boy

Mike Reiss
  (1:19 PM)

Hadn't thought of that, John. I think he's out all year.

taylor (knoxville)

how many games do you expect the patriots to win?

Mike Reiss
  (1:19 PM)

Taylor, I picked 12 at the beginning of the year and I'm sticking with it.

Brian (Mansfield)

Regarding the question about Bodden 'playing soft', Ty Law and Troy Brown commented on that specific play on Felger's Sports Sunday. They seemed to think it was improper technique and not a style call. They both agreed that if it was a style call, that's not the way to play good defense.

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Thanks Brian. I will check it out.

Matt G. (not Gutierrez) (Boston)

The most interesting game on the schedule? Taking a page from Coach B: the next game is the one we're focused on. We're looking at the Steelers, who do a lot of things well in all three phases. Seriously, though - that game will at least tell us a lot about Pittsburgh, if not necessarily the Pats. I'd like to see some more Brandon Spikes pushing through the PIT line to get at Big Ben, that's for sure...

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

The BB Effect.

JP (Nashua)

Biggest games gotta be at Denver... Other than the intentional safety game, I can't remember the last time the Patriots won there. For whatever reason it's a house of horrors, and it might mean the first overall seed.

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Thanks JP.

Ravi (Cambridge, MA)

Mike! The best remaining game has to be the Eagles. I think the Pats will be able to move the ball without many problems, but stopping the Eagles' explosive offense will be a nice mid-season challenge and measuring stick for this team.

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Thanks Ravi.

Nate (Philly)

For the record, Gronkowski was an 'injury prone' and a '2nd round pick'. Let's not pretend that all of BB's picks end as 'wasted'. The only reason he has more misses than many is because he has so many more picks than everyone else. The draft is a crapshoot for the most part. More lottry tickets = more talent added at the end of the day and is a big reason they stay on top of the NFL year after year.

Mike Reiss
  (1:21 PM)

Good point, Nate.

Sean (Boston)

Was wondering you thoughts on Mike Wright? Seemed like it was an emotional interview.

Mike Reiss
  (1:22 PM)

Sad. Feel bad for him, Sean. Scary. Good guy, watched him grow up here in a sense. Stuff like this is bigger than the game.

Win (New York, NY)

Hey Mike,I just read a story about Ross Ventrone getting waived and rehired 4 times in the last 2 years... does he get to keep his locker with the Pats the way Dan Gronkowski did? Or does this kid just keep a UHaul on retainer?

Mike Reiss
  (1:22 PM)

Win, he gets to keep his locker. Great kid.

Rick Pitino (somewhere down south)

Please no more Ochocinco questions! It is what it is. Randy Moss circa 2007 isn't walking through that door.

Mike Reiss
  (1:23 PM)

Thank you, Rick, and with that, let's end it here. A little overtime today. Call it the bye week second wind. Lot of fun. Weather just turned here in New England, the sun is out, and I'm going to enjoy it. Hope you do too.

Mike Reiss
  (1:23 PM)

Colleague Chris Forsberg chats tomorrow on ESPNBoston.com. Fire away at him. You all filled up the chat with a lot of great questions. Wish I could have gotten to them all.