Might be starting a few minutes later than the norm. Just going to pop my head out to practice to cover any news here. Let's shoot for a 12:07 p.m. ET kickoff
Just back. TE Aaron Hernandez is back at practice today (he missed for non-injury related reasons on Wednesday), as is RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (missed Wednesday with illness). Quick blog entry and then we go...
Couple of quick inventory things. Today's lead-in question is "What is your Super Bowl pick?"
My pick at the start of the year was Patriots-Giants. Not sure the Giants will even get in at this point, but I'm sticking with it for now.
Before we get started, I just want to take time out to wish everyone happy holidays. Things move fast these days, so I hope there is some time for all to step back and enjoy this time of year, and appreciate what we have. That's the plan from here.
i told you guys, i am in heaven. i told you i would be quiet and i am, i told you i was gonna work hard and i am - i am going to replace deion branch - i am faster and stronger. tom will get used to me...and dont sleep on me in the playoffs.
Greetings, Ocho. The way I look at it, "it is what it is." I don't think this has gone the way it was drawn up at the start of the year, but you've been true to your word that it was all about winning. Let's leave it there.
can i hold up against the run....with andre gone and this being a one year deal for me - i could get myself a huge payday by dominating down the stretch (and i have the size and skill to do it).
Mark, I see your situation as similar to Tully Banta-Cain. In that niche role of sub rusher and spot starter, it can work. But put too much on the plate and I think that's where the limitations start to show.
k guys - you signed mayo, time to antie up and sign the best wide reciever in the nfl (most catches and yards - and its not even close).
Wow, a lot of players chatting today. I agree, Wes. Disappointing that it hasn't gotten done, but here are the two key questions that I think need to be answered: 1) What are you asking for?; 2) What is the team offering? Until we know the answers, it's hard to pass judgment on why things have stalled.
Mike, as a fan watching the game on TV, it's tough to see how well an offensive lineman is playing, unless he is playing terribly. How do you think Marcus Cannon has been playing? What's his potential?
I think Cannon has been solid in his limited reps. Potential looks good to me. Had a scout tell me this week that he thinks that was a smart move by the Patriots at that point in the draft.
In case Pats do not go Indy, I would like to see SF vs Den, two magical teams in this season.
That would be a fun matchup, MarkJ. That said, I don't see it happening.
mike - i see dane fletcher really fly into the hole, but i often see him over persuing/missing the runner - has belichick addressed this with him? i seems as if he needs to play a half step slower and let the game come to him.
Charles, it caught my eye that Fletcher was replaced by Gary Guyton late in Sunday's win over the Broncos. If we are to read into that, it's that Belichick saw the same thing you did.
How Could the New England Patriots make the Playoffs with the worst Pass defense in the NFL?
Chris, when the offense is as good as the Patriots, it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition to keep up. In 2006, the Colts made it to the playoffs with the NFL's worst rush defense. They put it together when it counted in the playoffs.
I don't know about other folks, but I miss Forsberg's analysis on game changing plays (especially when he has screenshots to back up). Is someone else at espnboston going to take up that task? Also, is Mike Rodak a permanent now?
I also miss it, supwithyou. We are unable to use the screenshots any more. That's why you haven't seen them. As for Mike Rodak, he's still in college, so his permanent job is to get good grades or else Professor Reiss comes down hard on him.
Mike, what can you tell us about Ryan Mallet? How has he looked in practice etc.? Also, long term, do you see him as a servicable backup, trade bait or a legit replacement for Brady when the time comes?
Rick, it's still a work in progress with Mallett but Bill Belichick says it's going well. The true test will come in the 2012 preseason when he gets game reps. You can only tell so much in practice. As reporters, we don't get to watch full practices, so I can't share any first-hand observations.
Patriots - Saints Superbowl....I'll take the teams with the most momentum
My big question would be if the Saints can win in Green Bay. Tough spot, assuming Green Bay is in the title game.
Hey Mike, what are your thoughts on Welker joining the twitterverse and potential distractions? Seems like twitter doesn't match up well with BB's way of going about business...your thoughts?
Steve, I don't read too much into it. I'm sure Belichick would prefer it was the other way, but I don't think it's a big deal as long as Welker is a good foot soldier with it.
Just an observation - I'm loving Welker on twitter. How fun.
One of the funniest players on the team.
Wondering your thoughts concerning coaching. Does the fact that Belichick consistently preaches "next game" and demands focus and the team follows this approach, allow them to be so successful during the regular season? 16, 14, 13 (hopefully) wins, yet I am not sure we have the overall best talent. Other teams appear to ride the roller coaster throughout the season. Like the Jets whose coach is talking Super Bowl in the preseason, then tend to play up and down, or the Ravens losing to low level opponents. Unfortunately, when it comes playoff time, every team does become focused...you will probably not see teams lay eggs and this often favors the team with better talent. I see this happening over the last couple years...best regular season record, but really not that good when comparing talent. I hope this will not reoccur this year, but do you think it could be an early exit again, as other teams step it up. This is a credit to the professionalism of Belichick and his players all year long, but it is always tougher in the playoffs.
I really like this thought, David, when it comes to that week to week focus the Patriots have. It's a credit to Belichick and the players' ability to have a short-term focus. I do think Belichick needs to consider altering his message to the team in the postseason. Last year, his "0-0" message didn't produce the desired results. I'm curious to see what he comes up with.
Hey Mike, Listening to Felger and Mazz yesterday they were discussing how since Bill's been here, the Bills are on their 6th, Jets on their 4th, and Dolphins on their 6th. Same goes with quarterbacks (where the numbers are even higher). I've always felt teams give up, particularly on coaches, way too soon. I understand if it's obviously not working, but when you change coaches, you're starting over in many ways, which can be tough, especially for QBs (bit of a chicken and egg situation). Interested to hear your view on this.
Tim, I'm a big believer in this. I think owners generally pull the plug too quickly, and I like when they are rewarded for staying the course (Giants with Tom Coughlin a few years back; Houston this year with Gary Kubiak). Now, we can look at other examples and say 'This is why a chance was needed' and San Francisco comes to mind. Overall, I lean toward the stability, though.
Should we be worried about Chung. He seems to always play with injury and never seems to be healthy. We should definitely draft safety. Your thoughts?
Safety should definitely be targeted. On Chung, he was back at practice today and I wouldn't be surprised if he suits up this week.
If he doesn't get the gig in Kansas City, any chance Romeo Crennel reunited with Bill? Defensive philosophies obviously mesh well. Players love him. Would lighted the load a little on Bill, RAC seems like a guy he would trust to help out more with gameplans and with helping develop some of the young guys. Thoughts?
Jay, I think it would be a great choice. I feel strongly that Belichick needs to do something different with the D next year. It just isn't working.
Mike, what of Antwaun Molden? I thought he filled in admirably for McCourty earlier in the year and now he has disappeared.
I agree, Gregg. Molden has hardly played the last few weeks and I don't know why. Even in nickel and dime situations, I thought they could bring Molden in on the outside, and then kick Arrington in to the slot.
Team that may not make the playoffs that you don't want to face? Chargers? If theres a three way 9-7 tie for the last wild card spot the Chargers can easily jump in (they lose head-to-head to jets but three-way scenario trumps that)
Makes sense, Nick.
Hey Mike, how awesome is it to only have Pats home games and potential trip to Indy on the agenda? Must be nice fore the reporters and the players. Also, good for continuity and building momentum I'd imagine
Dennis, this is the greatest from my perspective. The last time the Patriots had their final two games at home was 2002. Traveling at this time of year, as many know, can be a challenge. I'm not complaining -- when you sign up for this, you know what comes with it -- but it's awfully nice to be able to be home for the holidays and beyond. My wife starting talking about home-field advantage about six weeks ago.
Mike I would like to see McCourty return kickoffs he was very good in college!
Mike, given the injured shoulder, and the hits that come with that job, I'm not sure it's a good idea.
Hi Mike,Heading home to Leominster today.Do you think that Ocho can pull a "JD Drew" and be the difference in the playoffs and have all forgiven???
Travel safe, Sarah, and if you see fellow chatter Dan from Leominster, tell him I said hello. On Ocho, I don't expect much more than what we've seen. Maybe he'll prove the doubters wrong, but it's Week 16 and I think what we've seen is what we're going to get.
Mike, any chance BB is playing possum with this defense in just getting by with enough talent to grab the W's and then unviels the "Real Deal" in the playoffs when it counts? or is this a case od what we see is what we get? Your Indy reference to '08 above provides me with a little hope?
Steve-O, I don't buy the idea of "playing possum" but I do buy the idea that a defense can turn it on in the playoffs if things come together (like the '06 Colts). I will pass along that in conversations with NFL personnel people around the league, some are astounded at what has happened to the Patriots' defense from a personnel perspective. They then turn it back on me and ask, "How did they let it get so bad?" At the same time, they point out that the Packers and Saints have issues on D as well.
Why can't I seem to be able to fix my passing defense? I am a defensive guru..
Bill, I think it's a combination of scheme and personnel. I think it's time to look closely at this in the offseason and consider some sweeping changes.
Mike...if the patriots are in position to win the 1-seed in week 17 and the Jets clinch the 6th...do you think Belichick looks at that scenario and throws a game a la the the dolphins game a few years back?
Nick, the idea of throwing it as to not face the Jets? I actually think Belichick would welcome that. I don't think Mark Sanchez scares him.
Hey Mike the Pats have done a Great job holding the O-Line together with four different Centers & Vollmer being limited this year. This is the key to the team going places
Great point, Mike. We've seen the o-line break down a bit in the playoffs in recent years.
Mike, thanks for your great Pats coverage again this year. It bugs me the way the Pats use their running backs. They have one offense with GreenEllis in the game where they rarely run a draw, screen or throw to the RB (they finally did last week and it worked), they have the no huddle with Woodhead and they only run the ball with Riddley in the game. I know Riddley did well against Denver, but I think other teams have keyed on him because they know Bill doesn't trust him in pass protection and he is only in there to run the ball. I think their offense would be much less predictable if they had a Matt Forte type that can do it all. I am hoping they have that on the roster now and just need to develope it. Give all of their RBs a shot at running complete offense. This specialization leads to predictability. What do you think?
It's interesting, Mack. I don't see the return of a bellcow. I think it can be successful the way they have it set up if they block like they did against the Broncos at times. Bill Belichick's weekly breakdown on Patriots.com highlighted this, and it was eye-opening to me to see it from the end-zone coaches' tape. Mankins is a beast.
Mike, why did Bill cut me????
Had to just be production, Eric, coupled with the thought that he probably figured Markell Carter could fill that role and has more upside for the future.
Which team do you believe would be the biggest threat to win in Foxborough in the playoffs?
Alex, the Steelers and Ravens would be my top choices.
Is Andre Carter gonna be around next year? And also what about Brian Waters? two pro bowl years..
Donnie, when it comes to Carter, I see no reason why the sides wouldn't do that. And Waters is under contract at $1.4 million. The way Waters has played, I'd bring him back in a heartbeat.
Mike, love your work...I can't say I see the Pats in the SB...the defense will kill them when the O cannot put up 30 in a game. Pittsburg and New Orleans.
Thanks Ken. I understand the line of thinking that the D will hurt this team in the end. It's fair. Let's see how it plays out.
Do you think Hernandez sat out yesterday as a health/mental day off like BB does from time to time with various players?
Yes, Fletch, I would lean on that being the case. Hernandez had a lot of production in that game in Denver. Well-deserved break.
Did you know that Har Journalist cheats on you with Dennis and Callahan? Hes ent a question tot hem between periods of a bruins game last week and Dale A said they were very familiar with him!
Dan, I have met Har, who is from Vancouver, on one of her trips to town. Passionate fan. Much like yourself.
What could happen with the secondary situation? Improvements? Same players?
CJ, they brought in Vincent Fuller, so let's see how that looks. When I asked one pro personnel guy about Fuller, the response was something like this, "Amazing that they're still bringing in DBs at this time of year." There is not a high opinion of this defense around the league, but they are still getting it done. Interesting to see that dynamic in play.
Hi mike, looking ahead to Buffalo, do you think Tom will get rested at all? I am going to that game so just wondering your thoughts on that
Jerome, my sense is no, but a lot will depend on what is decided playoff-wise at that point.
Saints / Pats
I'd like to respond to Wes' question - We're actively in contract negotiations, and would love to have Wes back next year, but we can't talk about ongoing contract negotiations in detail at this time.
Seems like you're a little off script, Robert Kraft. It goes like this: "I hope Wes is a Patriot for a long time. I'm a big fan of Wes Welker."
Super Bowl is going to be Pats - Packers. Popular answer I bet but a tremendous show down nonetheless. Revenge for '96!!!!
Love the revenge for '96. Does Brady take his helmet off, lift it in the air, and run down the field after firing a long touchdown pass to Deion Branch, a la Favre?
patriots v. saints - saints beat the niners in candlestick after the 49ers knock of the pack in GB
Keep my number on speed dial, I'm ready to go for the playoffs if you need me!
Obligatory Randy Moss reference. Still going strong in Week 16!
Which situation in the secondary is worse the Corners or the safeties?
Steve, I'd say the safeties. Privately, I have to imagine Bill Belichick wishes he'd kept James Sanders. Think he thought Sergio Brown would keep improving. Miscalculation.
Which defense is better suited to stop the Patriots pass game, BAL or PIT? I dont see a team that pats cant score 30 on.
Matthew, I'd lean toward Baltimore.
Mike, I know the Pats have poured a lot of draft picks and money into the secondary over the last few years, but we're still not seeing much. Do we pour yet more draft picks (another S and CB?) this year? Or do we see if improving the pass rush does the trick? Or both?
Chris, I think they'll do both. Lot of help needed. Don't mean to sound harsh, but I just don't think they can make the same mistakes of passing on players like Jabaal Sheard and Brooks Reed like they did in 2011. It's hard to find good, young talent in the front-seven and I thought they missed a great opportunity there. Believe they would benefit from being more aggressive in that area in '12.
Merry Christmas Mike! I think the Fins could play us tough (maybe their superbowl), but still feel we will win it; just really hope we don't loose any key guys...So my question to you, do we rest anyone the next two games??
No rest, Corky. Pedal to the floor and keep going. The only thing that changes it if things are decided, playoff-wise, heading into Week 17.
Mike, in the '12 draft we've got two first rounders & two second rounders, I'd draft as follows: (1) Stud Wide receiver (2) Stud OLB/DE pass rusher (3) Smart, physical Center (4) Long, athletic receiver. How would you draft?
Mike, the first thing I'd do is not get fancy and make the picks. I think back and wonder what it would look like if the Patriots went Solder, Sheard, Reed at 17, 28 and 33 last year, and what a missed opportunity. That's the type of mindset I think they should go into this draft with, the idea of saying, "To heck with trades, let's come out with a haul like '95 and maximize what we have right now." As for the positions, I'm not as locked in, but defense would be a priority if all is equal.
I like Mike from LA's question, can I answer?1a) Pass Rush1b) WR burner a la Torrey Smith/Mike Wallace2a) Safety2b) Pass Rush again
2012 Draft - if we're discussing it: safety, OLB/DE, WR, C
Is there any advantage for the Pats to wait until late in the week to fill the last spot on the 53-man roster? If they're going to promote M Carter, does it matter when, or would he be practicing the same way regardless? Is this just reflexive secrecy by Pats, or do you think they're still kicking the tires on some free agents?
The biggest advantage, DJ, is intel with the opposition. Why tell them you're going to promote Markell Carter when you don't have to?
That being said, I do think the Patriots are a little "aggressive" in that area. For example, on Wednesday, Bill Belichick was asked about filling open roster spots and said he didn't have anything to announce. We go into the locker room 10 minutes later and Vincent Fuller's locker is full, and he's on his way to practice.
Mike! Tough break for your boy Andre Carter. Is it time to purchase our tickets for the Markell Carter show???
When did Carter become "my boy?" No favorites here, Dave, other than the fact it's easier to interview Woodhead and Welker because we're closer to eye level. Yes on Markell Carter.
Let's go for another 5...
Has anyone asked Belichick in his press conferences about some of his high-profile draft misses lately? Cue Reiss stock answer of "every team has misses!" in 3, 2, 1...
Reporter: "What do you think about your draft misses?"Bill: "I'm just focused on the Dolphins."
Mike,I'm going Patriots, even with our flawed defense.
Why not, Geoff? They have as good a chance as anyone else in my book.
Mike, is pretending to be another person the only way to get into your chats these days??? For shame.
Not really, BB. Several hundred questions in there, and sometimes it's a change-up to answer some from the "players."
Being a transplanted fan in the heart of Ravens country I can literally see the stadium from my back porch so I will give you my limited view on the Ravens fans and their chances in the playoffs. It starts 100% with home field advantage. The fans down here are impressive at M&T stadium and it is much louder than I've ever heard at Gillette (When they're winning) but they eerily remind me of the pre 03 sox. As soon as any sign of trouble comes they give up and it goes silent. I think if we can secure home field advantage we can ride that to Indy. If we have to play in enemy territory I don't think our D will hold up. Thoughts?
Thanks for that perspective, Zuff. I wouldn't count the Patriots out, regardless of location. This is a mentally tough team. That could take them far.
Mike, what are the chances that the 49ers make the big game in Indy? I feel like their season has been too good to be true. Can they get past the Packers or Saints? Can they put up the points to beat the Pats if we get there too?
Scott, I just don't think they can score with Packers and Saints.
SB pick is Pats vs Saints. I really feel like GB will be beat at Lambeau
"patriots v. saints - saints beat the niners in candlestick after the 49ers knock of the pack in GB" Doesn't seem logical. If the Niner are in GB, it's the NFC championship or earlier and thus would be in NO.
Thanks Brandon. Hadn't thought it through during the quick pace of the chat.
I really have to say, other than KO return, the special teams play by the Patriots has been fantastic. The tackling in particular has been great so the field position battle is usually won by the Pats. Thanks White, Slater and Edelman!
Great point, Eric. Special teams play has really rebounded since a rough patch earlier in the year. The turnaround coincided with the signing of LB Niko Koutouvides. Not saying he's the reason why, but I look at that signing as a reflection of the coaching staff saying, "We need to move some parts around and get better in that area."
to Brandon in RI -- The 49ers will be the 2nd Overall and the Saints 3rd so they will most likely play each other.
I can't stand it. Huddle up and run it again Reiss. That's just awful. "aggressive" on my roster information? Come on now, we all play by the same rules.
Let's end on this one, BB. I think everyone respects what you've accomplished over the last 12 years here. The mindset is more on what can be done heading forward to maximize this great opportunity with Tom Brady. I've said it before, I think we'll all be looking back at this stretch of Patriots football and saying, "Remember how good we had it with Brady and Belichick?" So that context isn't forgotten whenever a critical thought is in play.
As for the stuff on roster information, I don't think it's a big deal. It was more to explain to DJ, the chatter, why you might wait to announce a move.
Thanks to everyone for filling up the chat with 300-plus submissions. Always enjoyable. Enjoy the holidays and we'll catch up next Thursday.