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January 19, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:57 AM)

Good afternoon. Just going to take one final sweep through the locker room and will be back. Might start closer to 12:05.

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Just returned. Going to get a few things settled and then we begin. Today's lead-in question: What area do you view as key for the Patriots to beat the Ravens?

Pete (Da Boro)

I can NOT wait for this game. First of all it seems like a lifetime since the Pats have been in a championship game (even though it's only 4 years). Second, I just think it's going to be a fantastic game with interesting match-ups all over the field. You have the Ravens D's ability to disguise and mix up coverages & blitzes vs Brady's skill deciphering defenses and the o-line's ability to pick up the rushers. You have one of the best D's against TEs vs the best TE combo. You have Ray Rice vs a solid if not spectacular New England run D that is generally very good at taking away an opponent's first option. You have a sub-par Flacco vs a sub-par NE secondary. You have a Raven's D that is susceptible outside the numbers downfield vs Pats WRs that don't excel in that area. There are going to be so many things to watch, but in the end, the key is penalties, fundamentals (tackling) and special teams (field position). I see home field/BB/TB being the edge that pushes the Pats over the top. I expect something like 34-21 Pats for a final but a game that is much closer than that along the way.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Thanks Pete. I share in your excitement. From the moment that the Ravens held on to beat the Texans, it has been building here. I think it's the idea, for me, that you appreciate seeing this top level of competition and some of the all-time greats to play and coach the game. Bring it on. As for penalties, the Ravens didn't have one last week.

wayne (Fredericton, Canada)

Mike, I dont think the Law Firm, Woody and Ridley get enough respect as a running tandem due to TB12's outstanding passing numbers, what's your take

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Wayne, I view this Patriots offense as a passing attack first and foremost. The run game isn't what defines it. That said, we've seen times where they've run out the clock or picked up the first down in a key situation with the ground game. The fumbles from Ridley would be a concern to me right now.

Jim (NH)

Hello Mike. No offense, but sportswriters and "experts" are a strange bunch. Talking about two years ago or even last week is meaningless. Statistics mean nothing this time of year. What it comes down to now is execution and momentum. It is what makes a 9-7 football team "scary", and it is what makes a much-maligned defense very confident.

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

Jim, we are a strange bunch. That probably explains why, when I was dating my wife, I didn't want to tell her my profession. Reporter ... Writer ... but "sportswriter" didn't come out until it really had to.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

As for the '09 stuff, I disagree slightly. No doubt, it's not a huge factor. There were 16 players who dressed in that game that are still on the Patriots' roster. Not a lot. But, to me, the core group of Ravens who played in that game can have an uptick of confidence knowing they've won here in a big spot before. That means something to me.

Pete (East long meadow)

Do you think that a defensive game plan similar to what the patriots did to Marshall Faulk in the 01 SB would be effective in containing ray rice?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

Pete, that's a great point. The Patriots, as Tedy Bruschi explained in our podcast and Bruschi's Breakdown this week, have a "butch" call. A "butch" call is when the defender diverts from his rush to chip a player like Rice as Rice heads into his pass route. They "butched" Marshall Faulk into submission in that Super Bowl. Would make sense to see them do it to Rice this week, too.

Robert (Altus, OK)

I think the key for the game this weekend is the Bston TE Party. They have got to get open and be explosive. If they continue to play like they have all year, we'll be playing in the Super Bowl!

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Robert, we know the Ravens are going to come with some type of plan to limit the middle of the field. I agree that the TEs will be key, but if the Ravens devote extra resources to limit them, it's going to have to be the Welkers, Branches, Green-Ellis's and Co., who must step up. That makes our lead-in question a bit tricky because we don't know how the game will play out.

Eric (Indianapolis, IN)

To me this is all about shutting down Ray Rice and hitting him on every play like they did against Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl and then maybe have Dane Fletcher spy Rice as was the case in the 2009 regular season matchup.

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

I agree, Eric. There are only two players in the NFL who led their team in rushing and receptions -- Rice and Chicago's Matt Forte. Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars was close. We're talking about a dual threat here.

Craig (Florida)

Vareen healthy or no? If so why don't they implement him on some kickoff returns. Woodhead hasn't been up to par in that department.

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Craig, he's healthy, I believe. At this time, I think it's more of a question of not trying something new. This is the time of year where every mistake is magnified. To put a rookie in that spot, when he hasn't done it all year, is too risky to me.

Prasad (Baltimore)

Brooks Reed had 2.5 sacks last week - you patting yourself on the back?

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

Prasad, I'm not patting myself on the back because for everyone you get right, there's usually 2 that are wrong. Yes, that was me that touted the selection of Darius Butler ... in the first round.

Craig (Sarasota)

Hey mike, just wanted to know your thoughts on if chad ochocinco will get more snaps this week due to his past success against baltimore, do you see him making plays that help with the game at any point from here on out? Do you see him sticking with the team next year or is he definately out?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Craig, on the second part of the question, I'd say this will be one-and-done for Ochocinco if his salary isn't changed. I don't see the Patriots paying the $3 million base salary for 2012 for a player who totaled 15 receptions and is limited in the packages in which he can play. To me, Ochocinco's impact in this game will be tied to how much the Patriots play up-tempo. If they do, that's not his niche here. If they play more conventional, perhaps he gets a few more snaps. Deion Branch's knee injury could tie into this.

trader75 (wilton, ct)

The key for the Pats is pass protection. If you can't get to Brady, you can't beat Brady.

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

I like this one a lot. If I had to pick one unit, this is where I'd start as well.

Mike (Stoneham)

Hey Mike, In a blog post earlier this week it talked about how the Cowboys limited the Pats tight ends in the game earlier this year. My fear is that Rob Ryan (like last year) has found the blueprint for at least slowing down the offense. While I know not many teams since then have had a great deal of success, do you think the Ravens (and possibly Giants/49ers) have the personnel to do what the Cowboys did? And I know the season isn't over yet, but it's been a fun year reading your stuff on ESPNBoston. I follow your blog almost religiously and I'm sure many others do as well. Keep up the good work.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Mike, thanks for those compliments. We invest a lot as an overall staff in the blog at ESPNBoston.com, and I spend a lot of time personally on it, so to hear that you like it means a lot. As for the question, I do think the Ravens have the personnel to play like the Cowboys did. I think this is going to be a lower-scoring game. Wouldn't be surprised if it's 20-17.

Damian (Birr, Ireland)

Hi Mike. One subject that is not touched on that often is how many probable starters the Patriots defence have had out injured or on IR. In the defensive backfield they have lost Dowling, Bodden, Barrett and Lockett not to mention Andre Carter, the emerging Myron Pryor and Mike Wright on the D-Line. When you add in the absence of Chung and Spikes for long periods, does this defence deserve more credit than it has been getting for being able to hold out and get the job done when it matters?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

Damian, I think the defense deserves credit. I think they've played well situationally this year (e.g. red zone and turnovers). Every team goes through injuries, and my feeling on that is that no one is going to give any team sympathy.

nate (oxon hill md)

Mike why Ellis over Deadrick ? This guy has no heat and passion , I rather have Deadrick who has all that and more . I think the more snaps he get the more production we will see . thoughts ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

Nate, I don't think it's one over the other. Deaderick, from my view, is ahead of Ellis on the depth chart. Deaderick usually starts with Ellis coming on later. As a backup, my feeling is that you can do worse than Ellis.

David isreal [via mobile]

i think that the ravens will probably be able to limit welker but i don't feel they have the ability to slow gronk and hernandez so i believe that and Matt light and nate solder vs. terrell suggs is the key thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Thanks David. I'm not as convinced as you that the Ravens don't have what it takes to slow Gronkowski and Hernandez. I have a lot of respect for that defense and some of the individual parts. I think they create some really challenging matchups. As for the OTs, I agree. One concern is that Nate Solder was listed on Wednesday's injury with a concussion. Those can be tricky. It's the second time this season that Solder has been listed with a concussion.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

The lack of crowd noise was talk about before the Denver game last week. How did the crowd preform? Were they loud enough?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

I thought the crowd was great, David. Now you have four honorary captains who are going to bring even more energy -- Troy Brown, Ty Law and two to be announced. These are players who were members of the '96 AFC Championship team and also the first Super Bowl winning team (2001). Who are the remaining two? My guesses -- Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi.

DJ (Ann Arbor)

So Ed Reed is now making out like his comments on Flacco were some kind of motivational strategy. I'm not buying it, what about you Mike? And can you media types keep this story alive all week, please?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

DJ, I made it a point this week to avoid this stuff as much as possible and focus on the competition that will unfold Sunday at 3. Sometimes I felt I got sucked into that other stuff a bit too much this year and need to better self-police my work in that area. I really don't know what to say on Reed's comments because I'm not close to the situation. I do think it was a distraction they didn't want to deal with Wednesday. You'd rather be answering questions about the Patriots than that stuff, no doubt about that.

Laurie (Moncton)

Good afternoon, Mike. I read about the effort, growth, and multiple black jersey awards for Markell Carter, but have yet to catch a glimpse of him dressed for a game. Belichick has never been afraid to insert rookies into key situations. Could this be a week that he might be rewarded for his hard work by being named to the active roster?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Laurie, I thought that maybe Carter would get a call because the Patriots are a bit thin on those edge rushers. After Ninkovich and Anderson, there really isn't anyone. But no move has been made and the longer time goes on, the more it looks like Carter's breakthrough will have to come in '12 training camp. The door, I suppose, is only slightly opened at this point.

Ken (New Jersey)

Do you think the Ravens will fake injuries to slow the Patriots' no-huddle offense? It seemed at times that the Broncos were doing that last week.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

It's hard to prove faking injuries. Overall, Ken, my feeling is that everything is going to be in play. This is the AFC Championship Game. You do what you have to do. Which team is mentally tougher to overcome it? That's a good question. I like the Patriots in that area.

Rick (Branford(Connecticut))

If the Pats win the toss this week do you think we can scrap deferring the ball so we can get an early lead??

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Rick, I would guess the Patriots still defer. I think Belichick prefers it that way.

Jake (DC)

If BB gets his 4 ring, do you think that increases his odds of retiring?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Jake, I've wondered about this, but I think he still loves it and would want to come back. But I suppose you never know should he hoist that Lombardi Trophy and consider what it would mean to be going out on top. The succession plan is in place with Josh McDaniels back in the building -- I saw Josh today briefly in the locker room -- so it does make you wonder. But if I had to guess, I say another 3-5 years for the future Hall of Fame coach.

Tim (Newton, MA)

Mike,Personal opinion. Is this the postseason where Tom Brady can grab the spot as the best all-time at his position? As I'm sure you know, with a win Sunday, and another in Indy he overtakes Montana in playoff wins, and ties him (and Bradshaw) in rings. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Yes, Tim. Was thinking about this yesterday because I was listening to sports radio and that was the take the host had as well. Thought how lucky and fortunate I've been to cover one of the all-time greats.

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Want to relay a quick Brady story, from behind the scenes...

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

So ESPN.com is putting together a special project and they asked for assistance in gathering a comment from Brady for the project. Last week, in the lead-in to the Denver game, I asked him in the locker room if he would be willing to help. He said, "Let me get back to you. I want to think about what I'd say."

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

At that point, I'm thinking he probably has more important things going on and was politely letting me down lightly. But here we were a few days later, and I'm talking with Kevin Faulk at Faulk's locker. Brady comes by. "Sorry to interrupt," he says, "I thought about it. You ready to go?"

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

And he delivered the goods for the project. I only tell the story because I think we talk about how great a player Brady is, but this shows another side of him. Not trying to make a big deal of him being nice to a reporter, but it reinforced what I've felt all along -- this isn't just a top-notch player, but also the type of guy you can feel good about rooting for. Considerate. Thoughtful. Not sure we'll see someone as special ever again.

Mike (DC)

Considering Ridley's recent fumblitis and the exotic pressure schemes of the Ravens D, are we going to see Kevin Faulk in the backfield for his blitz pickup more than we expect?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Mike, Faulk has really been phased out of the offense lately. But that blitz pickup is valuable and I could see him getting a little more time but nothing too big.

Shawn (North Carolina)

Good afternoon, Mike. What are the chances that the Patriots go on and win the SB? WOuld a potential win give Brady MVP status for the year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Shawn, the MVP voting is closed. It's for the regular season only. As for the Patrios going on to win the Super Bowl, why not? They have as good of a chance, if not better, as any of the remaining four teams -- playing at home and with Tom Brady.

coach (mass)

My thoughts on billy b retiring are as simple as this as long as number 12 is the qb in new england then billy b will be coaching . when 12 leaves, then so might the hoodie....

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

I sort of adopt that line of thinking as well.

Andy (Hartford)

Lead In Questions Answer: Blitz assignment recognition and execution. Ravens historically blitz Brady more than any other defense and also create lots of confusion while doing so through excellent disguise and technique. If Patriots can recognize and handle these blitz schemes, Brady will pick secondary apart.Question: It seems that team defense is better with McCourtey at FS. Is this his new career primary position?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Andy, I like the blitz recognition thoughts. We also note that Dean Pees, former Patriots defensive coordinator, is Ravens LB coach. Has some knowledge there. As for McCourty, I still see him at CB in base, but in sub, he'll probably still see time at safety. Good, informative breakdown from Bill Belichick on McCourty's value at safety here: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4715307/xs-os-mccourty-and-run-force

Mike O'Brien (Texas)

With the year of the TE in NE; I wish we could have Ben Coates as a Captain for this one. the played for the Ravens too, lil slap in their face! Besides Bledsoe my Favorite Pat in the 90's

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Mike, loved Coates myself. I think one qualification that I didn't initially notice is that the honorary captains are tied to both '96 and '01. That would eliminate Coates.

Tron (Waltham, MA)

Hey Mike, is it just me or do you too think everyone is forgetting how the Patriots secondary made the likes of Chad Henne, Dan Orlovsky and Vince Young look like 'elite' QBs? While Flacco stunk last week he wont be facing the Texans defense he'll be facing the Patriots D--a unit that has made terrible QBs look like world beaters. So to tie my question in with yours, the Patriots will have to make some big plays against the Ravens passing attack in order to win this game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Tron, I think the Ravens will have some success moving the ball against the Patriots. But I also think this defense has turned a corner. I see some similarities between the '06 Colts and '11 Patriots. When Bob Sanders returned from injury in '06, the Colts' D (last in NFL in rushing, last on third down) looked like a different unit. To me, the returns of Spikes and Chung have been Sanders-like.

MarkJ (Japan)

I am hearing cold weather, possibly rain, on Sunday. With Ravens have a good D, I think kicking game is the key for Patriots.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Patriots have been solid in that area.

Eric (MA)

It is cliche to say but true. The game wil be won at the line of scrimmage. If and when Brady gets time, he is lethal. I don't care if the backfield is of Reed, Revis or whoever. Time kills. Same same for the defense. If Love and Wilfork are stout in the middle. Pats will win.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Eric, one stat that stood out to me was red-zone D. Ravens rank first in the NFL in TD percentage (16 in 42 trips). That could decide the game -- who wins inside the 20?

charles (ri)

do we see Ridley on the field?? i say no.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I believe we will, Charles, but not in a lead role.

Connor (Salem State)

any updates on the likelihood that solder and hernandez will play, and at a high level? both these guys will be key on sunday.

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Connor, the fact both are on the practice field is positive. My view on concussions is that those situations can be like a knuckleball. You might think you're getting better but sometimes it can turn. I have Mike Wright on my mind when I say that.

Mike (DC)

Last time we saw the Ravens, they built a 20-10 lead before BB threw an adjustment on them: LB Dane Fletcher came on a was a spy on RB Ray Rice, helping limit him in the checkdown passing game. are we likley to see Fletcher reprise thsi role on 3rd downs? I don't think Spikes can handle Rice in space...

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Great memory, Mike. I like the idea and believe we have a good chance to seeing it. The Patriots haven't been subbing their linebackers too much in recent weeks, but this would be reason to do so.

Paul (RI)

Is it possible to underrate one of the best receivers in football? I haven't heard much about Wes Welker, I think he has a big game with all of the spotlight on the tight ends. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

Paul, some good Welker talk today here at the stadium. Bill Belichick called him one of the hardest working players on the team. Never doubt Welker. One of the best.

Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta (Baltimore)

No one is giving us any credit. I think we have a marked impact on this game

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

All the focus is on the Boston TE Party, but trust me, Patriots players know about your 54 catches, Ed, and about your 40, Dennis. Two solid tight ends.

Bill (Portsmouth)

Joe Flacco seems to be getting killed in the press and on the talk shows this week. I think he's at least a middle of the pack QB, which is not terrible. Although the key is controlling Ray Rice, should we be a least a little bit concerned that Flacco could have a pretty good day against the Pats pass defense?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Bill, I guess I'm in the minority. I sort of like Flacco. Durable. Seldom rattled. Good arm. My issue would be more with the scheme and design of the offense. We've seen him play big before. Wouldn't surprise me if he does it again.

Clark (Washington DC)

Mike, how much of the game do you anticipate the Pats will be in hurry-up mode? And when do they start running that offense?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Clark, one of the things Tom Brady says is that there is a fine line between playing fast and being out of control. I expect to see some no-huddle, up-tempo stuff, but believe they will pick their spots. You have to like the idea of getting Ray Lewis running sideline to sideline as much as possible.

jeremy (vermont)

The Ridley fumblitis is being a bit overblown i think. Yes fumbles in 2 straight games...but lets take into account that one of them was against 3 defenders with absolutely no help from offensive teammates.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Jeremy, some plays you just have to tip your cap to the defense.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

At the same time, this is the time of year when mistakes can be magnified. I do believe it could affect the coaching staff's confidence in calling on him.

dreamer (sarasota)

Mike, Whats the word on Vollmer, any news?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Dreamer, he was limited in practice yesterday. Has a chance, I believe.

Dennis (CA)

Hey Mike, it seems to me that this is the most confident, relaxed, yet focused the locker room has been for the last few years in the playoffs. Do you sense that as well?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

I like questions on the locker room dynamic, Dennis. Was talking to a player today who said, "We just knew, you could feel it last week, that we were going to win that [Broncos] game." They were relaxed and focused. I get the same sense this week, although Bill Belichick was bearing down on them a bit today to sharpen the focus that much more.

Chris (Sprinfield, MA)

Yeah with all of these stats on red-zone, lets not forget 25% of the Ravens games are vs Cleveland and Cinci.... might skew some stats.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Chris, you're right, stats can be twisted and turned in a variety of ways.

Branden (Nashua)

What are your thoughts no Jerod Mayo? Some people say he is overrated, some say underrated. Where would you put him?IMO He's just below that elite class. The only thing his game is missing is being a consistent play maker.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

I'd agree with that, Branden. Perfect fit here.

John F (boston)

Can you imagine the repercussions from Bill B if any Patriot did an Ed Reed-like interview? I'd say that player would be sitting for a while with Bills screams echoing in his ears.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

John, Tedy Bruschi told a story on one of our recent podcasts about getting called into Belichick's office. It was in 2003, the day after the team cut Lawyer Milloy. Bruschi was steamed. He talked about having more loyalty to his high school and college than the Patriots. That got him called in to Belichick's office. Those things are policed very carefully around here. At the same time, Bruschi is a good example of how a player can overcome that and still have a special connection with the franchise and coach he plays for.

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

5 minute warning!

Gary (Boston)

Mike, While I was very impressed with the Pats overall performance against Denver, it was a little concerning to see that rough patch Brady went through with the interception and some shaky throws on the next series. My concern is that a similar rough patch against a stronger team like Baltimore in a close game will be more problematic. What do you attribute that rough patch to, given how sharp he was the rest of the game?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Gary, it's almost easy to forget that Brady had that mini skid on the third and fourth series of that game. Looking back, I thought he was pressing a bit, almost similar to what he saw against the Jets last year after his INT on the screen pass. He's human, too. You're right, mistakes can be magnified in the playoffs. But I think this team has shown a toughness to overcome that stuff as long as it doesn't extend deep into the game.

Los Angeles, California [via mobile]

Is Brady doing better health wise?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Yes, Brady said he's practicing today.

Cas (Orlando)

Mike-any feel for why CBS cut away from Gronk's spikes after his scores?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Not sure, Cas, but seems to me they missed a good opportunity to connect with the audience because that's what Patriots fans want to see. Boom! Maybe strictly a $ decision -- have to pay those bills and get those commercials rolling as quickly as possible, I suppose.

Big Play Willie Clay (Hopefully Foxborough)

No offense to my boys Troy Brown and Teddy Bruschi (if he's named), but those guys were depth players and special teamers in 96. Troy Brown wasn't even active for the Super Bowl. I mean I love them, but they should be captains when we are celebrating the 01 AFC Champs, not 96. For 96 it should be me, Ty Law, my main man Willie McGinest, and either Drew, Terry Glenn, Curtis Martin, or O.T.I.S.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Opinion heard and respected.

Arjuna (Derry, NH)

How about Bruschi and Vinatieri for the last two captains?

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Love the choices, Arjuna. Think we'll see McGinest over Vinatieri.

JohnP (Quincy, MA)

As far as the injury report is concerned, I'm wondering if a team could falsely report that one of its players is injured for the purpose of affecting another team's game plan?

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

There might be a minor element of that in play, John, but teams usually don't prepare based on the injury report. If they do, that coach probably won't have a job for long. They prepare for everyone, regardless.

Aaron Gore (Foxborough)

Mike, given that entering the playoffs there were relatively equal numbers of defensive and offensively specialized teams, and that now there are 3 defensive teams and only one offensive team left, do you feel this reflects poorly on the Pats ability to go to win the Championship without a strong defense?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

I thought about that, Aaron, and I don't buy it. It's all about the specific matchups on a week to week basis, more so than "this defensive-based team will win."

Hillary (San Francisco)

It's gotta be the O line. If Brady gets time to make decisions, he can find the weapons. If he gets rattled by pressure, the onus is on the defense.

Stubby (NJ)

Pats Offensive Line. Win that battle, win the game.

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

On the informal poll, o-line wins it as the difference maker. Thanks Hillary and Stubby.

Chris (watertown)

mike - it's simple. if brady stays upright, the pats win. if the ravens can get to him with 4 or fewer rushers, it'll be a long day.

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

And Chris jumps on the pile ... with others.

Jay (Southie (Foxoborough on Sunday!))

Mike, I get your love for Bruschi, I love him too. And I was always a HUGE Troy Brown fan. But, come on! The 96 team was not led by those guys. They were depth players then. Troy wasn't even active for the Super Bowl. My tops would be in this order: Drew, Willie, Ty Law, Terry Glenn (yuck I know), Curtis Martin, Wille Clay, Ted Johnson, Otis Smith.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Jay, I should mention my obvious bias toward Tedy. I am not an objective reporter on that one!

Nate (Woburn, MA)

Mike any update on the ceremonial captains for Sunday?

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Troy Brown and Ty Law are in. We'll find out No. 3 today and No. 4 tomorrow.

mpc12pats (Work)

Mike - There are so many factors to this game, we could talk about all of them for months. I look at it like this, if both teams play up to their potential, Pats win. If they put the ball on the ground or commit other bad errors, they can lose like anyone else. Oh that, and if the O-Line lays down like dogs....then it's all over.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

Simplified and effective.

Mike Reiss
  (1:10 PM)

One of my favorite stats of the year. On Nov. 7, the Patriots were 5-3 and even in the turnover differential (ranked 15th in NFL). On Jan. 2, the Patriots were 13-3 and plus-17 in the turnover differential (ranked 3rd in NFL).

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

We can twist stats in a lot of different ways, but that's pretty decisive. No stat correlates more to winning and losing than turnovers.

Nick (Back Bay)

Mike - The Ravens are a .500 team on the road the last two years...does this matter?

Mike Reiss
  (1:11 PM)

Nick, I say no. But that's just because of the respect I have for players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ray Rice and Co. in this moment.

Ernie (SoCal)

When are we going to lock up Wes?

Mike Reiss
  (1:12 PM)

Ernie, they'll give it another shot, I assume, before the league year ends March 13. I sensed some renewed hope there a few weeks back. But now is not the time for contracts. This is the time to lock in on that Lombardi Trophy and dedicate all energy and focus to that.

83pats4life12 (auburn. me)

hey mike ive been 1 of the fortunate people 2 c just about every game 4 the last 15 years what do u think the chances r that the pats defense will improve dramaticly over the next season or 2 after the very frustrating at times season theve had the last couple years ive seen alot of improvment the last 4 games is this a sign they r getting better or just another fluke?

Mike Reiss
  (1:13 PM)

I don't think they are that far away. A few tweaks and we could see a Texans-type turnaround.

Pete (Vermont)

Really have to feel good for Waters getting a chance to play in big games and really have to feel sad for Carter to have worked so hard and have to watch

Mike Reiss
  (1:13 PM)

Waters, what a pleasure to cover. Really appreciate his perspective. Ditto Carter, and you do feel for him.

Brian (Oxford, CT)

I like the way Mike has been managing the clock in the five-minute chat!

Mike Reiss
  (1:14 PM)

Brian, LOL. The referee came over and told me it was delay of game. I threw the challenge flag on him and said, "Hey, this is the playoffs, we're going overtime."

Raj (Mansfield,MA)

Hello Mike, Love Your work... What happened to Gary Guyton this year. Is he not in BB scheme anymore?

Mike Reiss
  (1:15 PM)

Raj, Guyton has fallen off the map. Not a huge factor on special teams so when you're talking about a backup, players like Tracy White and Dane Fletcher have more value on the 46-man game-day roster. Don't think the coaches feel he's playing as fast as he did previously.

muk (new york)

hope vinatieri is up there as a capt. on sunday. very few teams have had a kicker be so critical to their success as the pats.

Mike Reiss
  (1:16 PM)

Muk, I sort of thought it could be a "healing" type moment with Vinatieri and Milloy coming back. Both departures were emotional. This would be a great moment to wipe the slate clean, if both sides were willing. What do you think?

John (Minnesota)

I know you've pointed this out before, but could there be a more perfect ending to this year if it became the year of the Pat's revenge? Broncos for '05, sweet the Jets out for '10, (tentatively) beat the Ravens for '09, and beat the giants in the SB for '07...

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

Redemption Tour '11? T-Shirts could be printed up fast.

Taylor (The Dalles, Oregon)

Little worried about Solder and his two concussions in one season. Any more info than what's on the report?

Mike Reiss
  (1:17 PM)

Wish I had it, Taylor, but I don't.

Dave (Charlotte)

Mike...any chance you can pull a Tonya Harding on Ray Rice just before kickoff? All of Patriot Nation will be thankful and chip in for your bail money.

Mike Reiss
  (1:18 PM)

Dave, I do fit in tight space, but I'd rather not, if that's OK with you. I say, let's see both teams at their best and let the better team win. To me, I'm sort of fired up about these two great teams and organizations going toe to toe. It could be a classic.

Steve (Virginia)

Mike, what role will the 4 honorary captains be playing? Coin flip, extra cheerleaders...what?

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

Let's end it on this, Steve. Here is the team's press release. http://www.patriots.com/news/article-1/Patriots-to-Announce-Four-Honorary-Captains-for-2012-AFC-Championship-Game/12183442-cdd2-4eb2-9594-7cd1ca654776

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

It's a little vague. I think we'll see at least a few of them, if not all, at the opening toss. Gillette could erupt.

Mike Reiss
  (1:20 PM)

I think we're going to have a special Sunday.

Mike Reiss
  (1:21 PM)

Enjoy it, and thanks for chatting. As always, a lot of fun for me. As I sign off, 372 questions in the chat, which reflects the great passion of those who signed on. Thanks for that, and we'll circle around and do it again next week.