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January 3, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

We'll hopefully get the auto-update started here, and then get going.

PnkRwkKid (Melbourne, FL)

Pres Reiss, Happy New Year! Spikes has been quiet since his injury, not even a Tweet in 5 days. Should we be concerned with him going into the playoffs? I believe he is the fear in the middle that we need to make a SB run.

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

No reason for concern with Spikes, other than the health-related issues that kept him out of the Jaguars game. He only played 8 snaps last week and that was because he was back in a role where he was playing in the base defense and coming off in sub (they played sub most of the game). Time to tighten things up in the playoffs, and the lack of tweets, from this view, is a good thing.

Charles (Maine)

With only a 61-38 advantage for a Texans win, is this an opportunity that you see the Bengals can take advantage of, or will it be a rematch of week 14 with colder temps? I personally would love to see the Texans win because I think that the Ravens have a better chance of knocking out the Broncos than the Colts. The Broncos are very tough at home with the Patriots as an opponent.

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Charles, I've been wrestling with the Bengals-Texans game a bit. I really felt strongly that the Colts would beat the Texans last week, and that conviction was ultimately rewarded. I just don't know if I can write off the Texans completely just yet. I was leaning Bengals earlier in the week, but am trending back toward the Texans side now. Need one more day to decide.

T.J. (Melbourne, FL)

Mike, Do you think there is a team Belichick would prefer to play? I know his answer will be no, but what do you think the best matchup for us would be next week.

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

T.J., I think the Colts would be the team BB would pick if he could manipulate things.

Keegan (Fairfield, CT)

Mike:Hopefully Deion is having fun at the expense of all the Gator alumni in the locker room today. My question is this. Why don't we hear more about how amazing it is that at any time we could be lining up 5 rookies on defense at any one time (Jones, Hightower, Dennard, Francis, Wilson). Have we ever had anything that comes close to that in the Belichick era?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Keegan, it reminds me of Bill Belichick's weekly "plays of the week" feature on Patriots.com and how he actually made reference to that while breaking down a play. He wrote the number "5" on the screen to point out the rookies on the field. I think it was the Colts game. They have a nice mix of youth and experience on D. Present and future looks bright.

Mike (Westwood, MA)

Mike, I would say the ground game is key for the Patriots to be crowned Super Bowl champs. To keep the opposing pass rush honest, create opportunities in play action and potentially keep Peyton Manning off the field in Denver, I think Ridley, Vereen, Bolden and Woodhead need to play at a very high level. Of the four that I mentioned, I am most confident in Woodhead. Pay that man his money!

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Mike, I do think Woodhead will get a fair contract, and it will be here. He's earned it. Great story, to me, about overcoming long odds and keeping the head down and just persevering through it all, while finding the perfect fit for his skills. I also thought Vereen was an encouraging bounce-back performer in the season finale. Thought he hurt them a bit in the previous two games (fumble, poor pass-pro on sack), but I liked how the coaching staff stuck with him and didn't bury him. He rewarded them a bit for that faith. Ditto for Ridley, post-fumbles.

Ranger Up Greenie (Cleveland OH)

What are your thoughts on Trevor Scott. He did a very nice job coming in for Nink. Will we see more of him if Nink can't go?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Scott, to me, is a solid pass rusher with good quickness who sometimes struggles to set the edge. The reps were interesting to me, post-Ninkovich injury, as Francis actually saw more playing time than Scott/Cunningham. Second-half snaps: Francis 26, Scott 18, Cunningham 15. That could have been specific to that game-plan. Tough to tell, but I think all three would probably be part of the solution in some form.

Bill (Woburn)

How big time was the bye for the patriots? And how much of a difference do you think it will make in a playoff run?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

I think it was huge. I could make the case it is one of the great advantages in pro sports. To only have to play 2 games, not 3, to get to the Super Bowl can't be understated. I know recent history tells us that the bye might not have as much importance, but to me, it's simple. Ask any team if they'd like to have it, and almost every time they'd say "Yes."

Brian (Oxford, CT)

Happy new year, Mike! I know I'm looking ahead when I shouldn't be, but I am concerned about the possibility of the Patriots not being able to work the no-huddle as effectively in the altitude of Denver. Even picking spots would probably be quite taxing on the offense, wouldn't you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

Brian, it will be a bit harder, for sure. Not impossible, though. I think the main thing on that is how the Patriots sprung the up-tempo offense on the Broncos on Oct. 7, and the Broncos weren't expecting it. They'll be ready this time.

Rob (Courtice, Ont, Canada)

Hi Mike, two part question. 1. Who do you think the Pats match up best against (Texans, Ravens, Colts) 2. How come the Pats never gave Gaffney a chance with all of the injurys they had? He knows the systems had one of his best seasons last year in Washington so you would think he would of at least be given a chance?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Rob, I think the Patriots match up well against all three teams. If I had the choice, I'd go Colts, Texans and Ravens in terms of order I'd prefer to face them. On Gaffney, it made a lot of sense of the surface and if there was an injury, I wouldn't be surprised if they went in that direction. But it might be tied to Gaffney not making a great impression in training camp.

Pete (Atlanta)

Hi Mike, I was was sorry to hear about the passing of Donnie Brocher. I was a ballboy for Donnie back in the 80s at several training camps at Bryant College and know how much he and the unsung members of the organization contribute to the success of the team on the field. Nobody loved the Patriots more than Donnie, how else can you explain his loyalty through all the horrible teams in the 80s and 90s? Is the team planning anything for him. I can't think of a better way than a uniform patch or helmet decal. Donnie would have been the one to put them on to honor someone else. I'm sure he would appreciate it being done for him.

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

Thanks for sharing the thoughts, Pete. I'm glad everyone gets a chance to read them. I havent' heard any plans, Pete, but I've been a bit out of the loop the last few days. Let me see what I can find out.

DeansDesk (Rumford, RI)

Welker in punt return feels like a time bomb to me. Who would be next in line to assume those duties? Thanks, Mike

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

Patrick Chung and Deion Branch would be next in line, with Aaron Hernandez a possibility as well.

Prasanna Gaddam (Baltimore, MD)

I am pats fan, Can I have the full status on Ninkovich, he is a beast..

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Sure. I've been taken away from work for the last week or so, but the initial reports from the Boston Herald and Comcast SportsNet are that Ninkovich avoided a serious injury. Has a chance to play in the AFC Divisional Round.

Brian (Hartford)

Happy New Year Mike. Listening to the national media, as well as a lot of the Boston media, it seems like the majority of them are already handing the AFC slot in the Super Bowl to the Broncos. I get that they have Manning and are on an 11 game streak, but let's not forget that the Patriots have Tom Brady who isn't too shabby in big games himself. And over the last three games against the same Broncos defense the Patriots offense hasn't had much problem scoring. Look, both team need to win their first games, which is no given, but let's all just take a deep breath and not get carried away. The Patriots are adept at going to hostile places in the AFC Championship and winning convincingly against a seemingly unbeatable foe... just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

Brian, I understand the thoughts on the Broncos. It's an advantage when you get to play at home and only have to win two games to get to the Super Bowl. But let's be honest, no one truly knows how it's going to turn out. Would we be shocked if the Patriots get there, and beat the Broncos? Absolutely not. They are capable. It's great drama and that's why we love it. Anything can happen. The Broncos and Patriots match up well. Would be a great game if that's the way it unfolds.

craig (providence ri)

it just feels to me that the patriots have been holding back in anticipation for the playoffs - as some teams start the season trying to make the playoffs, the patriots start the season almost knowing they will be in the playoff and play differently - as in flipping a switch when they begin. is that an accurate assessment and who do you feel as an individual player has been reserved as of late and primed to flip a switch when the playoffs begin? Thanks, Mike.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Craig, I don't think it's a "flipped switch", per se, but you have to look at injured players like CB Aqib Talib and CB Alfonzo Dennard as those who have been managed to be as ready as possible when the playoffs start. Their presence would be big. The Patriots will be ready. I have little doubt.

Jeff (Arlington, VA)

Mike:Any insight on the departure of Ron Brace? I figured he would probably not be on the team next year, but was a bit surprised at the timing of the cut - on the eve of the Dolphins game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

They needed the spot Jeff, and he had dipped to the bottom of the roster. I think it came down to Brandon Lloyd's knee injury and not knowing if he could go, so they had to promote Kamar Aiken from the practice squad just in case. I agree with you, Brace wasn't going to be back. Just didn't work out. A reminder that size can be a good place to start, but there is more to the package (e.g. footwork, technique) and it just didn't come together for Brace here.

michael (england) [via mobile]

Hi mike, I know the playoffs are here so heres anew topic for ure board. Honestly I'm excited for next season. In your opinion do you see a better team in 2013? I look specifically on defence, Mayo, spikes, hightower , Jones, mccourty, , Wilson. All are improving young players. I believe even without a solid free agent or a contributer in the draft away from being a top 10 unit. Basically barring bradys age and will fork being wrong side of 30 I can only see this team improving over the next year or 2. Agree or disagree?...thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Michael, they should keep getting better. That's the thing about the Patriots -- this isn't a "window of opportunity" team. They are built to last. Their consistency over the last decade is remarkable. Enjoy it now, because it won't always be like this.

Leavus Intact (Laughingstock, NY)

Itr seems every off-season, the Pats staff gets raided...do you see anyone as a candidate to leave again, or will this be the year the entire staff returns...for a SB reapeat

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Always tough to tell on that. I think it's too early. But up top, with BB/McDaniels/Patricia, should be intact.

Tim (Newton, MA)

Hi Mike Happy New Year,The Patriots have already played every AFC playoff team they could possibly play in the divisional round (so much for the preseason "Patriots have the easiest schedule in the league" comments huh?). Considering the team must rewatch some or all of games they've played right after (for adjustments, learning, etc). My question is once the weekend is over, and they know who they'll be playing next weekend, do they rewatch everything from that particular regular season game again? Or does Bill and the coaching staff just assume the info is already been covered, and other things are then in focus?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

Tim, I'd think they would watch it again. After all, it doesn't get much closer to what you'll see on the field Sunday. A chance to re-familiarize with personnel too.

Corky (Destin Fl.)

Happy New Year Mike! Earning the bye week has really made this run do - able, didn't feel good about playing 4 games, think we have a shot again this year now. Who do you want to see the team play next weekend? and who do you not want showing up ??Cheers

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

Corky, I'd answer it this way: Bring any team in here. I think the Patriots can beat them all, and should beat them.

Charlie B in Utah (Murray UT via Bemont Ma)

Any chance Romeo Crennel rejoins the Pats?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

I could see it, Charlie, but not in a position that bumps Matt Patricia. I would think a move like that wouldn't come until after the playoffs, if it were to happen at all. Just a hunch.

Gavin (Washington, DC)

Do you feel like this team has a different attitude heading in towards the playoffs this year as opposed to last year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I don't see any major differences, Gavin. This is a good team and will take it best shot. That's all you can really ask for.

Justin (Oxford, Ma) [via mobile]

Mike, do you see the Patriots going after Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings next year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I don't, Justin, mainly because I think Wes Welker will be their primary focus. I could see them drafting at the position.

Pete (Portland, ME)

Mike, If Lovie Smith doesn't get a head coaching job would the Patriots consider him? He's had some great defenses over the years...

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

I don't see it, Pete. Lovie Smith's defensive style wouldn't really fit with the personnel here. Also, one of the concerns of making a hire like that is that if the coach leaves the next year, you're left with a system you don't want and players who don't fit it. The Jets are going through some of those struggles right now.

Sue (Belmont, MA)

how much do you suppose players care about the money they earn for playoff wins? Is there any chance some of the bubble players secretly wish the Pats were playing the wild card game, just to get a pretty good chance to get an extra $20K (or thereabouts)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Sue, I think at this point, it's more about the ring than the extra 20k.

David (North Attleborough)

If Ninkovich is out of the first playoff game who is going to be setting the edge for the Patriots.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

David, I think they'd use a combination of Cunningham/Scott/Francis, and I'd lean toward Cunningham in the lead position.

Sheldon (Westford, MA)

Mike, did you think Gronk was avoiding contact with his injured forearm out of his own caution/fear or was it under the direction of the coaching staff to play it safe and avoid re-injuring the arm?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

I think he was just getting used to it, Sheldon. I don't believe the coaching staff told him, "Gronk, head on out there, but try to avoid contact." Can't do that.

Stephen Starring (Canton)

Have you heard anything about Scott Pioli's future? He hasn't been fired, but seems to not be driving the coach search. My worry is that he could be a candidate to replace Tannenbaum.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Stephen, I don't see Pioli landing with the Jets. Reading this one from afar, I think it's the type of situation where Clark Hunt would like to keep Pioli if at all possible, but it would have to be the type of sitaution that works with whoever is hired as head coach. Those dynamics can be tough.

Curtis (Chicago IL) [via mobile]

Good afternoon Mr. Reiss my question to you is... Due to the news of Ray Lewis announcing he's retiring after this post season. Do you think a pats fan should be less optimistic about our chances against the Ravens should we happen to faced them?Being that Baltimore will be more motivated to win for Ray.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Curtis, I understand the thought and the Ravens would be a tough "out" in my view. But that emotion only goes so far. You have to go out and execute and I like the Patriots at home over the Ravens if that is the matchup.

David (Bethesda, MD)

Hi Mike! Lets say the Pats square off against the Broncos in Denver for the AFC Championship, is the actual atmosphere of Denver something to be worried about being that the air is much thinner and with the cold on top of that? I'm afraid that Peyton and Co would have an extra advantage besides homefield/home crowd to play with.

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

There is something there, David, but I don't think that's a game-changer. In the end, it comes down to execution. Who executes better during that 60 minutes.

PatsFanInSC (Columbia, SC)

When are you moving up the food chain, Mike? ESPN needs more reporters like you in higher positions.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Thanks for the compliment, but I am very happy with what I do, PatsFanInSC. This is high up the food chain as far as I'm concerned. I work with great people and we share a similar vision and outlook on what's important. When you find that, you're pretty lucky.

Rick (Providence)

Mark it down, the Patriots will not be drafting in the first round this year and will have 2 1st rounders in 2014.

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

I'm marking it, Rick. They are without some mid-round picks, and in a draft that maybe doesn't seem as strong as recent years (we'll ultimately see about that), I could see this being a 2007-type "push the chips into future years/down-the-board" scenario.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)

Mike if the New England Patriots have to Travel to Denver for the AFC Championship Game I don't like their Chances at all There hasn't been this kind of Excitement in Denver Since 2005

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Anthony, in the end, you're going to have to win some tough games to get where you want to go. Would it be better to play at home? Absolutely. But I don't think the Broncos are invincible or anything like that. They're tough. The Patriots are tough. Would be a great game if that's the way it unfolds.

Chris (Edinburgh)

Hi Mike,If you had to guess, how many hours a day do you think BB spends working at Gillette? Wouldn't be surprised if he had an apartment unit there!

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I'm sure he sleeps in his office at times, Chris, but around this time of year, rest and health is important too.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

No one is more prepared than BB, IMO.

Ben (Lowell)

Mike, which Rookie has made a bigger impact on defense: Hightower or Jones??

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

I'd say Jones, Ben. More big plays.

Justin (Boston)

Who's coming out of the NFC? I'm thinking the 49ers?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

I like the pick, Justin. Still some questions on the QB, maybe?

Bilbo ((Middle Earth, Connecticut))

Hey Mike.. just curious if you think my 22nd cousin-in-law Danny "Proudfeet" Woodhead should be considered the starting running back? He seems to be the most reliable of the whole group.

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Never really looked at the RBs at starter/backup, and this goes back to Kevin Faulk. When Faulk was at his best, he was often playing more snaps than any other back because of the way the team passed the ball. I look at it from a playing time perspective and this is how it broke down this year.

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Ridley -- 44.8 percent; Woodhead 34.1; Vereen 12.7; Bolden -- 7.5.

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I like that breakdown. I think the Woodhead number is just about right to get the most out of him without giving him more of a pounding than he needs to take.

Chuck (Swansea)

What is the status of Kyle Love?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Chuck, Love is third on the depth chart at DT behind Wilfork and Deaderick. That's a change from the start of the season. His playing time has dipped of late.

Scott (MA)

Mike, who is your MVP? Peterson? Manning? Brady? or do you have a wild card? A case can be made for all of them, but I think Peterson is the "most valuable" to his team. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Scott, I think I'd go Peterson. Makes sense to me.

Trader75 (Wilton, ct)

Mike, A lot being discussed regarding denver's home field advantage, but i see it a bit differently. manning's indoor vs outdoor numbers in his career are like night and day. while he has had a fantastic stat year, he hasn't had terrible winter weather to play in yet. could january denver weather lead to an actual brady advantage over manning. we all know brady can play in the cold and snow, but will it slow down manning?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

That's an interesting point to consider. The weather could favor the Patriots. The home-field environment, however, would still obviously be in Denver's favor.

Charlie B in Utah (Murray UT via Bemont Ma)

Hi Mike, Has anyone looked at Denver's strength of schedule over the 11 game winning streak. I don;t think it was strong

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Wasn't very strong. Those looking criticially at the Broncos often point to that first.

Ivan G (Bakersfield, CA)

Mike reiss how did Gronkowski look to you on Sunday? Did he seem 100%?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Definitely didn't look comfortable blocking. Thought he ran extremely well. Looked very fast to me.

Neil Pountney (North Branch , MI)

Happy New Year to everyone, another ho-hum 12-4 season are we spoiled or what. Mike, lots of speculation on Josh McDaniels not interviewing for HC jobs around the league. This has led to many people thinking he is the head coach in waiting with some saying in as little as two years. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Personally I hope BB is here for another 10 years!

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Neil, I wouldn't connect the thought that McDaniels not interviewing means he could replace BB within the next few years. It just means the timing isn't right now. I think McDaniels would be a great choice to succeed BB, but I believe we're a ways off at this point.

Tank (Austin )

Hey Mike do you think McDaniels isn't taking any interviews for head coaching job because the Patriots have a plan in place for him to take over after Belichick is done? Or more that he is just comfortable where he is right now?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Tank, let's not forget the human side of this. He's in his third city in three years. Has just had some professional growth/turmoil/eye-opening experiences in Denver/St. Louis and is now back here. Timing isn't right. Growing family, has them settled, why the rush to get the next job? His time will come. The timing just isn't right.

Prasad (Baltimore)

Last year, anyone could throw on the defense and if you took away the middle of the field you could stop the offense. This year, an improved secondary and front seven + Brandon Lloyd and the running game have alleviated some of those glaring issues. I'm not saying the outside passing game and defense are strengths, but would you say last year's weaknesses have been somewhat adequately addressed?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

I do think the outside passing game, while not as consistent as they would like, is better than last year. So that's progress. Also see the defense as being better.

West (Ridgefield, CT)

Hi Mike... Happy New Year to you. I'm thinking about KC's quarterback problem with regard to the Patriots. Given the dearth of franchise quarterbacks both in the league and in the draft, I wonder if Pioli/Hunt/Reid(?) might consider Mallett, with two years of tutelage under Brady/Belichick/McDaniels a best case scenario for their #1 pick in the draft. What do you think of that wild scenario? We'd have to end up with Cassel as our backup, and I suspect we'd have to surrender a later round pick (3? 4?) to make it work... but I don't see a down side for anyone involved. Mallett is as good a choice as anyone out there to take a flyer on with regard to building a team around him, and the first pick in the draft under the new CBA would be a tremendous opportunity in the hands of Belichick. What are your thoughts? Think Mallett will be in a Patriots uniform next season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

I think it's too rich, West. I don't think KC could justify giving up the top pick in the draft for Mallett. I don't think Mallett has that value at this point. Right now, I view Mallett as a Patriot next season.

Brian (Oxford, CT)

Do you think Bill O'Brien would leave Penn State after just one year? Did he seem like that kind of guy when he was around here as OC?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Brian, I'd be surprised, and to be honest, a little disappointed if that happened.

Rone (Washington DC)

Mike - What's your take on Field Yates' thought that the Aqib Talib acquisition really helped get the defense over the hump by adding a true cover CB, which allowed us to send more defenders after the QB? Isn't it also true that BB defenses tend to get better at the end of the season and BB usually dials up more complicated/aggressive schemes?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

I think it's a solid thought, Rone. Field knows his stuff. I'd also agree with the idea that Patriots defenses usually evolve over the course of the year.

David (North Attleborough)

This has probably been Patriots best year for the running game since they had Corey Dillion. Agree or disagree?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Yes, David, I would agree with that. Dillon/2004 was tremendous. I can't think of too many better than that, but 2012 is right up there in the BB era.

Jim Bob (Oregon)

Mike, while i like the idea of McDaniels one day taking over for BB as much as the next guy, I think people forget that this is Robert Kraft's team. When the day comes for BB to retire, folks shouldn't be surprised if Kraft cleans house and starts over.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

That's interesting, Jim Bob. I think the idea of continuity and knowing the coach you are hiring intimately would be really important to Kraft. McDaniels checks out in all of those areas. Just a thought.

Ian B (Ottawa, ON)

Hey Mike, not to take the negative turn but we would have home field advantage AND the bye is Gostkowski hits the field goal against Arizona. To me it's a weak spot on the team and we've seen BB coach around it lately. What range do you think BB is comfortable with?On the positive side, having Gronk and Hernandez almost 100% makes me smile.

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

On Gostkowski, I think it's a fair question. I don't sense Vinatieri-level confidence. It's an issue to consider in these pressure-packed playoff games.

brian (ct)

Hey Mike, will all of the Florida Gator ALUMNS on the PATS roster be wearing UL garb this week thanks in part to Deion Branch.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Brian, knowing Deion, he'll just proudly wear his Louisville Cardinal stuff and let that speak for itself. Classy guy.

Eric (MA)

I thought Arrington played very well against Miami and I?m hoping that his play will carry over once Talib and Dennard come back. Health on D right now is the biggest concern. Nink might not be full strength in 2 weeks (thank you Houston!), Spikes, Talib and Dennard should all be ready to play and hopefully close to 100%. I?m not worried about this offense in the playoffs. There will be times where it sputters but the key to a playoff run is the defense.

Eric (MA)

I think the two weeks of practice, getting back to full health will be great for Gronk. This is the best case scenario for the Pats and him. He gets to test his arm in week 17 and now has 2 weeks to gain confidence in that arm again (he was shielding his arm for the game). A healthy Gronk, Hernandez and Welker gives the Pats nearly a full arsenal of weapons they have at the beginning of the season (minus Edelman of course).

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

I think BB has done a good job managing the overall health of the roster. On Gronk, if the Texans beat the Colts, I don't think he would have played in Week 17. So I'm not sure it's a huge difference, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with knocking some rust off. On the defense, they'll be ready IMO.

Rick (West Palm Beach)

Hey Mike, what do you think Ryan Mallet's trade value is? I would love to see a deal with the qb desperate Cardinals. Patrick Peterson would look great on the Pats D. Larry Fitzgerald too. Do they make too much money for the Pat's salary cap situation. If so their #1 pick should be attractive. Any other possible suitors?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Rick, I just don't see it right now. I think we learned with Brian Hoyer that we see as value might not always translate to the rest of the NFL. To me, Mallett needs a big preseason in 2013 before there is any true value to discuss.

Mike ((Homer, Alaska))

Hey Mike... Being a journalist, are you also a fan of the patriots? If so, how do you cope with disappointing losses? What's your post-loss recovery routine?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Mike, I always explain it this way, I become a fan of some of these players. You get to know them a bit, learn their stories, and I'm not the type of guy who roots for people to fail. So I like to see people have success. Rob Ninkovich is a great example. He came here after being cut as a Saints long snapper. Look at him now. How can we not appreciate that story? I think sports are great, they are filled with passion, and that's part of why I love what I do -- people care. But as a father of two, I think putting the games in perspective has become a lot easier over the years. Not sure that answers the question, but hopefully provides a little perspective on the way it unfolds from this perspective.

Andy (Hartford)

Hi mike. Still waiting for Solder's first TD reception. Think it happens this post season? Of would Connelly, presumably lined up as goal-line blocking fullback, more likely be the Vrabelesque target?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Andy, last game, it was Connolly as the eligible receiver in that big package. But let's not count out Solder just yet.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Megaspartan87 (Scituate)

Hey Mike, what is your final prediction for the playoffs? Does Brady hoist that Lombardi trophy again?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Don't mean to dodge the question, Mega, but my mind hasn't exactly been focused on football the last week or so. We've had a few things come up that has taken me away, so I'm just getting back into it. I need to take a little more time and catch myself up a bit.

Tishan (Canada)

Hey Mike, this is my first time on your chat, and I love the boards on here! It's quite welcoming and an overall fun place to discuss football with folks around the world with. With that out of the way, I'm excited with the way Alfonzo Dennard is developing, being selected in the 7th round and now turning into a a very talented and fearless outside corner for the Patriots. I think he will pair up very nicely with Talib even moreso in the playoffs now that the two have gotten some playing time with each other.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

It's a great community, Tishan, and I'm glad you've had a positive experience. Dennard a good pick by the Patriots. We've certainly panned some of their picks at that position, but that looks like one they got right.

David (North Attleborough)

Just a follow up comment to the thought the McDaniels is the coach in waiting. Robert Kraft is a good business man and I just don't see him making any promises to McDaniels that could be years off into the future from now. Your thoughts.

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

David, I don't think there are any promises or anything like that. Just an understanding that things are pretty good right now with the NEP and why would someone be so quick to run away from that?

Chris (Manchester, UK)

Mike, some talk this week about the bye and how it can affect a teams momentum. I think this is subjective for each team every year, with circumstances changing annually. For example, in 2010 I think the team's momentum was stunted by the bye but this year, I get the impression it came at exactly the right time and was best for the team this year - we needed the time to get key players sharp and game ready (Gronk, Spikes, Talib, Ninkovich). I think the team is quietly very confident and knows it's that good with health and execution? Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Well said, Chris. I completely agree.

Adam S (Cranston)

I read somewhere that Forston is claiming that he and Wilfork are really bonding because they are both from the U. And that Wilfork is teaching him things that is taking his game to the next level. Any truth to this? He was named practice player of week 4 times this season? What are the odds he's back next season?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Yes, Adam. Wilfork told me that he believes Forston will eventually help thisteam. Could be another Kyle Love type situation -- undrafted keeper on the DL.

EZ_Jaybird (San Francisco via UMass)

Why be disappointed if Bill O'Brien left Penn St? He legally has a right to do so considering the timing of when his contract was signed, and coaches get fired regardless of how long their contract is. Loyalty to laundry is usually a one-way street.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

All fair, EZ_Jaybird, but I guess I just look at things a little differently. I have great respect for Bill O'Brien. He is the type of coach I'd want my son to play for. I just feel like he made a commitment to those kids, and given all that's unfolded there, he has a chance to make a huge difference for a community that experienced some major, major trauma. I'd just be disappointed to see that end after just one year. What can I say? It's the way I feel.

Schwemp (The netherlands (eu))

Hey mike, you guys are doing a great job, i love reading the blog here across the ocean. My question is, everyone has been talking about the improvement of the defense in the second half of the season, which can partly be thanked on the adition of talib. Apart from seeing the change on the field is there any statistical evidence of this? I am interested in both the change of the second half of the season against the first half and the diference when talib is on the field. Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

I think the number of pressure calls is up since the Talib acquisition. That would be one thing, although we know sometimes those pressure calls are a result of how the play unfolds (e.g. LB comes if RB stays in to protect.).

Ken From Long Island (Long Island)

Really wish Gostkowski had a couple of FG attempts last week...we need to see where he's at. Your thoughts? And Happy New Year to you and the family...

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks Ken. I think Gostkowski hit a few in Jacksonville -- one from 49, one from 38 and another short one -- so that situation sort of is what it is. I don't think a few kicks vs. the Dolphins would have changed too much.

Megaspartan87 (Scituate)

Hey Mike, just want to add that I think the addition of Field Yates to this blog has been one of the best decision. He is very good at what he does and I look forward to reading his insight for years to come.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Let's end it here, Mega. Field has been a great addition, and it's nice to have him as part of the team. It's no fun doing stuff solo. Part of the fun is working together with good people, and that's what we have here. So thanks for noticing and recognizing his work. More to come.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

We'll catch up again next week.