Good morning and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.
How is everyone doing today? Tough test for the Patriots in Baltimore, and it's understandable that they are underdogs. The Ravens are particularly tough at home. Two similar teams in that they are mentally tough and seem to generally rise up in the critical situations.
When the Patriots lose, the post-game media discussion trends negative and I understand that. When they win, it's more positive. That's the way it goes. But one thing I feel strongly about is that I don't feel any differently about this team after Sunday's loss as I did before it. I'd sum up the team this way -- Resilient, injury-ravaged, mentally tough club that is vulnerable on defense, can beat anyone in the NFL ... and can also lose to anyone in the NFL.
They make 1 play in that Dolphins game and it goes the other way. Same way it was against the Browns, Panthers, Broncos, Texans etc...
Mike,We all use the excuse for poor 3rd down/red zone offense that we don't have Gronk on the field, but what excuses do the other 31 teams use who NEVER have Gronk on the field, but still manage to have a better percentage of 3rd down completions/red zone scoring?
Mark, I think the loss of Gronkowski is obviously a blow, but I believe it's been over-stated this week. And here's my theory on it: Everyone saw the final drive and it was obvious the Patriots missed his size on those four shots in the end zone. But that overlooks that they had other good plays in the red zone (Blount 8-yard run, Edelman 6-yard reception) and just didn't execute on two third-and-manageable situations in the red zone. If Josh Boyce catches that ball, are we having this discussion? If the offensive line picks up the blitz on the third-and-2 throwaway, are we having this discussion? Yes, the loss of Gronk hurts, but there's a lot more to it than that. Make the catch. Slide the right way is pass protection. And maybe this isn't even on the radar this week.
They need to be better in the red zone and I think a greater commitment to the running game down there could be the key.
as a patriots fan should I be worried? They've got the nasty habit of falling behind early and it seems brady cant connect with his receiving corps, at least not as much as we would've wanted him to. Lets not forget injuries but even that is another story.
Jose, anything can happen, and it's really just a matter of whether you want to take the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty outlook. I wouldn't be surprised if they're playing in the Super Bowl. I also wouldn't be shocked if they missed the playoffs (although the odds of that happening aren't particularly high).
That's partly because of what this 2013 Patriots team is ... and partly what the AFC is this year.
At this stage, with the injuries, this team reminds me most of the 2008 squad--incredibly resilient, but simply not talented enough to beat even half-decent teams on the road (all due respect to the Texans). Brady's return ensured that 2008 was an anomaly, although it now looks like 2011 was the best chance for a 4th Super Bowl title. With no guarantee that Gronk and Wilfork will ever be back at their pre-injury level, and Brady on the downside of his career, would the team be better off shifting into a rebuilding mode?
I don't think so, Marcus. This team is still a contender this year and into 2014. If not them, then who? I don't see any clear-cut answers in the AFC this year. And while a lot of things would have to fall into place, the vulnerable Patriots are the one squad in the NFL that I think would benefit most from a Super Bowl in NY. Cold. Possibly snowy. Who plays better in those conditions?
I'm not saying it's going to happen. But I think any talk of "rebuilding" is way premature.
Dear MikeWhy is the Pats vs Ravens game moved back from 8:30 to 4:25? It doesn't make sense. Could you see the league moving it back to 8:30 this week?
No, it will remain at 4:25. As Sports Business Journal pointed out, the reason it was flexed out is that NBC has to keep a balance between games it takes from CBS and Fox, and if they kept the Patriots-Ravens game, it would limit their options for Week 17's season finale to just Fox games. Now, by giving up Patriots-Ravens in favor of what is still a good matchup in Eagles-Bears, it opens up options from both CBS and Fox for the Week 17 finale.
I tend to be an optimist when it comes to the patriots chances this season. However the biggest weakness this team has to overcome are the injuries on defense and the sloppy play of the offensive line. I think the defense has a chance to pull it together somewhat by the playoffs. I'm more concerned with the offensive line. The play calling is so pass heavy and brady is getting rocked out there quite often. They need to run more, control the clock, and keep brady healthy.
Ryan, this is a tough week to be playing offensive line "musical chairs", no doubt about it. With the possibility of Nate Solder not playing, you have Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs coming off those edges against either Logan Mankins/Marcus Cannon or Will Svitek/Marcus Cannon. Like you say, I think a big part of the plan this week has to be some more running. Need to take some pressure off that line.
Mike, I enjoy your work on the team. Thanks for putting out quality material on a daily basis. Onto my question/comment: the only thing greater than lies is mythology. Respectfully, the current mythos I'd like to target is the work of Dante Scarnecchia. I understand he's a good coach and all the stock prefaces of conjuring the name. However, is it just me or has this season's protection problems revealed to the public what most NFL teams already know about the Patriots? That is...they are a vastly overrated group but still get sold as the best in the business despite constantly getting manhandled by more physical teams (Ravens, Giants, Jets, Bengals, Panthers). Your thoughts?
Jose, I'd agree that the season, on the whole, has been below expectations for the offensive line. That was the unit returning intact that was supposed to be the foundation as the offense tried to figure out what it had and what it could do best. I think the play has generally been up and down. I don't think it means Scarnecchia all of a sudden isn't a good coach. But it's a reminder that while coaches are extremely important, in the end, it's still up to the players to make it happen.
My question is do you ever see Devin McCourty moving back to cornerback? I always saw him as a good coverage back. His rookie season he did have seven picks and two forced fumbles. Put him and Talib at corners you can cover any team's No. 1 and No. 2 receivers.
I think they are going to keep McCourty at safety, Jayden. He still can help from a CB-type perspective, like we saw last Sunday in Miami when he spent quite a bit of time lined up across from TE Charles Clay. Reminds me a little bit of Eugene Wilson in that respect.
The Patriots have a talented down-hill running corps with Steven Ridley and LeGarrette Blunt and a versatile back in Shane Vereen. To remain physical, in Gronk's absence, do you think we'll see the up-tempo, quick snap running game like we did earlier in the season to set up play action fake?
I could see that, Liam. One factor to consider, however, is that they need to protect a vulnerable defense. A three-and-out is bad enough. But a three-and-out that doesn't even chew up 1 minute could really put that unit at risk.
Mike, do you find Mallett an improvement over Cassel as backup QB? Cassel makes Belichick look good outperforming two first round QBs in Minnesota.
Nick, I think Mallett is a real tough one to assess right now. I didn't think he lit it up in the preseason. But when I see ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay project four QBs in the top 6 picks of his initial mock draft, it makes me wonder where Mallett would go if he -- as the present package that he is -- was coming out this year.
Mike, what do you think of McShay's first mock 2014 NFL draft? Should the Pats go TE in the first?
I'd start by saying I don't have a great feel for any of the prospects. That was basically the first time I was getting familiar with some of the players who would even be a consideration within the first 32 picks. So I viewed the mock more from a standpoint of "what positions look stacked" and "what players have some traits that could appeal to the Patriots." No one should be surprised if it's TE, but to me, if all things are equal it should be a high-impact DL. That's what I think they really need.
TE is the Pats biggest need followed by a pass-rushing end. Wilfork and Kelly should be back next year with Chris Jones. I say TE for this offense is 1st on the list.
Eric, banking on Wilfork (32) and Kelly (33) seems like risky business to me. I would think contingency plans, looking into the future, is a big part of the thinking. Chris Jones has faded a bit here IMO.
With this team, I honestly don't believe that making the playoffs is a sure thing. It is not unrealistic to think that they could lose the next two games and miami win their games
Dave, nothing is a sure thing in the NFL this year.
You can get away with a rag-tag D line but this offense is EXPOSED in the red zone with no bigger target for over the middle (side note: I don't trust our WRs over the middle).
Eric, I respectfully view it differently. Need to add some reinforcements to that DL, both from a short- and long-term perspective.
Speaking of a high-impact DL. What are your thoughts on Stephon Tuitt? If he comes out I think he's exactly the type of guy they've been targeting lately. 6'6" 310 able to push the pocket as a pass rusher. Doesn't Bill have a relationship with Brian Kelly too?
Absolutely Shaun. From a very general sense, he was a name that did pique my interest when looking at his physical traits and McShay's mock. Looking forward to getting to know more about him in the pre-draft process.
With Gronk going out, maybe the Pats are better off falling to a 3 or 4 seed. Could an additional game to redefine their identity outweigh getting a week off?
Gary, I have shifted in my thoughts on the bye/home-field in recent years. I don't think it means as much. In fact, sometimes I actually think playing in the wild-card round can help a team. So I'd just keep playing hard, trying to correct the mistakes, and let the chips fall where they may.
Mike, if you had to predict, do you think they will drop Hightower to 255lbs this off season to make him a 3 down LB, or ask him to flex to DE at 270 on 3rd downs? I think he is really solid and improving player, but I feel from his statements about BB wanting him at 270 that he sees he has issues in space. I remember Monte Ball dropping weight at Wisconsin and him talking about how he became a much more explosive player...
Quite possible, Grand, but that 270 has been important this year because they need those bigger linebackers to help against the run with the undersized DTs. As we saw Sunday in Miami, the 270 can be a liability in pass coverage. Obviously, the issues with Hightower this year is that he's being asked to do things that don't necessarily suit his skill-set because of injury to Jerod Mayo.
Can the Pats switch the contracts of Edelman and Amendola?
LOL. Players are like stocks. ANYONE could have had Edelman for a reasonable deal last offseason, but only two teams visited with him -- New England and the NY Giants. I think it's fair to say he'll have more than two teams interested in him this offseason. So much of this is about timing. Amendola will be fine. He's a good player, who much like Edelman, just has to stay on the field. Remember, that was the knock on Edelman from his first four years in the NFL.
Hey Mike, making the trip to Gillette next weekend for the first time. Any recommendations of things to see while I'm there?
Outstanding, Matt. If you haven't been to the Patriots Hall of Fame, that would be the one recommendation. If you're a fan, it's a great thing to see. It's right at the stadium.
What do you think is the most likely scenario for the Pats coming out of Baltimore with a win?
Most likely scenario -- balanced offense with a defense that forces at least one turnover.
I hope you display my rant, I really do. Do you know why the team opted to move Mankins to LT and Kline to LG instead of just having Svitek play LT? Kline looked lost at times.
Mankins is their best OL and Brady is their best player, so who else would they want to protect Brady's blindside? I think it's a no-brainer. With the benefit of a week of practice, wouldn't be surprised if we see Svitek at LG this week, assuming Mankins kicks out to LT. But hard to put a guy like Svitek in that spot during a game if he hasn't practiced there.
Hey Mike, thanks for the good work you do. I would like to know how much lack of leadership on the field on defense effecting them. Do you think thats why Patriots brought in Carter?Thanks Jay
I don't think it's a lack of leadership, Jay, as much as it is a downgrade in talent when you lose top players like Wilfork and Mayo, and a solid contributor like Kelly.
How well do you think Brady bounces back after the loss in Miami. As an "Apostle of Brady," I believe his own competitive nature will heighten his play against the Ravens. However, he has limited resources to beat that solid defense. I see this being a tough match-up with possibly a 17-16 Pats win. Thoughts?
Rudy, I'm picking the Ravens to win, but as we've seen in recent weeks, it will probably be close and come to one or two plays. In a game between two evenly-matched teams, I'll lean toward the squad playing at home.
I was reading Tedys take on the hit on the Cincinatti punter and Id like to get your thoughts on that hit. I saw it live and I immediately thought it was cheap. It might have been within the rules, but I just dont believe theres a place for that. I love watching the big hits as much as anyone, but that is one player taking advantage of another. To me the players position doesnt matter. A football game will be just as entertaining if the Pittsburg player knocks the punter down, rather than ends his season.
Matt, I only saw the still picture of the hit, so I don't have a strong opinion on it. I don't know how I feel about creating a different distinction for specialists, effectively taking them out of the play, as I feel like there are already too many rules. Count me among the crowd who would like to see fewer rules, not more added.
Has Bill lost his defensive genius tag? 4 years a $16 million to Arrington I could have sucked as bad as Kyle for half the money.
Arrington was a key performer in one of the biggest wins of the season, Nov. 24 against the Broncos. Solid work on Welker in the slot. Also recovered the onside kick against Cleveland. He's at his best in the slot, and it's when he's asked to play outside that he can struggle. Because so much of today's defense is played in sub (65 percent for the Patriots this year), the third CB is worth a starter-caliber contract. I don't see the contract as an outlier.
Mike, I'm tired of the 'complaint box'. Listen, this team has lost 4 Pro-Bowl caliber players and will more than likely win the division and still have the inside track on a bye. I was at the game last week and the Pats held their own against an upstart team. Sure there were some mistakes made, but who's perfect? Gostkowski is having a career year. Yes he made a mistake, but that's on the D to stop the Fins on a 3rd and-a-mile and 4th-and-long. Losing Gronk stinks, but it happens. Find me a team with everyone healthy at this point in the season.I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the team. They can beat anyone and can lose to anyone. If they get the bye, and Talib and the team gets a week to get healthier, I like their chances to at least make it to the AFC title game... then, who knows? Keep up the positive vibes and don't let the haters bring you down. -Tom
Tom, it's all good and most of the time I believe the "complaints" are passion-based because everyone just wants the same thing -- the team to win. I study it just like everyone else and try to be as objective as possible. One thing I'll say is this: At this point in the year, I think any coach wants to feel good about the team he's putting out on the field in the sense that they will give a top effort, play smart, not beat themselves, and then you see where it takes you. In that respect, I think Bill Belichick likes this 2013 mentally tough, resilient team. We'll see if it's good enough in the end.
Mike, I will be interested in reading your prediction for inactives this week, we need to keep an extra OL this week, with the assumption Solder can't go. Any update on how long Solde rmight be out?
Scott, I think there has to naturally be some concern on Solder, with the back-to-back weeks with concussions. I'm not expecting him to play, although maybe his presence at Thursday's practice (he is there as we chat) is a positive sign.
Mike, similar to what Devin McCourty did shadowing Charles Clay last week, do you see him doing the same this week to Dennis Pitta, who has gotten a few clutch TD's against us in the playoffs the last few years
Yes, Scott, could definitely see that.
Mike, last year the hot topic was on our pass rush. There hasnt been much discussion this year (probably due to ineffeciencies at other places). Do you think that the pass rush has improved dramatically from last year?
I wouldn't use the word "dramatically" but I like the DEs quite a bit. Think they are solid. The interior rush has struggled a bit as of late and that's the area I would focus on.
Agree with Matt. That was a cheap shot
I get so wrapped up in the Patriots' stuff that I don't get a good look at other games/big plays (re: the hit in the Bengals' punter). I'll take your word for it on this one.
Armon Armstead not playing this year? I do not see him placed on IR.
Out for the year, Patterson. Not eligible to play this year as the deadline has passed.
Mike there have been scenarios right now being thrown around where the pats miss the playoffs if they lose the last 2 games. Do you see this happening ?
No, Katman, I think they should beat the Bills in the season-finale to at least win the AFC East. But given the struggles they've had with some of the league's lower-level teams (e.g. Houston, Cleveland), I also wouldn't be surprised if they struggle in that game against Buffalo too. Anything is possible.
The NFL is a moving target. So much changes from week to week.
I want to applaud Tom from San Juan. If they get Indy, Miami, KC, or Baltimore at home I think they can win any of those games. Then we either get another home game or we probably go to Denver. We've already seen this team beat Denver, no reason to think they can't again. With the big game being in NY, this team has just as much a shot as any. No one saw Baltimore making their run last year.
Positive vibes flowing into the chat.
Hey Mike, couldn't Mulligan, and Develin be used more in the redzone. Both big guys, throwing a shuttle pass, screen, or just short out to them could seem to be beneficial to score, or just change up our usual plan right?
Joey, after the catch we saw with Hoomanawanui, I'd personally start with him in the red zone. Mulligan is big but more from a blocking sense than a real pass-catcher who can go up and get it.
Andre Carter has done very little with him opportunity to rush the passer. Why not give Hightower a shot? He was a pretty good rusher at the Tide
Like the thought. Also wouldn't be against seeing the rookie Michael Buchanan get another crack at it too.
Mike, from left to right, please guess the starting OL this Sunday.
LT: Mankins; LG: Svitek; C: Wendell; RG: Connolly; RT: Cannon.
Mike , how do you think the interior of the OLine will hold up vs the ravens. Wendell and Kline dont exactly inspire confidence vs ngata.
Don't think we'll see Kline in there.
Have to remember there is a difference between an in-game change based on injury and what a team does with a full week of practice.
Hi Mike, why not more no huddle offense. It has worked in the past. Is it due to the inexperienced receivers? If that is the case, do you think they can get it by the end of the year into the playoffs?
Last week, I thought we'd see it. Think they were concerned with the heat and wearing down.
Steve "bad angle" Gregory has become a liability. With just two passes defended on the season, no sacks, forced fumbles, or interceptions, I would argue that his issues are not limited to last weeks game. I am not sure what he adds to the defense. He had last man responsibility on the Wallace TD, Thomas was his man on his TD, and completely whiffing on Clay on the 4th and 5 was hard to watch. He was a part time player in San Diego. The Pats knew that they had an issue there when they went after Adrian Wilson. I would rather see Harmon out there now. Trading that first round pick instead of getting talent like Elam(who we will see this week) seems to be a mistake. Thoughts?
That was a poor game from Gregory, no sugarcoating it. Need better play than that. I think Jamie Collins is going to be a good player for them, so I wouldn't say the trade down is necessarily a bad thing at this point. Instead, I'd just focus on the fact that Gregory has shown he can play better than that. Now he needs to do it.
Mike, I think they need to refocus on ridley for their RZ woes. There is no use giving him 7-8 snaps a game. Need to use him in the RZ and take a chance, fumbles be damned. What do you think ?
I agree with this. Here's what happened against the Dolphins -- on a handful of the plays that didn't succeed, they are run/pass options. Brady makes the call to run or pass based on the pre-snap look. The reason the Patriots do this is that Brady's smarts helps put them in the best position to succeed based on how the defense is aligned (you don't want to run into a 8- or 9-man box most of the time). But the Dolphins won the chess match on one of those plays, dropping the safeties out at the last moment. So sometimes I do think there is a benefiut to just calling a run play and sticking with it. I'd endorse it this week, particularly in the red zone.
Good point there. Glad you brought it up. Think a greater commitment to the run game can help them in the red zone. At the same time, you're going up against a Ravens team that is very good defensively in the red zone (just 15 TDs allowed this year).
I see where above you wrote what a strong game Arrington had against Welker (week after his first concussion). Do you think it may be a reflection all the hits Welker has taken? That maybe Bill was correct to let him go and Felgaaaar was wrong yet again
Who is this "Felgaaaar" cat to which you are referring? LOL. I feel the same way about the Welker stuff now as I did then. It will be judged over time. Halfway through the season, it didn't look so hot for the Patriots. Now ... maybe not so bad. The question to answer is this: Would the Patriots be in better position to win a Super Bowl with Welker than without him right now? In that context, I don't think it would be a huge difference.
Mike, do you think Dennard is still recovering from his injury? Looks like his playing level has dropped recently?
Definitely dropped last week, Max. Not his best game. Not sure how much of that is tied to injury.
Let's take a few more...
I can't disagree more regarding having the bye be a disadvantage. Ya playing the wild card game may be better....if you win and have no injuries. The bye is an automatic win with no injuries, you have to think that is of the most importance.
Understand, Jim, and hard to argue with that thought. It's one less chance to get eliminated. But I see the Ravens last year, the Giants the year before ... and I see teams that sort of built an impressive momentum in the playoffs that started in that wild-card round. I just don't think it's as big of a deal as maybe it was in the past.
What are your thoughts of Sealver Siliga? Could he become a long-term tackle with us? I know it might be a bit early to start thinking about Sealver's future in New England, but so far he's been great. P.S. I can just imagine our defense being a juggernaut next year.
Ivan, the first thing I see are desirable physical traits -- 6-2, 325. That's a big man. He's hard to move. If he plays with better technique as he gets more experience, he could be like a Kyle Love for them.
Mike, with Gronk out of the equation this is a very meh team. Brady and a sprinkling of solid Offensive skill players gives the team a chance to win every week but the Offensive line play is consistently inconsistent. With Talib, Dennard, Gregory and Arrington banged up, the once strong secondary is having to scheme in an attempt to protect one another. Sitting in the stands in Miami on Sunday it felt like Tannehill had way too much time to survey the field. Chandler Jones has had a nice enough statistical year but I didn?t see where McKinnie, given his declining skill set, was having a difficult time handling him overall. Jones, Smith and Pitta will kill this team if Flacco has the time to wait for them to get deep. Rice will eat up the middle of the defensive line. Both the Patriots and Miami left running yards on the field last Sunday. Can the Pats beat Baltimore and advance to the playoffs; sure, all the AFC teams have issues. But I have to say it is none to comforting going into this part of the year watching Vellano , Jones, et al trying to protect the middle of the defensive line and a revolving group of Offensive lineman hoping to protect Brady. Valiant efforts by all and we should appreciate that but the succession of body blows this team has absorbed will be very difficult to overcome. Merry Christmas, without a hint of sarcasm.
All fair thoughts IMO. It sort of brings us full circle -- no one should be surprised if this team beats anyone ... or loses to anyone. A resilient, tough team. Gives everything it has. But it's vulnerable because of all those "body blows."
Mike, is it fair to say now that the Sopoaga trade did not work out?
Let's end on this one, Max. Based on the present snapshot, I'd say Sopoaga has not helped as much as I envisioned he might. It looks like he's struggled to two-gap, playing a different style than he's played in the past.
Thanks to everyone for the great questions. Have a great day and we'll do it again next week.