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SI's King on Weis, Pats-Saints, and more

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 30, 2009 02:23 PM

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Through a content-sharing partnership with Sports Illustrated and SI.com, occasional articles and information from the magazine and its website will be used on Boston.com. Here are a few of NFL columnist Peter King's insights in today's "Monday Morning Football" column regarding the Patriots. To read the entire column, click here.

By Peter King
Sports Illustrated

On where Charlie Weis might end up. The former Patriots offensive coordinator was fired as Notre Dame's head coach today:

Well, eliminate Cleveland in the increasingly unlikely event that Eric Mangini keeps his job. Weis and Mangini coached together in New England but are not pals. I wouldn't be surprised to see Al Davis go hard after Weis, by the way, seeing that the Raiders won't exactly be picking from the Shanahan-Cowher tree of top candidates. But as for offensive coordinator possibilities for Weis, I'd list five teams:

1. New England, obviously. Bill Belichick hasn't given the offensive coordinator's title to Bill O'Brien this year, even though O'Brien has done a good play-calling job lately. Weis was vital to Tom Brady in his formative years, but Brady's all grown up now, so it's reasonable to wonder if Belichick would view Brady as needing Weis after five seasons without him.

2. Carolina. Weis and John Fox are close friends and current Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson worked under Weis in New England. Carolina's offense needs better quarterback play (actually, the offense needs any quarterback play) and needs to make better use of Steve Smith -- two areas that are strong suits for Weis. Now, if Fox gets fired, scratch Carolina.

3. Kansas City. The Chiefs don't have a coordinator in the wake of the midseason departure of Chan Gailey. GM Scott Pioli and Weis worked together with the Jets and Pats. Not sure if Todd Haley and Weis, both strong personalities, would be oil and water.

4. Indianapolis. Surprised? I don't see it happening, but it's intriguing. Brian Polian, son of Bill, is Notre Dame's special-teams coach, an ace recruiter and is tight with Weis. Colts brass loves Notre Dame and has high regard for Weis, and you can be sure Bill Polian and Manning would love to keep him from returning to New England. But here are two reasons it probably wouldn't happen. Tom Moore, the offensive coordinator for the Colts throughout Manning's 12-year career, seems likely to return in 2010. And when he's gone, it's likely the Colts would promote from within with assistant head coach/receivers coach Clyde Christensen.

5. Chicago. If Lovie Smith returns in Chicago, he may have to sacrifice offensive coordinator Ron Turner to shake up a bad team. Weis would be a candidate.

* * *
In his MVP Watch, King has Tom Brady fourth, behind Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees. Here is his capsule on Brady:

4. Tom Brady, QB, New England. So I went back and tried to figure out what's different about Brady in 2009 versus 2007, and what I found told me why I think it will be hard for Brady to win the MVP. The numbers say what I figured they'd say: The Patriots are more methodical this year and not quite as explosive as they were in 2007. The Patriots are averaging four more offensive snaps a game this year (70 to 66) and 0.6 yards per catch less (11.5-yard average this year, 12.1-yards in 2007). Maybe it's that Josh McDaniels dialed up the big downfield throws more than Bill O'Brien has, and O'Brien's more of a move-the-chains play-caller. Maybe. Whatever it is, Brady could have fewer TD throws -- and wins -- than Manning, Favre and Brees, which would leave him trailing in the MVP race.

* * *

On tonight's Patriots-Saints matchup:

I expect New England might play this game the way it played the first Super Bowl this decade against St. Louis. That day, Belichick put the word out to hit Marshall Faulk every time he moved. Someone else might beat the Pats, but not Faulk. Look, there's no right way to play such a multiple offense. You try to figure out the best way to stop the dam from bursting. My best guess is they'll try to stifle Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas and hope they can force Brees into a couple of turnovers. Belichick knows his side will put up points, particularly against a patchwork secondary that will struggle to contain Brady, Moss and Welker.

But I also think some pretty good defenses have had well-oiled plans for this offense this year. Philadelphia, the Giants and Miami entered their games with New Orleans confident that if they pressured Brees and put a stopper in the run game, they'd have a chance to force him into mistakes. The Saints put up 48 on Philly, 48 on the G-men, 46 on Miami. In other words, it sounds logical -- the same way so many teams thought they had the 2007 Patriots figured out.

My pick: New Orleans 37, New England 33.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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