What we will find out on Saturday is whether Buffalo has already given up and packed it in. The Patriots have certainly not been able to blow out any team this season with the exception of Philadelphia and a borderline blowout against Jacksonville.
The Bills are a team with the second ranked defense in the NFL, so the expectation here is that the defense will keep the Bills in the game. It would seem difficult for their offense to muster much of anything considering their offensive line woes and just complete chaos of their offense.
As I've written before, this AFC East was a dud. Three teams didn't make the playoffs and the Patriots ran away with it. The Jets had their chance to win their biggest game of the year against New England, and failed. Now it's Buffalo's turn. They could begin and end their season with a win against the Patriots. But don't hold your breath. The Patriots have too much at stake -- home-field advantage through out the playoffs, which in this league is a license straight to the Super Bowl. A loss wouldn't be devastating but it would disrupt the karma this team has built to this point.
It's amazing how two players -- Tom Brady and Lawyer Milloy -- can be such good friends and their feelings for Bill Belichick can be so opposite.
Do you think in their weekly phone conversations they talk about this?
While Milloy says he's let go, he obviously hasn't. He's still very bitter about Belichick and the way his release came down as he told our own Michael Smith this week. It's unfortunate how these situations all end so ugly. But rest assured, Milloy will come to play Saturday. He's been playing like old Milloy the past month and it appears he's regained the level of play that earned him three Pro Bowl honors.
"And I am starting to play like Lawyer Milloy again," Milloy said. "I'm flying around. I feel good. This is not going to be a game of revenge at all. This is a game that, you guys know, I am going to go out there and I am going to fly around, and it is not going to be a vengeful rage. It is going to be because I respect all of my teammates over there and anybody that gains my respect on any opposing team, they can expect my best. I'm just going to hopefully by the way I approach this week, especially with the situation here, my teammates here can see that this is still football. We have a chance to be a number one defense. Eventually we right now, we feel like we can line up and play against anybody. It is just sad that we are not in the playoff hunt because I know teams don't want to face us right now. That's the attitude we have right now."
Milloy is right when he says things in the NFL can turn rapidly. The Bills have an excellent defense and whether it be through making a change at head coach or quarterback or offensive coordinator next season, the Bills won't be far from turning their around their plight.
Probably one of the best things that happened to Drew Bledsoe this season was Curt Schilling. Bledsoe, the player who has pocketed the most money in the NFL over the last decade ($62.5 million), finally sold his Medfield mansion to Schilling in the $6 million range. While the Bills don't have to decide on Bledsoe's future until next November, the Bills could cut Bledsoe at the end of the season with no cap hit. The trade accelerated Bledsoe's signing bonus on New England's cap, not the Bills. There isn't anyone who would want to win Saturday's game more than Bledsoe.
Here's the mailbag:
I'm a wk late on your question, but I also wanted to express how much fun I've had watching the Pats this season. I agree with the overall sentiment that seeing them play hard and competitively each week is all I could ask for- and that is a lot. Of course, the season is not over yet, and my "above target" goal would be for the team get to the Super Bowl and see what happens. I think they would have an excellent shot at another title. With that said, this team just makes me smile! They are team oriented, scrappy and they play smart. I totally agree that this is a "glorious" time for football in New England. My question is why are the Patriots playing two back to back Sat games at the end of the season? Is it decided by the networks or by the NFL? I've read that the actual matchups are decided by the NFL, based on previous year results.. I'm happy about more nationally televised games.. but just wondering... Great column this wk- I like the "Boston D Party" moniker as well. Go Pats!
-- Loretta S., San Francisco, CA
A: Loretta, everything is aligned for the Patriots to be in the Super Bowl. I think short of getting there would be disappointing. As for the schedule, the NFL makes it in conjunction with the networks. Obviously they want prime games on the final two weekends of the season. They do it that way because there are no college game conflicts.
Nick, my brother and I have been fans since '72 when we first got cable in New Brunswick, Canada. We attended the Jacksonville game Sunday (our first) and had a great time. Next time we'll be more prepared for the tailgaitin' aspects of the event. The snow in the second half made us feel right at home, which leads to my question. Do the Pats need a running game to win the Super Bowl? As I've watched them this year, I've been impressed with how Belichick seems to run an offence that is tailored for the opponent of the week and the weather conditions. I think people assume that it is harder to pass in the snow than to run. In the CFL, all they do is pass when the ground freezes because they can't make cuts. What do you think?
-- MIchael Breen, Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada
A: I've said long ago this team doesn't need to run. They've won 13 games with one of the poorest running games in the league. Last week it was surprising to see A. Smith run so well, but he did it against the second-worst run defense in the league.
Nick, I appreciate your column as each week you seem to answer the "key" Patriot questions efficiently. I got a bit of your chuckle in reading your column about the AFC East. The Patriots are clearly the class of the division, but I think it bears mentioning that the East still stands shoulders above any other conference when it comes to points scored defense and total wins (as a division). The teams in the East didn't rise to the level expected, but it was primarily an offensive lapse. With the potential coaching changes that you alluded to in place, do you expect the East to rise again next year? Or might the Patriots have a ride like the Dolphins in the 70's? GK
-- Gene Kucinkas, Falmouth Maine
A: I've stopped trying to predict it. I thought this would be a competitive division and it wasn't. Miami, Buffalo and New York were busts. They couldn't even make the playoffs. I don't think any of them are that far away, but until Miami actually has a good December and gets into the tournament it makes no difference how talented they are or whether a new coach in Miami or Buffalo can put them over the top. My guess is yes, that they will be better.
I really enjoy the bag every week. Do you think that playing the Patriots in bad weather has become a built in disadvantage for other teams, similar to playing in the cold at Lambeau? The Pats seem unbeatable no matter how terrible the weather is. Thanks and happy holidays.
-- Alex Zoilov, Mansfield, MA
A: No question, Alex. The Patriots feed off it. They practice in miserable conditions and then they play in it. No doubt it gives them a huge advantage unless they're playing the Packers or the Bears or the Bills or the Browns or the Steelers or the Jets, Giants and Eagles, who all play in the same stuff.
Why mike cloud is not playing? is this go be our hidden secret going in the play-offs? he has a little more speed, finesse and breakaway capabilities than faulk or smith. its a problem somewhere to why he is not playing. please inform.
-- rayford c. robinson, jackson, ms.
A: I don't know of any problem, Ray. Smith ran well against the Jets. I don't understand the thinking but how can you second-guess their personnel decisions when they're winning every game?
I have always respected your football knowledge, but in your Wednesday column you were just plain wrong when you said that, "The 'best division in football' turned out to be a dud." The fact is, the AFC East is the strongest division in the NFL. Here are the winning percentages by division:
The AFC East has the best winning percentage, and is therefore the strongest division. You can't use the dodge that if the Pats were not in the division, it would have a losing record. They represent 25% of the EAST. And remember what that old football sage said: "You are what you are".
-- William Kelleher, Watertown MA
A: Bring out all the stats you want Bill. You can't tell me with a straight face that three teams who didn't make the playoffs and underachieved comprised a strong division. Ask those three teams how good their season was. You won't hear too many satisfied players or coaches. In fact, two of three coaches may get fired.
Love your column - read it religiously. My question is, how can the average fan get their hands on game film ? Coaches and players often say "if you only saw the tapes..". Well I would be willing to pay the NFL some $$$ to see them. Sounds like a win-win for fans & the NFL, right ?
-- Tim Keogh, Burlington VT
A: Tim if you know how to get it, get me one too, will you?
Hi Nick, to what do you attribute the Pats getting screwed yet again in the Pro Bowl voting? While Law and Seymour are both deserving, anybody who doesn't think Brady, Bruschi and Harrison belong in the Pro Bowl should have their voting privileges permanently yanked. A mediocre team like Baltimore gets eight guys voted in??? A disgrace.
-- Dave Turner, Norfolk, MA
A: I know it's a hot-button issue for fans and some of the players are upset by it, but you know what will happen? Some of these guys will make it next year even if they don't deserve it. I thought the biggest snub was Tyrone Poole. That guy has played like a Pro Bowler. Harrison deserved is as well, but I think Ed Reed from Baltimore was a good choice. I didn't agree with Brock Marion making it. Bruschi should have made it over Zach Thomas. That was a reputation pick right there. Brady you can debate, but statistically the three quarterbacks chosen were better and stats are what they go by.
Stan Nelson of Boston emailed you in last week's mailbag looking for the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl. I have the complete trilogy (vs. Oak, Pit and STL) games. My SB has the complete game w/ pre and post game as well as half time. Not to mention many of their great Boston games so send him my email email@example.com
-- Patrick, South Hadley, MA
A: Thanks Patrick.
How does Ed Reed, 65 tackles for an up and down (terrible on the road) Baltimore team get selected to the Pro Bowl over Rodney Harrison, 109 tackles for the AFC's best team? A voting system that allows this to happen needs some serious overhaul.
-- Nick, Charlestown
A: I disagree. I think Reed has been excellent. He's made huge plays all season. Harrison should be on, but not over Reed.
Last week, there was an exchange on the scheduling of NE-MIA games. I think the reason the NFL has taken to having the Pats play the Dolphins in Miami in the early part of the season and in Foxboro late is to balance out the weather advantage. Each team gets a game under conditions that work to its advantage. The way it was in the 1980s, the Fins would come up here in mild to warm early season conditions, comfortable in comparison to what hey had practiced in. Then, come December, the Pat's would be at a big disadvantage going down there after being used to NE December cold. With the Kraft's sell out record, the NFL does not lose out attendance-wise regardless of when they play here. Of course, then why do the Jets close the season in Florida?
-- Jon, Washington, DC
A: I liked it better in the 80s. It was a nice trip to Miami in December. Back then we used to spend the whole week there getting acclimated to the weather. The players, I mean.
Can I just say, I really enjoy your column but after reading countless email bags I have come to a conclusion that I have always had about Boston fans...they are bitter and really like to rub it in (probably because it has been so long between titles) Here is my point, why do so many of these fans look back at Drew Bledsoe and call him a "hack" and a "loser" and all that? I mean, granted he has tailed off but when he was great for this team at a time and it kind irritates me to see all of these fans treating him in this manner...oh well, that's Boston, right?
-- Mike, Chicago, IL
A: I guess some fans have to reinforce to themselves that the team made the right decision to trade Bledsoe and keep Brady. It's obvious now, two years later, that it was the right choice. I'd love for one of our psychologists out there to analyze this need for fans to destroy a player who gave so much to the fan base for so long.
Hello Nick! Merry Christmas! I have really enjoyed reading the mailbag and have become quite a Patriots fan over the past few exciting years! Just griping here, but how come Tedy Bruschi didn't make the Pro Bowl???!! He really has soul - we are so lucky to have him on our team! Other than that, I am really having fun watching the games, reading the mailbag, learning the intricacies of football, and rooting for the Patriots! Thanks!
-- Judy Sprague, Hyde Park, MA
A: Tedy gives everything he has every week. I'm surprised that his peers didn't place him in the same category as a Zach Thomas. We all know Ray Lewis is the greatest. No gripe their. Keith Bullock and Takeo Spikes are incredible athletes and very deserving. But for this season, Bruschi needed to make it over Thomas.
Everyone talks enough about the way Bill Bilicheck game plan scheming and his "genius" defensive planning. I think a lot of people miss his off-the-field scheming. For instance, when the Houston expansion team was being built, each team had to put 5 players on the expansion list. Right before the selection, there was a lot about how Willie Mcginnest (and Ted Johnson too I think) was washed up and how he would never be the player he was projected to be. Needless to say Houston passed on Willie and Ted. How they regret that decision today with the way these guys are playing...(ok, maybe not Ted).
-- Praveen Ramanathan, Newton
A: Most teams put their higher-priced veterans on the expansion list to rid themselves of contracts. There was no way the Texans were going to bite on those contracts, knowing they were 3-5 years away from being a contender so I doubt very much they regret not taking those players.
Greetings from the Last Frontier. Heres something Ive always wondered about, maybe you can use your Boston Globe credibility to help me get an answer on this. Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the genius Rhode Island filmmaking duo and Boston sports fans, have used Boston athletes for cameos in their movies. Most recently it was Tom and Lawyer in "Stuck on You." In "Dumb & Dumber" (1994) it was Cam Neely as Seabass. In "Kingpin" (1996) it was Roger Clemons. HOWEVER, it was Brett Favre in "Theres Something About Mary" (1998). That movie was filmed shortly after Favre and the rest of the Packers beat the Pats in the Super Bowl! Were the Farrelly Brothers somehow trying to slight Drew Bledsoe? This has always puzzled me.
-- Jim Bell, Juneau, Alaska
A: I'm not completely sure about this, but I vaguely remember the role was intended for Bledsoe but he couldn't do it.
I enjoy reading your work and the mailbag every week. Thanks for all the info and insight. I have two things: This Pro Bowl business ticks me off. Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, and maybe even Tyrone Poole got totally jobbed. 300 home game minutes without allowing a touchdown, and only two guys get to the Pro Bowl. Its obvious Belichick is the only one who gets credit around the country for the Patriots success. My question is about Troy Brown's contract. With the injuries the last two years, would they cut him to save money? Troy is one of my favorite players, and I would hate to see him go. Thanx for your time. GO PATS!!
-- David Goguen, Belfast, Maine
A: That will be a very interesting question this off season. Lately I've noticed Brown has been played up by Belichick at press conferences. I'm not sure if that's a good sign for Troy or a bad one.
Hello Nick and happy holidays. Is there anything the NFL can do to get the umpires off of the field? As a Patriots fan, I've personally seen umps get in the way of balls and players far too many times than I'd like. I'm also sure Bobby Engram has an opinion on the matter. I understand why they are there, I get their importance, but isn't there anything the NFL can do to take that extra defender off of the field? Onto another matter... Do you think that Seymour and Law should ditch the Pro Bowl? I know it sounds crazy, but how can you not have Tedi Bruschi and Rodney Harrison on that AFC Pro Bowl squad? Also, I don't really think that Ty has played that much better than Tyrone Poole, who I do think has played better than Patrick Surtain. It irks me to no end. Zach Thomas? The only reason he's in is because he's been there before and people recognized his name. I also believe Ladanian Tomlinson should've made it, but how can you argue with the three that did make it. Holmes, Lewis and Portis are all fantastic, but Tomlinson is singlehandedly carrying the Chargers, quite literally I feel. The Pats should package together some high draft picks and try to get him away from San Diego. He deserves a chance at the big time, and I think the Patriots can give it to him. All of my best wishes to you and your family in the new year.
-- Louis Popps, Revere, MA
A: I'm with you on the positioning of the umpires. I like your Tomlinson idea. I just don't know if the Chargers could absorb the salary cap acceleration that would take place if they traded him to New England.
What is the deal with the Pro Bowl selections? I know the Patriots are a team-first group, but it is pretty ridiculous when the team with the best record and longest winning streak in football only places 2 guys on the Pro Bowl team when a team like Baltimore, who right now isn't even in the playoffs, has 8 people selected. Players like Rodney Harrison, Tyrone Poole, and Tom Brady absolutely deserve to make the team. I guess team success really has nothing to do with how good a player is. What are your thoughts on the Pro Bowl selections and do you think that with some of the players getting snubbed, it will provide some extra motivation for the Patriots down the stretch?
-- T.J. O'Brien, Brookline, MA
A: T.J. it's hard for these players to get upset about the snubbing because the team concept is preached so much in New England that individual goals aren't regarded as a great achievement. I think the teams feeling is who cares? It's just recognizing personal achievement, not team achievement. The pro Bowl is designed for individual recognition. It is what it is.
Do to the Patriots success you know that there is gonna be some interest in Crennel, and Weiss for a possible head coaching job.. and also heard rumors of maybe even Pioli getting some GM interest. Who do you think the 1st will be to go or get the most interest and possible offers? And Nick I would really like to know how you feel on this issue.. Tyrone Poole... He leads the team in interceptions, Passes defended... Also has been occasionally covering the other teams best receiver... which Ty Law says he does every week, every team since he's been here...... I know Ty is having a great season.. probably his best since 99.... But are we giving Poole enough credit.. he's playing for 1/4 the salary.. and playing just as good.. I thought he played good last year in Denver.... but at age 31 and being 5'8" i questioned the Pats signing him... But he has gone way past my expectations...
-- Eric Dolan, New Bedford MA
A: The coaching issue is very interesting. Crennel and Weis will get lots of attention and deservedly so. Whether they actually get a job, I don't know. When there are experienced ex-head coaches out there it's tough to say that an assistant coach could perform better than a guy who has been fired and who has learned from his first or second experience as a head coach. Those guys are easier to sell to the sporting public. I could see a scenario where an organization decides to take Pioli as the GM and then hire one of the coordinators. The only problem is I don't see a lot of GM openings this time around. The firing of a GM is usually a last resort so I'm guessing Pioli returns to NE as Belichick's personnel assistant. The problem is replacing one or both coordinators. What would prevent a team from taking both guys? Give one the job of head coach and the other the job of assistant head coach for big money? I've made my feelings known about Poole. Great year. Hopefully he returns next season. There's always the possibility he could retire again to be with his family.
I was shocked to find out that Rodney Harrison did not make the Pro Bowl. Richard Seymoure deserved to make it and Ty Law is probably on his way to the Hall of Fame, but without Harrison the Patriots aren't 12-2. However, I can understand why Damien Woody did not get selected. How can you select a lineman from a team that can't even avg. 3.5 yards/carry? I heard Coach Belichick say to the press yesterday that he told the team if you want to go to the Pro Bowl they need to win and the selections will come. The Patriots are definitely deserving of more representation in Honolulu, but I think they will use this lack of respect ala 2001 and win the Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on the subject?
-- Paul Maitino, Billerica
A: I'm sure Belichick uses that stuff to rev up the team. Lack of respect has always been a good motivator for this team.
I'm sure you've heard the question ad nauseam but here goes: What do you think the Pats are going to do concerning their running back situation? Personally, I think Duce Staley would fit right in for 2 or 3 more years if he could agree on the money aspect. He's Kevin Faulk with more speed, toughness and elusiveness. However, I realize that Faulk is a T E A M player and Staley may not have a reputation as such ( see meaningless holdout this season ) Do you think there is a college back worth drafting or is there another free agent we should pursue! By the way, this is the first time I've read this column and I love it! Keep up the good work!!
-- Joseph Lemery, Columbia/SC
A: Joseph, I may be completely wrong, but I think they're going after a runner in the draft. I don't think they want a guy who's been beat up for a few years. They already have that. What I don't know is whether they'll keep Smith or Faulk. Smith is due a $2 million bonus in March, which he'll never see, and Faulk is a free agent.
Nick, a month ago the team I did not want to meet in the playoffs was the Titans. McNair is awesome when it really comes time to sell out (run, take a shot, etc.). They've struggled of late, but I still don't want to see McNair walking into Foxboro. Right now, the team to be most wary of is Denver. They have a good defense. They stop the run and pass. On offense they run the ball with Portis. When we played them, they had no QB, and they were struggling. Indy on the road in the Foxboro slow track is not the same threat in my mind. KC? On the road with a below average defense. All in all, I think the wild card teams (if they make it) Denver and Tennessee are the dangerous teams. Who do you see as the worst and best match-ups for the Pats (in Foxboro that is)?
-- Jim Kelleher, Northford, CT
A: I tend to agree with your thinking. Tennessee and Denver appear to be the most balanced teams. They can beat you with either offense or defense. Baltimore is like the Patriots defensively in that they can score defensive touchdowns, but I think the Patriots can stop Jamal Lewis which leaves matters in Anthony Wright's hands and I think the Pats can make him turn it over. Indy is always scary because of their offense, but their defense gives up points. I had one AFC coach tell me this week that Indy's defensive performance against the Pats in the second half of that high-scoring affair was the best defense played against the Patriots this season. But in the end, the Colts allowed the Patriots the final score. Nobody seems to be taking KC seriously. I will say this, however, they can score points and a lot of them. I understand their defense is no great shakes, but for some reason I hate to take them lightly or dismiss them. I think Vermeil is a great coach, too.
Nick, Tully Banta-Cain? I was hoping he might emerge as a potential pass rusher at OLB w/Colvin out. I assume due to his late arrival due to injury and being a rookie, we'll have to wait till he goes through a camp next year. Has there been any insights from the organization what they have in him?
-- Jim Kelleher, Northford, CT
A: They're very high on this kid. This kid has quite a motor. he should be a training camp favorite next summer.
All of us distant PATS fans are lucky to have the mailbag. My question is a little different. I would like to plan a trip to N.E. to take in a Sox game and a little PATS training camp next year. How is camp usually run? Are there tickets needed, parking, open practices? Also, how common is it to pick up a couple of autographs? If the practices are open, how long are they usually for?
-- Kevin Fensley, Concord, N.C.
A: I think you'll enjoy it Kevin. The camp is at Gillette. There are stands at the practice fields which are adjacent to Gillette and a roped off area. There's no fee at all. It's open to the public and they've even added some night practices so it's a little cooler. The Patriots do allow autographs at the end of the session. They have different position groups on any given day. So if you're going to get Tom Brady's autograph you'd have to time it so that you were there the day the quarterbacks and running backs are signing. The practices range from 90 minutes to two-hours plus depending on how hot it is and how good the boys have been.
Any insights on Ted Washington wanting to stay with the Pat's next year? I believe he an UFA after this year. I would assume we would sign him as we don't have a true NT and he's obviously an impact guy. Question is, does he like it here?
-- Jim Kelleher, Northford, CT
A: He wants to stay. I believe they're already talking.
Nick, last week you wrote "I've had GMs ask my opinion on whether I think Charlie Weis or Romeo Crennel would make good head coaches". What was your answer?
-- Kevin Mullen, New Boston, NH
A: I gave them glowing marks. The important thing for me is that they're good people. And Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are as good as you get. I'm sure what I say isn't going to hire or fire them anywhere, but I think one of the GMs in particular was being very thorough. He obviously wants input from everyone around them including the biggest media outlet that covers them.
10 straight wins can have you looking at things a bit differently...so call me crazy if you will, but I think the pro bowl snubbing the Pats got will serve as nothing less than some good old fashioned motivation. And just in time for the home stretch. Of course the fans and media will feed off this latest national swipe of disrespect, but it's really more of a sign that is a true team. We know who our superstars are. It looks like the Pats are still flying under the radar to some extent. I don't have a problem with that.
-- DonnyD, Lynnfield
A: You've got it right, Donny. Motivation, baby. That's why fans shouldn't get upset about it.
Does Hall-of-Famer Art Donovan of the former Baltimore Colts ever return to Boston College where he played his college ball? I've never heard his name mentioned along with B.C., which is strange considering what a legendary personality he is.
-- Joe, South Boston, Ma.
A: Joe, I remember someone telling me Art Donovan was around here a couple of years back for an event. Funny guy, isn't he?
More of a comment Nick, your mailbag is becoming a "windbag". Every week you answer the same question at least 5 or six times. We all read the papers and we all have a good idea of what is going on with the team so your rehashing of "known" is getting old. The best question ask this week was on the tie breaker if the Pat-Indy and KC are tied and rather than answer it you gave us the tie breaking rules. I think the gentleman understood the rule but wanted to know if you saw it the same way. Nick please freshen this up before Tom Curran or Felger enter the fray. The Globe is suppose to be the gold standard. You guys are slipping. Another comment " you are not the story" being a sports reporter has got to be the easiest job in the land be happy you have the privilege of being the voice and stop trying to create contraversy so that you can write another book. Finally get off the Red Sox , next to the Bruins they are the least interesting team in the City. I saw you on Lobel last night and you guys just do not get it. There is not honor in winning when you can outspend 99% of your competition. The Pats are the story, a great organization in there glory days. Enjoy it and try to make it fun for the rest of us.
-- Mike Friedrich, Chicago, IL
A: Mike with all due respect, you're in Chicago. The biggest story here for many weeks has been A-Rod, the greatest player in the game who had a chance to be a Red Sox. It wasn't even close. I don't know how long you've been out of Boston, or if you're attending school there, but for weeks the talk was A-Rod, with the Patriots second. As for Tom Curran and Michael Felger, they are in the fray. They are terrific football writers and I respect them both. You should read all the football writers in this area from Ken Powers in Worcester, Alan Greenberg in Hartford, Glen Farley in Brockton, Mark Farinella in Attleboro, Chris Kennedy in Springfield, Ron Hobson and Eric McHugh in Quincy, Dan Pires in New Bedford, Mike Lowe in Portland, Tom King in Nashua, Dave Pevear in Lowell, Mike Reiss at Metrowest, Mike Parente at Woonsocket, Ron Borges and Michael Smith at the Globe, Kevin Mannix at the Herald. There's great writing and reporting of football in this area. I was a former suburban newspaper writer so I have great respect for the job reporters do at those newspapers.
If this gets to you after Christmas, then best wishes for a happy and safe New Year. And keep up the awesome column. I'd like to comment on the respect (or lack thereof) given to the Pats this year. I think largely, other teams respect them but the media barely even mentions them. Even on "Inside the NFL" they just blow right by them and move onto the "exciting" Baltimore Ravens. (Not trying to take anything away from them; just an example.) This lack of respect drives my wife almost to the point of tears, but in a way it kind of reminds me of '01 when it was the same way and we won it all. Hey, I guess as long as they keep winning the most important people to respect them are us, the fans. I cant begin to express the pride I have in the way they just keep bearing down, sucking it up and focusing on the TEAM aspect of football. No showboaters, no guys making cell phone calls in the end zone, just 53 brothers going to war together, live or die. Any "fan" who cant see this doesn't know the game too well.
-- Scott McCall, Windham,CT
A: Scott, you've said it best. You have to watch those shows with a grain of salt. Those guys are never or rarely in Foxboro. They're never or rarely around the team and the players.
In your last column you said "This is a good pass blocking line but with the exception of Woody, they're suspect run blocking". I agree they don't run block very well, but I believe the reason for this is that Weis has no commitment to the running game. It seemed to me that last year the O-Line was practically begging him to call run plays. My suspicion is that there isn't much emphasis on run blocking in practice, so there isn't much chance of the Pats rushing effectively during games. Do you have any sense of whether this is really the case?
-- Craig, Chelmsford
A: The only sense I have is that they don't feel they can do it on a consistent basis, so they don't. Until someone stops their air attack, I don't see a change.
When I read your statement, "They're trying to create these "memorable" games, but what you're doing is just causing a lot of people hardship who have to stand out there in sub-freezing temperatures" I had to say to myself WHAT THE **** is he thinking! The Jags game was the first pro game I had ever been to, and while it wasn't as bad as the Miami game it was still snowy and cold. I wouldn't have given it up for anything, Football is the best pro sporting event to attend, all the fans are screaming, old, young and in-between, the baseball, basketball and hockey crowds come no where near the atmosphere of Gillette, and its not just the alcohol cause people drink at all four events, the pats fans are just a different breed, they can take the weather, and if they can't they don't have to go - there are thousands of people (like myself) who would gladly take their place but could not get their hands on tickets. I also do not understand why you would not want to take advantage of any factor that may help the Pats win (blizzard). By the way am I the only one who thinks the Dolphins are the Red Sox of Football? They always seem great early then SUCK when it's most important.
-- Jonah Art, all over MA
A: Jonah, there are many people who are with you and many who aren't. I get a rash of both sides. But you're right, if you don't like the elements then give up your tickets to the 50,000 people waiting to buy them. On the Dolphins, I always gave them the benefit of the doubt, that they would eventually step up. Never have.
An idea for overtime -- automatically give the home team the ball first. It would make for a very interesting end of regulation. The visiting team might try to go for the win knowing this -- more two-point conversion tries, lots of interesting decision making. Do you trust your defense to hold or go for it now in regulation? In fact, I'd go one further and suggest the entire coin toss be replaced for regulation too by always having the home team get to select. (An alternative would be to reverse it and give the visiting team the advantage.) The key is that a predictable known advantage that you get in eight sure games a year is better than the random flip of a coin every week.
-- Vernon Imrich, Reading, MA
A: Creative. But please, no! Leave it alone.
I must admit, you've a habit of outing the yahoos in the area. Great job putting them back in their place! Anyhow, one question please: Do you think the tactics that Bill B. use (such as benching Seymour, firing and hiring Walter, not giving the media full access) are a little over the top? I believe that the coach and the media should be able to co-exist, and that the way he goes about his business is just overly exaggerated. Just a glad everyday reader! Thanks!
-- Trot Minor, Flagstaff, AZ
A: Sure. I doubt you'll find a media person who would disagree. But as long as they win, their ways are reinforced. If they lose, their ways would be questioned and with good reason. But I do think the media and Belichick co-exist. In fact, in some cases they co-exist very nicely.
Do you think there's any way the Patriots would want Stephen Jackson from Oregon St.? Also, do you think they could get him with the picks they have or would they have to trade up (if they were to want him)? And what else do you see the Patriots drafting?
-- Jake Ackman, Cambridge, MA
A: Jake, I would guess they would, but right now that scouting stuff is under wraps. Hard to get any info on that stuff right now.
With this great season winding down where do you think the Patriots are going to look for the most help in the off-season? The draft, trading draft picks or free agency? Also what positions do you feel are most critical for the Patriots to upgrade at before next season? Also what players are we in the greatest danger of losing after the season?
-- Michael Jensen, Santa Clara, CA
A: With all the draft picks I think the major focus will be the draft because their goal is to get younger. Running back, linebacker, corner will all be places of emphasis. They're always looking for a good young lineman on either side of the ball. The Patriots will have decisions to make with veterans. Many of those cap numbers go way up so they'll have to make decisions on vets like Smith, Faulk, Pleasant, Lyle, Phifer, Mcginnest, Johnson, Law, Poole, Brown, Izzo, Washington. You have to make tough decisions every year if you want to get younger.
Love the mailbag. I am replying to Pete Hale from the previous mailbag who was wondering about watching the Super Bowl in the UK. This year, it will be shown live on terrestrial TV (Channel 5) and cable/satellite TV (Sky sports). As an English Pats' fan of 17 years from the other side of the pond, I also hope to see us there this year. BTW; no Tedy Bruschi in the Pro Bowl? What are the voters on????
-- Julian Coates, London, England
A: Thanks Julian.
With all the trade talks going on with the Red Sox and Celtics, it brings a question to mind. Why aren't there trades in the NFL?
-- David Roberts, Ludlow, MA
A: Hard salary cap. That's the reason. The team that trades the player takes a huge cap hit as the Patriots did when they traded Bledsoe.
You missed Aaron 's (Boston) point last week. Let me state it another way. "When we as fans come to consider anything less than a Super Bowl season a disappointment, then we have a dynasty." I think we are not quite there, but depending on how this season plays out, we are very close. We are very close to expecting it. BTW, why doesn't KC scare me? Tennessee scares me, Indy scares me. But I feel like we match up well against KC. I think our D could limit their offense, and I think we could move the ball on them.
-- Christopher Brown, Chicago, IL
A: I got it Chris. A little slow I guess. I think if you took a poll about Patriots-KC, I don't think many people would be scared. I don't know why. I guess it's because we value defense so much here that good offensive teams aren't considered a threat to this great defense. Tennessee is physical, yes, they're a worthy opponent.
I'm sure we all on cloud nine at the Patriots' recent success. Still I frequently think back to horrendous personnel decisions that decisively damaged Patriots' fortunes. Ken Sims in the early 1980s ,and ,the greatest blunder of modern times, Tony Eason instead of Dan Marino in the 1983 draft. More recently Chris Canty instead of picking Sam Madison in the 1997 draft and ,of course, the second biggest blunder in Patriots history, not meeting the Jets offer for Curtis Martin. Then we have the mistake of drafting Andy Katzemoyer in the first round instead of all pro Al Wilson in 1998.On Belichick's watch we blundered in not picking up Priest Holmes as a free agent and settling for Antwoin Smith in 2001and ,more recently ,passing up a chance to take Clinton Portis, choosing Daniel Graham instead in the 2002 Draft. What does this teach us ? Well hindsight is wonderful ,but I submit that many if not all of these decisions would not have been made by most top NFL organizations. Fortunately we seem to have turned the corner last year with our good draft choices that were not necessarily obvious winners( until they started to play). Still I am uneasy with Coach Belichick's inability to pick good running backs ( see above). I hope he proves me wrong in next years draft. Doug
-- Douglas Graham, Columbus, Ohio
A: Yeah. I agree. Some drafts have been good and some haven't. I hope people don't expect that all the drafts from here on out will be as successful as last year's. That doesn't happen anywhere.
Another big win for the Pats! Out of all the playoff teams the Pats could face, which team has the best chance of taking them out? Also, who's your Patriots MVP for the season? Finally, am I the only one who thinks that Joe Namath made a fool out of himself when interviewed during the game? He twice asked the female interviewer if he could kiss her, and he was slurring his speech badly...Thanks.
-- Todd Monsell, Damariscotta, ME
A: Pats MVP? Wow. Tough one. I'd say Brady for keeping the team together when they had all of those injuries and staying out there himself when he was hurting. Broadway Joe was out of line.
Please keep up the great work. Fantastic perspectives and insights - both from the readers and you! Is it my imagination or has every other team that we beat manage to give away a lot more points (that we scored) in their very next game?? I feel that our offense is just average and worry whether that will prove to be our downfall. Hope not. Your thoughts?
-- Rajan, Brookline, MA
A: No reason to think that way. As long as the defense keeps up its great work, that is. Once the defense starts to crack, and it may never crack, then the offense might be a problem.
Thanks, Nick, for the time and effort you take each week, even though it's obviously a labor of love. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Now the question. Why don't we read/hear more about Ted Washington? He's a Force Of Nature in the middle of the line, and even if he's not the one making the tackle or sacking the QB he probably IS the one who made it possible. He ties up AT LEAST two offensive linemen, sometimes more, and clogs the middle like nobody else I've seen. Taking absolutely nothing away from the backs and linebackers, shouldn't there be a little more press on the guys in the trenches?
-- Ernie Lowell, Lee, MA
A: I think we'd all love to give Ted more press, but he doesn't speak to us. He did a wave of interviews two weeks ago and now he's shut it off again. Happy Holidays to you, Ernie.
Just found your article and love to read about my team in a city where the Pats get little more than lip service here in New York. My question is: Last Saturday on the ESPN pregame show, Steve Young said that the Pats needed to lose this game against the Jets because they only win as underdogs. I disagree, but the point got me thinking that maybe that is true. In my opinion, long streaks may make a team complacent, slowing eroding the will to win. What are your thoughts on what Steve said, and does it hold much water? Also, what is the part Belichick/coaching staff plays in keeping consistency? By starting different players in different positions, can the pats solve a complacency issue by starting fresh players?
-- Matt S, NY, NY
A: Steve really said that? I disagree. I think losing breaks the great karma this team has right now. They don't want to lose and then have the confidence they have begin cracking. On the second part of your question, complacency will cost you your job. That's why they have such good depth. If you have a bad week of practice and act like your tired and out of it, you won't play. Ask Bethel Johnson two weeks ago.
Great job on your mail bag. You provide some interesting insight that us fans would spend a life time uncovering. My question is not really a football question but more to do with the events preceding the games at Gillette Stadium. Do you know why the Krafts have chosen to play the National Anthem before the Players are even introduced onto the field? Is this a Patriots decision or is it being done across the NFL now? I'm not sure when this changed, but it used to be a very emotional prelude to the game, to listen to the National Anthem with the players standing at attention on the field. While we have certainly had our bonding moments with the players this year down at Gillette ie..the Miami SnowBowl II, sharing the Anthem with them is something that I miss and I think I speak for a great many fans as well. Can you tell me why they changed this, and do you think they will consider changing it back?
-- Jeff Keefe, Portsmouth, NH
A: I haven't noticed that Jeff. Let me ask around and see what the reason is.