We've been taking care of wrapping up the Bengals game all week, but it is Patriots week. Nick Pease of 18to88 and Foxboroblog.com's Ricky Keeler discuss the game. Check back later for my answers to Ricky's questions.
1. The Patriots are 7-2, but could easily be 6-3 or worse after close games with the Ravens and Chargers. After playing those close games, and the recent loss to the Browns, did the Pats turn a corner this past weekend with their dominating win over the Steelers?
I do think that the New England Patriots have turned the corner in terms of now being in the conversation as one of the top teams in the AFC. I did not expect them to dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers the way they did, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The offense I think is fine, but solely the defense has turned the corner week after week which is a scary thought for the rest of the NFL. We all know what Brady could do, but its good that the rookies are stepping up and making a huge impact.
2. What are your thoughts on the Randy Moss trade? Many people believed that was the equivalent of the Patriots writing themselves out of playoff contention. What's your take?
I did an article on foxboroblog.com with my thoughts on the Randy Moss trade about a month ago and I did not see it as a season wrecker like a lot of people did. If Moss did not buy into the team dynamic, then he did not deserve to be part of the team. Clearly, Belichick's gamble has paid off considering Moss has been a shadow of himself in both Minnesota and Tennessee. Now, with eight picks in the first four rounds of the 2011 NFL Drafr, they can continue to find young motivated players who buy into the team dynamic.
3. How worried should Colts fans be about Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? It seems like Tom Brady is pretty fond of his young tight ends.
The Colts should be worried about these two rookie tight ends. I mean it says a lot when New England scores 39 points against a Dick Lebeau defense with their leading receiver in Hernandez having no catches. Both tight ends can catch the ball, but they are very good blockers that can set up the run game. My favorite of the two is Aaron Hernandez because of the Florida ties that Belichick has with Urban Meyer, but Hernandez played with a guy in Tim Tebow who was the definition of team. If Brady doesn't find one however, he will more than likely find the other.
4. New Englad seems to have a rotating carousel at running back this season, but after trading Laurence Maroney, appears to be set with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Yet, combined those backs average just a shade over 87 yards a game. What are your thoughts on the Patriots running backs and what is their impact in this game?
When you have a downfield offense that the Patriots do that is similar to their championship teams, they don't need a number one running back. However, they have two good running backs in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Green-Ellis "Law Firm" is similar to Laurence Maroney, but he is very good at going north to south and Danny Woodhead is very physical and gets that extra yard to move the chains. New England got a huge steal in Woodhead in the days i saw him in my hometown of New York practicing with the New York Jets. They don't need to run the ball in the same way the Colts don't need to, but it helps to set up that great play action pass for Tom Brady.
5. Colts tight end Jacob Tamme has been on fire since stepping into the starting role. How do you think the Pats will try and stop Peyton Manning's newest weapon?
The key to stop any weapon on the Indianapolis Colts always starts first and foremost with getting pressure on Peyton Manning. If Manning is under pressure, he will not find his weapons. Jacob Tamme has been a huge surprise and I would expect Belichick to put a player on Jerod Mayo on him to try to limit the big play. Tamme might make some plays, but the one thing that this young defense has done well all year is that they have eliminated the big play factor from most teams and make them earn the yardage.
6. According to Football Outsiders DVOA rankings, New England is 27th against the pass. Especially considering Manning could get back Austin Collie and Joseph Addai this week, how worried are you about Manning vs. the Patriots young defensive unit?
With this New England Patriots' defense, I am always worried week after week, but they are getting much better than the stats are indicating. You have to see this defense in action before you can go by the stats which most experts try to do to justify New England is worse than their record. Joseph Addai has given New England fits throughout his entire career and I can still see his TD from that AFC Championship Game a couple of years ago in my head. Indy has missed Austin Collie, but Manning could exploit a defense with anybody at wide receiver.
7. Who is the X-factor for the Pats in this game?
The X-Factor for New England is Brandon Tate because he is considered their downfield threat now that Randy Moss is no longer in the picture. Tate has had some success, but when Brady opens up the deep passing game, it is trouble for opposing defenses.
For the Colts, my X-Factor is going to be Pierre Garcon. The reason I say that is because Garcon has not played like he did a year ago. If he can get back on the right pace with Manning to go with Reggie Wayne, their offense will be tough to stop.
8. And finally, what is your prediction for the game?
This game will go as usual in these Brady-Manning rivalries. It is going to come down to the 4th quarter and in that case, anybody can win the game. I like the Patriots in this game because we saw how they played against the Ravens where they were looking for revenge after a year ago. Last year, the Patriots dominated the Colts for 3 1/2 quarters and New England is going to come in looking for revenge. Tom Brady is going to have a solid game with the offensive line keeping Freeney and Mathis' impact as minimal as possible.
Patriots 27 Colts 24