We did a Q&A Exchange with Ricky Keeler of Foxboroblog.com. Our answers to his questions are posted here.
1. The Patriots have the #32 defense in the NFL. And the Pats are also last in pass defense. How are you going to win a Super Bowl w/o defense?
I think the Patriots can win a Super Bowl with the defense they have, but they will need Tom Brady to score 24+ points per game in order to do that. The defense in between the 20's has not been great at all, but once a team gets in the red zone, the Patriots continue to bend but not break. For example, three weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots' D continued to hold Romo into field goals and kept the offense in the game. Plus, they still have an ability to force turnovers. The run defense has done a good job all year in containing some good backs in Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Ryan Mathews, so they at least make you have to win with the pass. Last year, the defense improved in December so I still hold out hope they can improve. They can't be worse, can they? It is not about what you do now, but what you do in December. They have time to improve while Brady and the offense put up points.
2. We saw last week how the Steelers went to a spread offense and passed the ball seemingly every play w/o an answer from the Patriots. How would you gameplan on offense vs the Patriots defense?
In order for the Giants to win this game, if I was Kevin Gilbride, I would allow Eli Manning to throw the ball over and over again. New England does get some rush with Wilfork and Andre Carter, but not enough to be a threat play after play. You do have to mix some run in with Bradshaw, but the Giants just have to spread the Patriots out as you said and continue to look at the middle of the field. The Patriots are weak in the secondary and this is where I fear a guy like Victor Cruz can make an impact in this game even if Hakeem Nicks does not play because they have the ability to stretch the field with their vertical ability. I would not rule out Mario Manningham making an impact as well. It is not the best receiving corps with New York, but if Nicks plays, at least they have a game changer.
3. The Patriots had no answer vs Heath Miller. Do the Pats have a Safety or LBer who can cover the TE?
This is not a problem that the Patriots will have to deal with this week because although you have Jake Ballard who has talent, he is no Kevin Boss. I would be more concerned if Boss was playing because Heath Miller is not your normal tight end. He is a better pass catcher than run blocker. If the Patriots run into that problem in the future, I look for guys like Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher to jam those guys at the line of scrimmage. They said postgame that not jamming Miller hurt them on those 3rd down plays for the opening drive and Brandon Tate was not exactly a player that other.
4. Man/press coverage made it harder on Brady. What does your offense do without a blazer at WR who can go over the top vs the press?
This problem has been an issue for the Patriots ever since that Jet playoff loss in January where Revis and Cromartie were jamming the wide receivers and Brandon Tate was not exactly a guy that other teams were worried about downfield. Lately, people have been asking the Patriots to bring Randy Moss back. I liked Moss in 2007, but he quit the last couple of seasons with Brady and Cassel. He didn't buy into the team concept and when you don't do that here like we saw with Leigh Bodden, you are gone! We thought that Chad Ochocinco would be that guy which is why I wanted him in Foxboro back in January, but he has not been a factor. I look for Taylor Price, their 2nd year WR out of Ohio to make an impact downfield eventually, but as long as Brady has the tight ends, they will be fine in scoring points over the middle of the field.
5. Mayo is reasonable, but Chung (overrated), Meriweather (cut), McCourty (decent) are mediocre. Why have your drafts on defense in the last 4 years have been so bad?
The team misses Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitryoff. It is just that simple. Bill Belichick is a great coach in terms of in-game strategy and putting together a game plan, but his talent evaluation skills just do not live up to that reputation since those two players have left. He still tries to plug players in and make it work, but that has not worked the last two seasons on the defensive side of the football. Hopefully, the Patriots will start using their picks instead of trading down to keep looking for value. They have 2 first round picks again next year, so we will see if BB can draft that impact pass rusher that can change a game for the Pats defensively.
6. Albert Hayneworth hardly plays, the defense changed to a 4-3 scheme because of him, and Ocho Cinco has caught ~9 passes the entire year... what happened to this free agency?
The free agency signings have not been great but they did not give up that much in order to get the guys, so it will not hurt them in the long term. I think Chad will eventually make an impact, but it has not been a great start for him because we hardly ever see him on the field anymore. As for Haynesworth, he still gets double teamed by opposing defenses, but is not the pass rusher they wanted at defensive tackle. However, it has not been a total bust because of Andre Carter. Carter is the only Patriot who can sack the quarterback it seems like and brings a veteran presence to a young team.
7. Prediction for this game? For this season?
BB not only stands for Bill Belichick, but it stands for bounce back! The Patriots never seem to lose two games in a row and it will hold true Sunday. Eli Manning will have success in terms of yards, but he is due for some turnovers. Give him credit, he has played like an elite quarterback this season, but he is not a guy that can go a long span of time without a turnover. They are banged up with Bradshaw and Nicks, but I see Cruz hurting the Patriots' secondary. However, if the Giants can't get after Brady, Tom will exploit that secondary that is not much better. Patriots are going to win this game and go to play the other New York team 6-2. Pierre-Paul gets some sacks in this game, but on 3rd and medium, Brady will hit Gronk and Hernandez for 1st downs and keep drives alive. PATRIOTS 27 GIANTS 17