Rick LaughlandWhat kind of offensive gameplan can we expect from the Patriots? Without a lot of their top weapons (Shane Vereen, Rob Gronkowski and possibly Danny Amendola) do the Patriots shift to a slower tempo run-first approach or do they stick with the high-octane passing attack? Maybe a combination of both?
Jon Scott: The Patriots will likely try to use their big play rookies for the types of plays they originally acquired them for. Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson. Dobson is expected to play this week, while Boyce will see more of the game plan than he did in week one. Without Vereen, it will be tough for the Patriots to run their typical third down back attack package.
LaughlandAre the Patriots more vulnerable than in recent years? With injuries, arrests and players leaving via free agency, (Wes Welker) is New England no longer the clear front-runner to win the AFC East?
ScottAbsolutely New England is more vulnerable than before. Were it not for nearly every team in the AFC East undergoing some sort of upheaval this season, the Patriots would be hard pressed to maintain their grip on the division. Just realizing that nearly 82% of the Patriots offense from last year is gone, is enough to put a bit of doubt in the minds of even the most stalwart of supporters. Only Gronkowski remains from that group (Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez), and Gronk isn't expected back till week three or four.
LaughlandHow do you anticipate Bill Belichick and his group will attack rookie Geno Smith? The West Virginia star has shown to be dangerous outside the pocket, so will New England focus on containing the first year quarterback? What kind of wrinkles can we expect to try and fluster or confuse the young gunslinger?
Scott:The Patriots have a number of mobile QBs they've faced in the past and again this season. Having Tim Tebow run the scout team in camp helped as he would often scramble on broken plays (or plays he held the ball too long); each time Tebow scrambled he found gaping holes in the defense. That came to a close as the preseason evolved, which is something the Patriots desperately needed.
FOXSportsRadio asked the same question, and as I told Artrell Hawkins ( Patriots 2005-06), he's used to how the Patriots play defense using a bend-don't-break philosophy and then get tough inside the 20s. This year, the Patriots seem more willing to bring the heat to try to force young mobile QBs into mistakes, but New England won't all out blitz for fear of losing containment. They'd rather their Defensive Backs make the play than a pass rusher. Which proved nearly the case in week one, when two different Patriots had interceptions ruled as incompletes.
I think the point spread (Patriots -13.5) is nuts for this game, but I can see how some of the predictors out there believe it will be close and eventually turn into a blowout. I do expect the Patriots to win the game, but not by more than 10 or 11. This game is about securing a win using the most vanilla scheme available, more than trying to make a statement. Patriots 28 – Jets 17