1. How has Tom Brady looked in practice this week and do you think he'll be sharp enough to defeat the Chiefs on Sunday?
Jon Scott: Brady has been on the field for the media access portion of practice, but he's not really doing anything important at the time like scrambling away from pressure or getting hit by defenders. The key information that came out this week was from a radio report that Brady had an MRI, which revealed a broken bone in his foot. Supposedly the MRI was done in August and would require 4-6 weeks to heal. The trouble is no one went on record when disclosing the report, and Brady only mentioned that one of the other players had stepped on it, but he would be OK. So far no mainstream media outlet has been able to confirm the injury, and the one that came close was able to get Brady's father to admit he hadn't heard anything about the injury, which was a surprise to him.
Missing the entire preseason isn't good for any team trying to get into a rhythm, but Brady told the media during hi spress conference during the week that Randy Moss missed the entire preseason last year and look how he did. I'd be more concerned about the offensive line protecting Brady than Brady at this point. It's a good thing he didn't play in the preseason, he'd be banged up worse now. He says he's not concerned about the injury holding him back, and he hasn't shown any noticeable adverse affects from the injury.
2. There isn't any question that your front three defensive lineman are a trio that make up one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. But behind them many feel that the Chiefs can have a big rushing game by pounding running back Larry Johnson over and over again. Can the four linebackers plug the gaps and get outside if the Chiefs offensive line can neutralize the front three?
Jon Scott: Great question. One of the keys to a Chiefs victory has to be to control the clock and keep Tom Brady, Randy Moss and crew off the field by pounding the ball. A healthy dose of Larry Johnson should be what the doctor ordered especially the way the Patriots have had trouble stopping the run this preseason. Looking at the personnel, you would think the patriots front seven can get the job done, but that hasn't always been the case. The Patriots defense has held opponents to a just 118 yards per game (17th in the league), but the 3.6 yards per attempt is good enough to put them in the top 10 (9th overall). That's not the whole story though; New England was the worst team in the league at stopping opponents on 3rd down this preseason. 46% of the time opposing teams would convert on third down, leading to long sustained drives.
While much of the blame has to go to the front seven, it could be leveled at the linebacker corps. New England is ecstatic with the progress of rookie middle linebacker Jerod Mayo. Mayo spent much of camp outperforming the other middle linebackers, even relegating former starter Victor Hobson to the final cut list. While Mayo outshined most of the unit, veteran Tedy Bruschi used his experience to show why he's still effective in key situations. Bruschi can weave his way through the blocking to get to the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. If he misses, the Patriots are in trouble because the runner can get a head of steam going. With Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas on the outside, the Patriots have a fairly solid group. They're not as fast as the top units in the league, but the 3 returning veterans have shown that they can play solid defense even against the best backs in the league, including LaDanian Tomlinson, Marshawn Lynch and Joseph Addai among others.
3. As an Insider do the fans of the Patriots like the games that Bill Belichick plays with the media from week to week?
Jon Scott: I'm not going to say that the Patriots play games with the media, but you've seen the press conferences. If you're looking for Belichick to let slip important information in a press conference that the other team(s) or media outlets might be able to use for motivation, you're probably wasting your time. His answers are methodical and measured. Though he is portrayed as being a bit inhuman, or lacking emotion, Belichick has let his personality show through on occasion. I recall one time not that long ago where he stopped the press conference to wish happy birthday to one of the staffers. Fans know the public image of Belichick, and they've grown pretty jaded to it. As long as the team wins, they're in his court regardless of how he comes across in a presser.
4. Randy Moss had an extraordinary season a year ago. Clearly he grew up once he left Oakland but it's been a long time since he's had back-to-back outstanding seasons. Do you think he can repeat in 2008 what he accomplished in 2007?
Jon Scott: The issue holding Moss back is probably more about motivation than anything else - at least that's how we see it in New England. Moss was motivated to compete in Minnesota when Chris Carter was pushing him. When Carter retired, Moss became the center of attention and didn't really have anyone pushing him. He was the biggest name on the team and it clearly showed that he wasn't really ready to handle the criticism that comes with that part of the show. When Moss went to Oakland he clearly was seen as the team's savior. When he didn't save the team because of other offensive ineptitude ranging from coaching to poor quarterback play, Moss became disillusioned. He stopped working hard, and lost interest.
In New England, none of those conditions exist. Clearly Moss is Not the center of attention. He's one of the team's top stars, but he has a load of stars around him who seek to remain humble - as Adalius Thomas' "Humble Pie" tee shirts. Can Moss turn in another great season,? No doubt. But it won't be Moss who determines that, it will be the defenses the Patriots face and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' ability to find new ways to defeat the press coverage teams put on Moss. If McDaniels can get other parts of the Patriots' offense rolling when teams focus on Moss, then it will allow him the opportunity to shine, much like he did in 2007.
5. The Patriots have played musical chairs with their cornerbacks again this year. Tell us about the depth at the position and if you think their as vulnerable heading into this game as they were in last years Super Bowl loss against the Giants?
Jon Scott: The cornerback position seems to have a revolving door attached. When the Patriots lost Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson to free agency, they went out and signed three free agents (Jason Webster , Fernando Bryant and Lewis Sanders) to take their spot. Former first round pick Webster was hurt most of the season and was released a week before final roster cuts. Bryant the team's starting DB throughout the preseason showed so poorly against the Giants that the team cut him during final roster cuts, leaving just Sanders and the team's two rookie draft picks to complement the sole DB holdover from 2007, Ellis Hobbs. Before any of the cuts I wrote a piece mentioning Sanders as a possible player on the defense. While most wrote him off as a player who wouldn't make the cut, there was something about Sanders - he just kept quietly making plays. When the cuts came, I wasn't surprise to see Sanders make it, I was however surprised Bryant did not.
The biggest question mark on the team is corner. The Patriots signed Deltha O'Neal to the roster this week to add some veteran talent at the position. Ellis Hobbs will man one side while the other goes to whomever wins the competition between second round draft pick Terrence Wheatley, Sanders or O'Neal. It's likely to be Wheatley who saw the most action at the corner spot while Sanders worked the nickel. Fourth round draft pick Jonathan Wilhite will see action in dime coverage.
6. Who will win this game and why will they win it?
Jon Scott: I would have said New England without much reservation had Tom Brady played much during the preseason. After seeing the offensive line struggles through four games, and the lack of playing time for Brady, I'm more concerned about the outcome. If KC can pound the ball, and exploit any rust Brady shows, I think KC has a chance.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned on air this week, I think the Patriots just have too many weapons to contain. I believe the Chiefs will have to resort to the pass, and the Patriots will be able to extend any lead they take in the third quarter to win.
I'm picking New England, not because I'm comfortable with it, but because I think they out match KC at this time. 27 - 17
Jon Scott is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, the New England Patriots affiliate on the Scout.com network. Jon also covers the team for Comcast SportsNet New England. For more insider analysis, be sure to check out other Patriots news on PatriotsInsider.com