Nov 11, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) and the offense line up against the New England Patriots defense during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Bills 37-31. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalowdown and Musket Fire, FanSided’s New England Patriots site, collaborated together and put together a question and answer session for the offseason with training camp just around the corner.
Here are both of the question and answer sessions for your viewing pleasure.
The first set of questions that I posed to Connor Fulton, editor of Musket Fire.
"With all of the news surrounding ‘deflategate’ and Tom Brady’s suspension, what do you think the outcome will be and by what time will it be decided? Will it head to trial?"
Judging by the fact that Greg Hardy’s suspension for domestic violence was bumped down from 10 games to four games, one has to think that Brady’s suspension for possibly, maybe being “at least generally aware” of ball deflation occurring will be reduced as well. The smart money is on a two-game suspension, which would essentially be a slap on the wrist for whatever monkey business may or may not have occurred on that windy January night. As for when it well be decided, that is anyone’s guess; the wheels of productivity in the league office churn very slowly. If the suspension stays at four games, there is no doubt that Brady will take this thing to court, as he wants to have his name cleared.
Who has been the biggest addition and loss for the Patriots this offseason, that could affect their season in either direction.
The biggest loss was definitely Darrelle Revis, as having him in the secondary allowed the Patriots to do things on defense that they wouldn’t normally do (like blitz a bunch). However, I see the Patriots brushing that off pretty easily, as this team is built to survive personnel turnover. I loved seeing Jabaal Sheard join the team during free agency, as it marks a clear response to the depletion of the secondary. The Patriots’ defensive strength in 2015 will be the front seven, as Sheard joins Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones at defensive end. Patriots Nation hopes that an improved front seven and pass rush will mask the deficiencies in the secondary.
Are the Patriots set up to take another AFC East Division Title or will this be the year that they are taken down from their throne?
I have a hard time imagining the Patriots loosening their chokehold on the AFC East. It’s easy to say that they won’t be as good this year without Revis, but people fail to realize that the offense has remained largely intact, and the defense is led by one of the league’s best safeties in Devin McCourty and two of the top linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins. However, I will say that the Bills present the greatest threat to the Patriots in the AFC East. If anyone is going to take down the Pats, it will be Rex Ryan, Matt Cassel and LeSean McCoy.
With former Buffalo TE Scott Chandler heading over to the Patriots, what type of role do you see him having with Gronkowski alongside him? Is there a possibility that he lights up the Bills twice this year?
Let me be perfectly blunt: I dreaded Bills-Pats games in recent years because of Chandler, as he always found a way to have his best games against the Patriots. Now that he’s in New England, I see him being a beneficiary of the attention opposing defenses pay toward Gronk. I think Chandler will make hay in the red zone, using that 6-foot-7 frame to take advantage of mismatches in coverage. A stat line of 40 receptions, 500 yards and seven touchdowns is a good goal for Chandler; that production would fill the void left by Tim Wright. Now, the Bills know Chandler better than anyone, so I don’t think he’ll light up the Bills in both regular season games, but he’ll definitely have some success playing against his old teammates.
Will Malcom Brown be able to fill those big shoes of Vince Wilfork in the middle of the D-Line this year or will there be a year or two before we see any dominance?
While I do not rule out the possibility of Brown making a significant impact as a rookie, I think it’s much more likely that Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch will be the main guys on the interior of the defensive line this season. Both of those veterans are very underrated, so it will be difficult for the rookie to carve out a big role for himself right away. However, I think the future of the Patriots’ defensive line is in the hands of Brown and 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley.
Give your best- and worst-case scenario predictions for the Patriots in 2015.
The best-case scenario is simple: a 13-3 regular season followed by a flawless playoff run en route to another Super Bowl victory. Bradley Fletcher, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan stop the bleeding in the secondary after the Great Cornerback Exodus of 2015, the front seven ranks in the top five in the entire league, and Brady silences critics clamoring for his retirement with an MVP-caliber season.
The worst-case scenario is a 9-7 season in which the Patriots struggle out of the gate and fail to have a winning record against AFC East opponents (mainly, the Bills). Brady begins to look his age, the cornerbacks struggle mightily, and a slew of injuries to major contributors on offense expose the Patriots’ shallow talent pool at wide receiver. It won’t be clear if the Patriots make the playoffs until Week 17, when they get some help and squeak into the playoffs as the sixth seed.
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