You can bet that we'll be talking about the New England Patriots for much of this week; we've got a little more Pats content for you this afternoon, as we swapped some questions with NEPatriotsDraft.com about the Buffalo Bills' first game of the season.
You can see the Bills-centric interview (complete with my own glowing optimism) right here. James from NEPatriotsDraft.com was kind enough to answer a few of my own questions about his favorite team, which appear - with some thoughts of my own - after the jump. (Warning: some of the territory covered has been charted by Pats Pulpit; more than one take on a specific situation, however, is never a bad thing.)
Rumblings: Is there any possible chance the Pats stumble out of the gate in their home opener, just to give the Bills a chance?
James, NEPatriotsDraft.com: The Patriots have stumbled in openers to the Bills before - who can forget Sam Adams rumbling into the end zone? The only way I see it this year is if T.O. can beat double coverage on a consistent basis.
Since when does an opposing player have anything to do with stumbling? Plus, if Owens is doubled, Lee Evans is going to have a fun time torching Terrence Wheatley all night - particularly if Trent Edwards can get him the ball when he does.
Rumblings: I've heard Tom Brady described as "rusty." How accurate is this?
James, NEPatriotsDraft.com: His shoulder might need some "oil," but other than that, he is at where he usually is. If anything, Joey Galloway is the player that is rusty - he can't seem to learn how to run routes in the Patriots offense.
Honestly, Joey Galloway is one of the very last players on New England's roster that I'm worried about in this game.
Rumblings: How legitimate are the claims that the Pats are switching to a 4-3 defense? Is it a base defense, or more of a wrinkle? How has it looked?
James, NEPatriotsDraft.com: As legitimate as any claim can be about a Belichick defense. I can see the Patriots employing the base 4-3 in quite a few games this year, as our LB corps is pretty thin. Meanwhile, our D-Line has shown that it is very tough to run on in a 4-man front. Pressuring the quarterback out of the 4-3, however, has proven difficult.
That's the strangest part about the Pats' apparent transition to a 4-3 scheme to me - it's being pegged as a move to not only fit personnel, but to increase the pass rush. That makes no sense. It's certainly possible to generate a pass rush out of a 4-3 alignment, but it's much more difficult to disguise things. This has to largely be a personnel matter; nothing else makes much sense.
Rumblings: How concerned are you with the Patriots' completely-revamped (and as I hear it, struggling) secondary?
James, NEPatriotsDraft.com: Shawn Springs needs to be healthy and productive quickly if the Patriots are going to have a good defense in the first half of the season. Darius Butler shows the skills, but you can tell that he doesn't have all the nuances down yet. Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden have shown flashes of greatness, but there are still too many mistakes. Our safeties have played well at times, but Patrick Chung has not proven himself worthy of a second round pick as of yet.
The secondary was a concern last year before Rodney Harrison got hurt (he's now retired), and since then, Ellis Hobbs has been traded. New England's secondary is very young, and veterans like Bodden and Springs are crucial to fielding a competent unit this year. If they falter, New England's young guns will swap between brilliant and mistake-prone. For now, they are talented and vulnerable.
Rumblings: I'd love to hear your predicted order of finish in the AFC East.
James, NEPatriotsdraft.com: I originally predicted the Jets to go 6-10, but Mark Sanchez has looked better than I thought. Miami and New England will both be in the playoff hunt at about 11 or 12 wins. Buffalo and New York will both hover around .500 in my opinion. I would agree with you that all four teams have the ability to make a playoff run if the planets align just so.
3. New York