Again, we here at Fansided.com have the luxury of having access to fans that follow and write about their teams on a daily basis. Today we visit with Jamie Pacheco of MusketFire.com as he answers some burning questions about the Patriots prior to this weeks Super Bowl.
1. How will the injury to “The Gronk” affect your game plan and who will need to step up in his abscence if he cannot go?
Only the Patriots know the true extent of Gronk’s injury. If he can’t go, the offense they’ve run all year – two tight ends – can’t work and simply isn’t possible. The Pats do not have a backup TE who can do what Gronk does as a blocker and a pass catcher. They could go with more 3 WR sets or could use Nate Solder as a blocking TE on the line and maybe run more power sets. My feeling is Gronk plays and Solder is brought in as a blocking TE when needed to spell Gronk. Even if Gronk isn’t 100%, his presence demands the defense’s attention and if they take their eyes off him, watch out. I don’t think much will change though I do anticipate some more running and more screens than we’ve seen from the Pats this year.
2. Tom Brady has carried this team all year, however your defense has looked better as of late. What has been the difference in the defense this year and lately?
The defense has actually been much better at getting to the QB than last season, though the passing stats don’t reflect that extra pressure. Vince Wilfork has said all season that there have just been little miscommunications here and there and players being out of place, but that they would “get it” eventually. It could very well be that they are “getting it” now. Another factor that can’t be ignored is that Wilfork is playing some of the best football of his career this season and especially the last two playoff games.
3. Who’s bigger in Boston, Sox, Celts, Bruins, or Pats?
That’s a tough question. I don’t think that anyone can ever wrestle the Red Sox from the top spot in Boston, though the Patriots are close. Due to the Bruins recent success and the Celtics’ lack of success, they may have leapfrogged the Celts right now.
4. What is the state of your offensive line currently and who might be the weak link?
The offensive line is a strong unit and they did a pretty good job keeping Tom Brady clean against Baltimore in the AFC Championship game. Sebastian Vollmer is likely to play Sunday but he hasn’t suited up in several weeks, so he could be the weak link until he gets his “game legs” back under him. Dan Connolly at center is probably the weakest individual player but he has interior help from Logan Mankins and Brian Waters. Waters has been the team’s most consistent lineman all year and has been a pleasant surprise, especially considering he wasn’t signed until after camp.
5. Predictions on how the game will evolve?
I think the Patriots will actually start slower in this game than normal. I think that they were really onto something when they had BenJarvus Green-Ellis running the ball against Baltimore, who were focused on getting to Brady. My guess is some more running plays, namely draws and straight ahead power runs, to catch the Giants sleeping and try to wear them out as the game progresses. Bill Belichick has emphasized conditioning in practice, and I think that will play a large factor towards the end of the game. Belichick turned the heat up in the Pats’ practice bubble to simulate conditions in the dome. Which team is best conditioned to win in the fourth quarter will determine what I feel will be a tight game.