1. The Patriots have won four straight after starting 2-2. What do you attribute to the turnaround?
Tom Brady. It seems obvious, but he's been the primary reason for this turnaround. After the blowout loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots could have sunk further. Brady's body language and leadership skills had been questionable to start the year. His frustration with his supporting cast was being displayed outwardly. But instead of letting the negativity swallow him, Brady rallied the team. Since Brady's rejuvenation, the team has had better chemistry as a whole. This was a Patriots team that was struggling to find an identity. By rallying around Brady, they were able to gain momentum. Their play is now reflecting the expectations that surrounded this team before the season.
2. Was Pats Nation worried back when the Patriots were 2-2, coming off that big Monday Night Football loss to the Chiefs? (Did you run a "Bench Tom Brady?" poll? If so, what were the results?)
We never ran a bench Brady poll. It was a ridiculous notion to begin with. We had reflected that perhaps this team was not going to be as good as expected, but that there was still plenty of season to go. I do believe the loss tempered the expectations to even the biggest of homers and there were very legitimate worries about this team. At the same time, I think everyone in Pats Nation was shocked at the nationwide shellacking of Brady and Belichick following the game. I mean seriously, it was an awful performance, but it was one game. One game. One regular season game.
3. The Patriots lead the league (and it's not close) with a +11 turnover ratio. Anything in particular you can think of that has led to this big number?
It sounds overly simple: but the Patriots just do a great job protecting the football, and they're trained to be opportunistic on defense. The Patriots preach ball control with their running backs. Tom Brady rarely forces throws, and will often throw the ball away or take a sack to avoid the turnover. He's thrown an interception in one game this year. Defensively, the Patriots are coached to go after the ball. They mix in enough zone and occasional blitzes to confuse quarterbacks into mistakes. Their defensive backs spend a lot of time working on their ball skills. There's not really any one thing that stands out, other than the team being a well coached, hard working bunch that simply "does their job."
4. If the reported swirling winds and bad weather make an impact in the game, do you stick with Tom Brady or test the Patriots' running game against Denver's top-ranked run defense?
The Patriots opened some huge holes for Jonas Gray against the Bears on Sunday. But that was the Bears, and the Broncos figure to be a much more difficult test for the Patriots' offensive line. That being said, despite the wind, I see the Patriots staying pretty pass heavy Sunday afternoon. Tom Brady throws a fast ball like few others in this league, and because of his throwing style, he won't be affected as much by these seemingly adverse conditions.
5. What are your predictions for Sunday's game, and how do you see the AFC playoff picture sorting itself out?
Originally, I had the Broncos winning this game. But since the Patriots are home underdogs, I now expect them to win. If that makes any sense. It doesn't, but I'm going with it anyway. So I'll say Patriots 34-31 in a classic shootout (in spite of the weather). Ultimately, even if the Patriots do win on Sunday, I think they'll still end up with the #2 seed with the Broncos taking the #1. Patriots have an incredibly difficult stretch coming up, and it's hard to envision them coming away from it without at least one or two losses.
It's always interesting to hear the loyal fanbase's take on a national controversy like Brady's status, post-MNF a month ago. Thanks again to Greg for taking the time!