Join my chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.
Q. Big road test coming up with the Colts, do you see any similarities between a high-flying Indy offense and the explosive Broncos offense? If the Patriots shut down one, do you think they can do it again with the Colts? -- Will (North Carolina)
A. Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but Andrew Luck brings more to the table right now. Pre-snap and post-snap, Manning's intelligence is very difficult to beat. As the play is in progress, Luck gives a defense more to deal with. That extra something is the ability to scramble. This is a big, strong kid who is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league, and one of the smartest running quarterbacks in the league. If you're in a third-and-4 situation and you have everyone covered, the odds that Manning keeps the ball and goes down when pressure is in his face are high. Andrew Luck doesn't have that. He will fight to stay alive and scramble for 5 yards to extend a drive. That's an extra element coming from a QB who does have similar traits as a passer as Manning.
Now let's take it easy here -- I'm not saying Luck is Manning. But his style can give just as many headaches for a defense.
Q. Do you expect the Patriots' secondary to stop the Colts' offense? -- Rob
A. This is why I love the New England secondary, because it includes two players who are completely different talents and body types in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The Colts' main receiving threats are Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, although they do like rookie Donte Moncrief as well (just not in the same class as Hilton and Wayne at this point). Hilton is one of the fastest in the game. Wayne isn't a burner anymore, but he's one of the most savvy. I think the matchups favor the Patriots; it's just which one do you want on which receiver? I don't think either can keep up with Hilton, but with a safety over the top they can be physical at the line of scrimmage. I think this secondary is deep -- as Mike Reiss said in his post last Thursday -- and there isn't a receiving corps they won't have success against.
Q. What do you see the Pats' biggest challenge against the Colts this week besides the obvious, Andrew Luck? -- CB (Murray, Utah)
A. I like this question, and I like this question because I'm going to give you a different answer than you might expect. It's running back Ahmad Bradshaw. I know Hilton is a threat with his speed. I know Wayne is so savvy and Dwayne Allen is a tight end to be concerned with. On defense, Bjoern Werner -- their first-round pick from 2013 -- is starting to show up more. They have two inside linebackers I like in D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman. The secondary hasn't been bad either. But this Bradshaw kid has heart and is one of the toughest runners out there today. He's not easy to tackle. He's been a great receiver for this team out of the backfield. He's an easy player to overlook, but he's one of their biggest threats.
Q. Tedy, the Colts really scare me. If the Pats can go to Indy and when there, it may be more impressive than beating the Broncos at home. Thoughts? -- Michael (New York City)
A. I understand what you're saying, Michael, but man that was an impressive win over the Broncos. It wasn't too competitive -- 43-21. I think this game will give you a gauge in the sense that, if the Patriots have to play a playoff game on the road, this is what it will be like. That atmosphere Sunday night, with all the fans looking to see if Andrew Luck can get that first victory over the Patriots, I will be impressed if the Patriots can win. But I was there Sunday against the Broncos, and that was something else.
Q. Hi Tedy, wondering what you think of the run defense going forward into the bad weather half of the schedule? Specifically, if getting Sealver Siliga back with the incorporation of Alan Branch will help Vince Wilfork shore up the run game? -- Bill (Middletown, Rhode Island)
A. The lack of depth at defensive line and linebacker gives one justification to worry about the run game, particularly if teams want to line up with two backs and run it at you. To your point, Bill, I'm looking at the schedule and wondering, "Which team will do that?" The Colts don't play that type of style; they don't even have a pure fullback on the roster and aren't a huge two-back run team. The Lions spread you out. The Packers don't really run it, even with a big back like Eddie Lacy. Maybe the Dolphins and Jets, but the question is this: Can they run it in a way that really affects the game? I'm not sure that weakness can be exploited by any of the Patriots' opponents.
Q. The Patriots in the past two weeks have almost put up 100 points while holding the opposing team to less than 40 points combined. Does this Patriots team remind you of the teams back when the Patriots won their three Super Bowls? -- Ryan
A. The offense is more complex. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is a player that our championship teams never had. But being there Sunday against the Broncos, watching that defense play and feeling the energy in the stadium, that reminded me of past championship defenses.
Q. Hey Tedy, with a very tough schedule coming up -- at Colts, versus Lions, at Packers, at Chargers -- how do you see this Patriots team performing and what do you predict their win-loss record will be coming out of this stretch? -- Ryan (Connecticut)
A. This is what I'll say, Ryan. This is the NFL and did anyone think the Jets could beat the Steelers? So the Patriots could go 4-0. The Patriots could also go 0-4.
Q. Tedy, first let me say it think you exemplified what a Patriot player should be on and off the field. I understand that power rankings are very subjective. However, looking at the schedule Arizona has had, wouldn't it be fair to say that the Patriots should be ranked as the top team? -- Tim (Sarasota, Florida)
A. I think the Cardinals deserve credit for what they've done from a record standpoint. But after losing their starting quarterback to injury, they have to be thought of as a lesser team. The Broncos are a solid team too. But New England has to be considered the best team in the league right now.
Q. Hey Tedy, I love what Dont'a Hightower brings to the defense. I know a tough and loyal guy like you will probably disagree but I think it's an upgrade from Jerod Mayo. (No disrespect meant toward Mayo, I love him.) Thoughts? -- Patrick (Keene, New Hampshire)
A. OK Patrick, you're right: I do disagree. This defense is 10 times better with Jerod Mayo. I think you didn't see it against the Broncos because they were in sub packages the entire game. When you start playing teams that might challenge you out of regular personnel -- which is when you need three linebackers -- maybe then you will see the difference. In terms of intelligence, experience and instincts, Hightower still has a ways to go to get to a Mayo-type level.
Q. Hey Tedy, can you share why you use sacks in your defensive index, instead of hits or pressures? -- Bill (Washington, D.C.)
A. First of all, thanks for noticing my defensive index. I appreciate that! Sometimes pressure doesn't get the job done. A quarterback can be under pressure and still complete a pass. A quarterback can be forced out of the pocket and scramble for a first down, which he did because he was under pressure. Sacks finish the job. In today's NFL, I added sacks because when you're going up against quarterbacks in a league that is so pass heavy, the sack has become a vital stat defensively.
Bill, I'll be sure to have Mike Reiss post my defensive index on Tuesday -- just for you. I know I didn't post it last week, but New England was at No. 12.
Q. Was wondering whether you see changes in the offseason regarding the way games are officiated. I am all for keeping the game clean and I do think that in the past there was an awful lot of interference on pass plays, but the way games are being called now, it is just ridiculous. A defensive back can't even put his hands on a receiver without being called. There has to be a happy medium, no? -- Matt (Central Florida)
A. I agree, Matt, 100 percent. It's becoming habitual now for a defensive player to make a good play, and before he starts celebrating, he looks to the official to see if there will be a flag. On the other side of the ball, the offensive player usually looks to the official too. I think that reflects how they've affected the way players view their performance -- it's all about the interpretation by the official. I will say this: The one positive aspect of this is that it seems like they're emphasizing offensive pass interference. I've seen more of those this year than ever before. That's good to see, but looking at it from the fan's perspective, it does slow down the game and it can give you reason to pause on that celebration, waiting to see if a flag is thrown on every play.
Q. Any chance we get Mayo back for the playoffs or is he out for the year? And what is your prediction on where the Pats end up in the AFC standings? I sure hope we get first place and home field advantage! Finally, sad that Mike Vrabel got his three Super Bowl rings stolen. -- Doug (Vancouver)
A. OK Doug, you have a lot going on here. There is no chance Mayo comes back for the playoffs. He's out for the year. My prediction is that the Patriots will win the AFC East and get a first-round playoff bye. Yes, it is sad on Vrabel. Glad I own a very strong safe.
Q. Any chance Randy Moss returns to the Patriots? He said a few days ago he is interested in a comeback. He catches Brady's spirals like magic. Sweet stuff. -- Suluuq (Kotzebue, Alaska)
A. As they say on ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown," Come on, man!
Q. Tedy, different type of question but how was it coming out of college and trying to adjust to the physicality of the NFL? I imagine you were stronger in your late 20s than early 20s, but coming out of college you were a kid trying to tackle Jerome Bettis! That must be somewhat intimidating just due to the difference in strength. -- Mike (Providence, Rhode Island)
A. You are absolutely right, Mike. It was a shock to the system. I was a 23-year-old kid trying to cover Ben Coates. I put my hands on him during coverage and he said, "You touch me again, I'll break your arm!" During Week 10 of the NFL season, after four weeks of the preseason and training camp, I was thinking to myself, "Man, we still have six weeks to go." The strength is something you have to be ready for, in addition to the length of the season.
Q. Tedy, does it ever happen that Bill Belichick addresses his team and talks about the playoff implications that a game like Indy could have going further on. I mean, how does the coaching staff approach this kind of a week? Any differences compare to the other games? -- Gagan (Boston)
A. Gagan, please see the answer to Suluuq's question. LOL.
Q. Hello Tedy! Big fan here! In your eyes what is the main thing the Patriots must do Sunday to have a great game? -- Jake (San Antonio)
A. If I pointed to one statistic, it would be to win the turnover battle. The Patriots are plus-12 on the season (18 takeaways, 6 giveaways), which ranks them first in the NFL. That's where you want to be.
Q. Tedy, should we see more hurry-up, and two-tight end sets against the Colts? Tom Brady seems to thrive with the two-TE sets, and Tim Wright/Gronk combo seems to be a good fit. -- Eric (Ocean Springs, Mississippi)
A. I'd be careful doing the hurry-up on the road. With the crowd noise, it could be cause for some miscommunication out there. I do like the hurry-up run game when they rush up to the line of scrimmage after a successful play and Brady might give a one-word indicator that means run to the left or run to the right. I'm OK keeping that element. But to come out and run hurry-up in a hostile environment over the course of the game, that's something I wouldn't endorse.
Q. How do you think the coaching staff views Browner's style of play and all that comes with it? I know penalties have been an issue for this team and that there is very little tolerance for taking unnecessary penalties. In your experience, are coaches willing to give guys like Browner a longer leash? Or will there be a concerted effort to make adjustments? -- Bob (Washington, D.C.)
A. Bob, making adjustments is tops on the list in terms of New England Patriots vocabulary. They won't let a problem persist if they feel it can be adjusted. As you're seeing throughout the league, players are learning to still put their hands on receivers, using it as an aid without getting penalized. I thought Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals, who may be the best cornerback in the NFL, did that very well against Dez Bryant a few weeks ago. The best players will adjust and still be effective.