Just days after the Patriots laid an “ass whipping” — Andre Johnson‘s words, not mine — on the AFC-leading Texans, the Pats are now tasked with the misfortune of hosting yet another Super Bowl contender.
Even in a week that featured “Tom Brady Day,” the Patriots and their leader have a tall order at hand as the 49ers come to town looking to stake their own claim as the NFC’s preeminent team.
With them comes one of, if not the best, defenses in football, led by a front seven featuring Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and NFL sacks leader Aldon Smith. But Tom Brady‘s is well aware of San Francisco’s defensive prowess, even admitting to preparing for the 49ers since as early as Thanksgiving.
Sunday’s game in Foxboro should prove to be far more competitive than Monday’s blowout, at least NFL fans hope that’s the case after last week’s overhyped letdown. New 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is focused on ensuring a close game, and his elite skill set should at least challenge the Patriots secondary, especially if they are missing some key pieces as the practice report has alluded to.
But coming off such a massive win on Monday night, and headed into another mammoth showdown on Sunday, there was plenty of intrigue and concern from Patriots nation. Not to worry, that’s what the mailbag is here for.
So, let’s take a dive into some of the burning questions you sent in this week and get set for another big game this weekend.
What’s the status on Aqib Talib for this weekend?
— via Twiter/@Oh_Fourosix
Considering Kaepernick’s precision and weapons like Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree lurking about, Talib’s presence will be even more important this weekend.
After a few subpar performances to start his Patriots career, Talib finally seemed to figure things out against Andre Johnson and the Texans on Monday. But midway through the third quarter, Talib suffered a hip injury that saw him finish the game as a spectator on the sidelines. He described the injury as “day-to-day” on Thursday, and seems committed to getting healthy and back on the field by Sunday night.
I’d say he should be a go come game time, barring any unexpected setbacks. So, look out for that Talib-Moss matchup which should draw plenty of attention from Kaepernick and the refs, too.
Does Vince Wilfork have a legitimate chance at winning Defensive Player of the Year?
— Kris Kauffman, Westbrook, Maine
I’m glad you asked, Kris. I was so impressed on Monday night that I actually wrote why Wilfork deserves the Defensive Player of the Year award. The stats may not say much about him, but then again his impact far exceeds what numbers can quantify.
Throughout that blowout of the Texans, all I saw was Wilfork dominating the line of scrimmage. The Texans actually tried to double-team Wilfork in the second half, but his power and strength have been near unstoppable this season.
Now, because of his disadvantage as a defensive tackle and without the statistics to support him, I don’t see Wilfork getting too many DPoY votes. So, to answer your question, no, I don’t think he has a fair chance to win the award. But I definitely believe he’s deserving of it.
I recently read that the Pats and Brian Waters had come close to an agreement for his return to the team. But, because they never did reach that agreement, he is no longer able to join the team this year. Why is it teams can still pick up unsigned players (i.e Donte Stallworth, Plaxico Burress, etc), but not a player who had held out? What is the league’s logic in any such rule?
— Ken, Rehoboth, Mass.
You got it right, Ken. The Patriots did have a deal in place with Waters, but the two sides were unable to figure things out before this year’s Nov. 30 deadline — more information here.
When Waters didn’t report to the team during the preseason, the Patriots placed him on the reserve/did not report list. If Waters was a free agent, he could still sign with the Patriots, or any other team for that matter, at any point in the season, like you suggest with Stallworth and Burress. But because Waters was under contract with the Patriots and listed on the reserve list, he only had until before Week 13 to return.
It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t work something out to get back before the deadline, especially given how beat up the offensive line has been with lingering injuries to Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly. But the Patriots have done a tremendous job of filling those voids, and there’s no point in playing the “what if” game now as they’re stuck with what they’ve got.