Tom Brady, Patriots Offense Rolling, But Will Have Work Cut Out Against Seattle


Tom Brady, Patriots Offense Rolling, But Will Have Work Cut Out Against SeattleFollowing a week in which we saw
the Colts take down the mighty Packers and Chiefs fans embarrass themselves
with cheers for an injured Matt Cassell, I'd say this NFL season has officially
shifted into high gear.

Andrew Luck has now staked his claim atop the rookie crop, unseating the concussed Robert Griffin III from
his place on the mountain top. Tom Brady is breathing easier as the development
of a legitimate running game under the guise of Stevan Ridley has energized an
up-tempo attack in New England. And Michael Vick just continues to enrage
Philadelphia fans with his butterfingers around the goal line.

Luckily for all you frustrated
football fans, there's another week of NFL action on the horizon and hope for a
better outcome this time around. Brady Quinn will renew his quest to be a
starting quarterback as Kansas City heads to Tampa Bay, and the 49ers will
welcome Eli Manning and the Giants to town for an NFC Championship rematch.

There are so many storylines to
cover and so little time to prepare, but in the meantime why don't we hop into
the old mailbag and answer some of your burning questions.

Here goes nothing.

we see a good old fashion Patriots blowout by 42-plus points on Sunday? Or just
an average blowout of 21-plus?
–Bob MacCune via Twitter

Wow, talk about confidence. I know the Patriots are playing
Seattle on Sunday, but this isn't your father's Seattle Seahawks — more of an
expression than reality.

Pete Carroll has this team believing in his ways, and with a
secondary that features some of the biggest defensive backs — maybe ever — I
wouldn't let expectations get too high. While this team is marred by the
controversial win against Green Bay, they still boast the NFL's best
defense.  With
a dangerous running back in Marshawn Lynch carrying the load and an impressive
young rookie in Russell Wilson calling the shots, the offense isn't half bad

This will be a classic battle of
offense versus defense. I'd actually be surprised if the Patriots score
much more than 21 points against Seattle this week. Sure, this offense is
flying high and running on all cylinders — let's see how many more clichés I
can use — but this Seahawks defense is no joke.

With Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor, both 6-foot-4
defensive backs and 2011 Pro Bowlers, leading the secondary along with Chris
and Bruce Irving rushing off the edge, I'd be worried how effective Brady can be. Meanwhile, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner lead a strong group up
front that ranks third in rushing defense. So, Ridley and the ground
game should struggle too.

That being said, if the Patriots' no-huddle attack can run these defenders ragged then this one could get out of
hand by the fourth quarter. But that's a big "if."

the Vikings for real?
–Ben Wagner via Facebook

After that win against San Francisco a few weeks ago, these
Vikings definitely caught my attention. Now, at 4-1 and with Adrian Peterson
running almost as well as ever, I'd say these guys could easily be the surprise
of the season.

This Minnesota defense is one of the most impressive I've
seen at this point in the season, comparable to only Seattle, Chicago and San
Francisco maybe. But even with the improved defensive unit, the question still
remains whether Christian Ponder is capable of maintaining this strong play
throughout the season. Just a wild guess, but he probably won't continue
completing 69 percent of his passes, but if he can keep a similar ratio to his
current six touchdowns and two interceptions then the Vikes should be in good
shape. But there's always the issue of the schedule.

The Vikings don't have the most difficult schedule ahead of
their bye week, paying the Redskins a visit this week and then welcoming Arizona
and Tampa Bay to the Metrodome before a trip to Seattle and a visit from the
Lions. But even if they come out of that stretch with four wins, the rest of
their schedule could be troublesome. Four of the Vikings' final six games are
against the Packers and Bears — still my favorites to win the NFC North — as
well as trips to Houston and St. Louis.

All in all, this Vikings team is going to end up a lot
better off than expected at season's start, maybe even find their way into the
playoffs. But without an elite quarterback on their roster, I couldn't see them
doing much more than a Wild Card berth or a divisional round appearance.

chance you see the Saints making a run at the wild card?
–Adam Cordeiro via Twitter @ACordeiro7

Speaking of the playoffs, how about them Saints?

After a very strong win in San Diego last Sunday,
there should be some encouraging thoughts in terms of the rest of the
season. Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas'
age-old record with what turned into yet another flurry of touchdown passes,
and the running game even started to find its legs a bit during the second

There's definitely a run in these guys, and they're
definitely not as bad as their record shows. But is it too late?

I expect the Saints to make it interesting and even finish
the season at or right above .500, but after an 0-4 start it would just be
unreasonable to expect a postseason appearance — barring some type of miracle.
This New Orleans defense couldn't stop a Tonka truck with a brick wall, and
that might be generous. Even with Joe Vitt back in the mix as head coach soon
enough, I highly doubt they'll go 10-1 or 9-2 the rest of the way.

obviously haven't been eliminated from the postseason chase yet, but I wouldn't
go betting my house on their chances.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via
Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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