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Cowboys vs. Patriots: 5 Questions with Pats Pulpit

I exchanged 5 Questions with Pats Pulpit, SB Nation’s New England Patriots blog. Below you can find Tommasse's answers, he is the man behind the blog and you can find my answers to his questions, here.

Also I did a short segment with the Bleacher Bloggers about the upcoming game, it was more of a fun fan fight, called a blogger battle, rather than analysis, but I enjoyed it.

Here’s the 5 Questions:

Blogging The Boys: The Patriots have been machine-like in their vanquishing of opponents this year. Is this the best roster they've had since they started winning Super Bowls?

Pats Pulpit: On paper, I don't think there's any question. Until this season, New England never - Super Bowl seasons or otherwise - had a receiving corps like the current one. The Patriots also have two excellent running backs, plus a great "third-down" back and a solid fullback. The tight ends are good. The offensive line as a unit is as good as ever.

The defensive front seven is one of the great groups currently in the league, and may challenge some of the all-time great defenses. The "weak spot" is the defensive secondary, and they're not too shabby.

Beyond that surface analysis, New England is deep at a lot of those positions. That defensive front has been dominant without Richard Seymour. The secondary has been sufficient without Rodney Harrison. Sammy Morris has stepped in for Laurence Maroney with a pair of 100-yard games. The offensive line has sustained missing starters well.

That all brings up another point. The Redskins had a great roster in Dan Snyder's early ownership days. A great roster guarantees nothing. So far, New England's players have shown a great propensity to play as units and as a team. Time will tell if that trend continues.

BTB: Give us the status on Laurence Maroney and any other injuries that might be significant for the game.

PP: Ya, right. Your guess is as good as mine. You have a better chance of walking out of Los Alamos Labs with nuclear materian than you have of determining Patriots players' injury status. You get what's on the injury report.

Maroney remains listed as "limited participation in practice" (comparable to "questionable") with a groin strain of some kind. That was his status for both the Cincinnati and Cleveland games, which he missed. Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Maroney was "moving well" on passing routes in practice, but admitted that that's no indication of his game readiness.

Otherwise, Adalius Thomas and Asante Samuel, both of whom sustained injuries against Cleveland but returned to the game, have both been listed as limited in practice. Center Dan Koppen remains listed as limited, and he sat out the Browns game. Most of the 11 players listed on New England's injury report will play -- they'd have to, you have only 53 active players -- but a lot of them won't be 100 percent.

BTB: Your schedule has been pretty easy so far, any chance the Pats are just fattening up on weak opponents and not as good as we all think they are?

PP: Well, San Diego wasn't considered weak until the Patriots annihilated them, and after the Chargers destroyed Denver last week, they might not be considered weak for long. Cincinnati was expected to challenge for a playoff spot. They have no defense, but their offense is still one of the tops in the league. And, as far as I remember, Buffalo, despite their record, gave Dallas a pretty good run recently.

New England certainly hasn't been challenged, but whether that's because of the quality of the opponents or because they're that good, we'll know in three months or so. As I said earlier, their roster might be the best they've ever had, and most everyone in the country expected them to be very good this year. So to say that they're 5-0 because of a weak schedule, I think, is pretty short-sighted and naive.

Does that mean they'll go 16-0? No. Does that mean if they win Sunday that they're definitely that good or if they lose that they're not? No. Having watched the first five games, I think they're that good.

BTB: What would you say is the Patriots weakness, how would you attack them as an opposing team?

PP: From the opposing offense's perspective, the Patriots secondary remains the weak link. They're opportunistic, but they're not the best cover secondary, and they've had problems tackling the last couple years. I'd throw short to the sidelines - possession-style passes - and wait for other areas to open up. The Patriots will give the short routes to prevent the big play, so I would try to beat New England at their game - take what they give you, and choose your spots.

Dallas will need to run the ball effectively, but "establishing the run" out of the gate might not be the best plan. Softening up the line with those short sideline routes will open up some running lanes. Even then, this is a tough defense to run on, and finding those holes will be a challenge.

From the opponent's defensive perspective, I would do whatever possible to jam receivers at the line. I'm not convinced blitzing is the best approach. Apply as much pressure with four or five and play coverage. The Patriots have run several end-arounds with receivers and tight ends, so take that into consideration on your run defense. You can allow Maroney or Morris 100 yards and win the game. The Patriots are most dangerous through the air, and I'd focus on coverage.

Brady has been able to pick apart zone and man coverage, but Cleveland (from what I could see in the broadcast) had pretty good success with doubling Randy Moss and playing zone elsewhere.

BTB: What's their game plan for playing Dallas? Will they change anything they've been doing in the first five games?

PP: The thing about New England is they change what they do from game-to-game. They take what you give them, and they adjust. Like New England, Dallas's weak link is the secondary, so I expect the Patriots to come out passing, and I think they'll play the possession game early. A lot will depend on whether Maroney plays so they don't have to rely on one primary running back. If Maroney plays, he and Morris will be able to give each other significant rest, and that will affect New England's approach to the running game.

That passing game will be complex though. I think part of Bill Belichick's early-season plan was to show how many different ways the Patriots can attack, so it's more difficult for a defense to game plan. New England will come out in constantly varied sets, and the receivers will line up everywhere in an attempt to keep the defense off balance. With a couple offensive line injuries, they Patriots haven't used the "jumbo" set (a lineman lining up at tight end) they successfully employed early in the season. If the line is healthy, you might see that again.

Defensively, I'm torn. Belichick could try to hold back a few surprises in case the Patriots and Cowboys meet this winter. That's a bit of a long-shot in itself, so I think it's more likely that since this is Tony Romo's first experience against a Belichick defense that Romo will see almost everything in the bag of tricks: a lot of movement, feigned blitzes, blitzes from different positions, linebackers pressuring, linebackers dropping into coverage. Otherwise, I think New England will keep tight on Terrell Owens and try to limit the Cowboys success rushing the ball.

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