What is the biggest area the Patriots need to improve upon as they head into their final two games?
Jason: It's hard to highlight any one area. The pass rush could stand to be a little more consistent. Pass protection could certainly improve. Better play from the cornerbacks would be helpful. But when the Patriots have gone into their few short-lived swoons this season, it seems that the overriding theme has been a lack of focus and discipline. The team will go through stretches, sometimes entire games where they are locked in and look unstoppable. Then they'll go through an entire half in a daze -- defenders getting out of position, receivers dropping catchable passes, offensive linemen missing blocks, corners and safeties blowing coverages. If this team can focus and execute, no opponent can get the better of them. If they aren't hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in two months, it will be because they lost focus.
Raj: You can make the argument that both Ridley and Vereen (more so Ridley) had a terrible game, weather aside. Does that mean they can’t be trusted or need to improve their mechanics? Absolutely not! They’re very talented and just had an off game against the 49ers. What I’ve been seeing as of late as a big concern is the offensive line. The way San Francisco manipulated that Pats O-Line was a crusher for me. Brady was forced to throw two picks (granted, one wasn’t his fault) because the O-Line was getting trampled over. The next two games against Jacksonville and Miami should be wins because neither team really has a chance to win unless the Patriots play every scrub on the team and tells them to play without effort. That being said, I really think these two games will be opportunities for the Patriots to just improve on their mechanics and gameplay. These games will only count toward earning that 3rd seed because I’m convinced Houston and Denver have clinched the 1st and 2nd seeds, respectively. As the Patriots head into the playoffs, I believe they’ll concentrate on fixing that frail O-Line, starting with these final two games.
Derek: As has been the case all season, the secondary needs to continue to improve as the Patriots head downt the stretch. The Pats got torched on too many big plays by Colin Kaepernick on Sunday, and it ulimately did the team in. As many big passing plays as there were in that game, the 49ers still left some points on the field with some overthrows and dropped passes. That's unlikely to happen if the Pats find themselves matched up against Peyton Manning. It's time for the corners and safeties to all get healthy and play their best football in January.