Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/26/12
"London calling at the top of the dial, an' after all this, won't you give me a smile?" That line from the Clash's 1979 hit "London Calling," which you'll likely hear an inordinate amount until kickoff on Sunday, might have best summed up Patriots fans' feelings heading into this weekend's showdown just across the pond. A few early season letdowns and the Patriots seeming inability to close games late had people wondering what happened to Tom Brady's "killer instinct." Well, fact is, Brady might have been right in saying that New England fans were spoiled by all of the early success. New England's been in every game they've played this season, losing three games by a combined four points, yet suddenly people are hiding their kids, wives and husbands from this terrible tragedy. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, people. This is still a team that's made the playoffs in eight of the past 10 seasons and appeared in five Super Bowls, winning three, over that span. And that's what made last week's nail-biting victory down at Gillette Stadium even more enjoyable. After suffering through dozens of mailbag letters, tweets and Facebook posts about how the Patriots were going to rout the Jets last week, the 29-26 overtime win finally returned some -- and only some -- Patriots fans back to reality and sanity. Don't worry, though, the last time the Patriots were in London the result was a 35-7 romping of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So, sit back, relax and, as the song says, find a reason to smile.  But in the meantime, it's mail time. So, let's answer some of your questions. Do you think the Pats Offense isn't as good as people are saying and perhaps have lost that dominant touch? Any Concerns?--Bryan Sullivan Twitter/@MRBoston15 While the Patriots have definitely underachieved with a 4-3 record at this point, the offense is still tearing up the field at an absurd pace. When considering this year's offense is on another historic pace, scoring a league-best 31 points and passing for more than 285 yards per game, I'd say there's not much to worry about. But let's compare this year's offense against that of 2007, just for fun. In what might be surprising to some, this year's team is actually outperforming the epic 16-0 team in most categories. Brady has the Patriots averaging 436.1 yard per game this year, which is 25 yards more than the 411.3 averaged in '07. With Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and now Shane Vereen in the backfield, this team's rushing game, which ranks fourth in the NFL, is also outgaining the 2007 team by an average of more than 34 yards per game (149-115). I definitely understand the concerns about the offense, especially in the red zone and in their ability to finish off games. But with the talent level on this team and the pace they're currently playing at, I find it hard to be all that nervous. They'll eventually find their rhythm in the red zone and will rediscover how to close games in the fourth quarter. So, put down the panic button and just have faith in the hoodie. How much of an impact do you think [Visanthe] Shiancoe will make in the 2nd half of the season if he is healthy?--AC via Twitter/@Artty1478 I touched on Shiancoe earlier in the week, after he made his return to the practice field. He's probably still two weeks away from even being ready to play, but that's where the Patriots bye week does come in handy. With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and even Daniel Fells already making big contributions at the tight end position, I see Shiancoe as more of a depth option than anything. He might play the platoon receiver role that we saw Kellen Winslow fill in at, albeit briefly. Shiancoe is a talented receiver, a decent blocking tight end and should add some depth at tight end beyond Michael Hoomanuanawicould. But his most important contribution could be filling in to provide valuable rest for Gronk and Hernandez as they recover from lingering injuries. What can we do with our personnel perhaps with free agents or trade to improve this secondary?--Tommy via Twitter/@MrTIcGamer Tommy, you and about 30 other people have asked this question, and with plenty of validity. The problem isn't necessarily the personnel. The Patriots have a good group of talented defensive backs. Maybe there's no Ed Reed or Darrelle Revis back there, but there are definitely some suitable players in that secondary. I don't see anyone on the free-agent market or even on the trading block that could be of great help right now, nor that Bill Belichick would be willing to bring anyone in barring an injury. The answer probably lies within the current roster. Devin McCourty looked good at safety over the weekend, and paired with Patrick Chung would make an interesting tandem in the deep part of the defense. Meanwhile, Alfonzo Dennard has looked good, for a rookie at least, on the outside and would be a suitable corner alongside either Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore or even, gasp, Ras-I Dowling when healthy. Obviously, this isn't the most appealing or sexy answer, but it's probably what you're stuck with this season. There is a good amount of talent, even if raw, back there and we'll have to see if some subtle changes in role/position (e.g: McCourty) will have the necessary impact. Hello, what I'd like to know from you is: do you think that the NFL is going to host a NFL Game in Germany one time. Thanks for answering.--Max, Königsbrunn, Germany In honor of this week's game over in London, England -- if you weren't already aware -- I figured it was only appropriate to entertain the idea. Given the NFL's clear determination to make football, not futbol, a more international sport, I wouldn't be surprised to see some expansion beyond London at some point. Right now, the league is merely trying to build a market and some sort of fan base in England. So, I wouldn't expect any games in Germany, or any other European cities, for a few years. Five or 10 years from now, this could be more of a reality, though. The brand and excitement around the game is continually expanding and given the existence of a football base in some German cities -- Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Rhein -- already, thanks to NFL Europe, it would make more sense to expand out to these areas next. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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