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Patriot Maven Mailbag (Part I): Winter Weather, Jackson vs. Diggs, Regarding Harry

Patriot Maven tackles various issues, such as the Pats’ strategy against the Buffalo Bills and the team’s potential game plan for a much-maligned wide receiver in this weekend’s question-and-answer session with fans

Patriot Maven tackles various issues, such as the Pats’ strategy against the Buffalo Bills and the team’s potential game plan for a much-maligned wide receiver in this weekend’s question-and-answer session with fans.

The New England Patriots have arrived in Western New York for a Monday night date with quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Monday’s Week Thirteen matchup will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York at 8:15pm ET. This pivotal contest between two divisional rivals has the potential to be a deciding factor in the race for not only the AFC East title, but also the top spot in the Conference.

This weekend, Patriot Maven opened up our mailbag to answer your Patriots questions. Here are some of the week’s best questions for #MavenMike:

Q: Hi Mike. If bad weather is a factor, which team benefits the most?

From: Joel From Hull (@joelshapiro20)

Hi Joel. Winters in western New York can often be rough. While Monday night’s forecast is far from being excessively fearsome, the weather may be enough to impact game play. Early predictions call for a 44 percent chance of wintry precipitation, with gusty winds from 20 to 30 mph, and a low temperature of 24 degrees. Those conditions will make for a nightmarish kicking game. As a result, expect both teams to establish the run early, in hopes of facilitating the passing game. On that basis, the impact of the inclement weather would seem to favor the Patriots, with a solid rushing duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Conversely, Buffalo has recently struggled to run the ball, with runners Devin Singletary and Matt Breida getting the majority of the Bills’ carries. Still, Buffalo’s running game can get on track if they can control the tempo. Though I’m tempted to give the edge to the Pats based on personnel, I would say it is a draw, considering that the Bills are the home team.

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Q: I honestly think this game is going to come down to J.C. Jackson vs. Stefon Diggs. J.C. got torched by him last year. If he can shut him down we win the game and does he prove his worth of #1 corner money?

From: ForeverNE37 (@ForeverNE37)

Great question, ForeverNE37. In my humble opinion, Jackson has already proven his worth to be paid among the league's top cornerbacks. With each passing week, Jackson enhances his standing, not only as New England’s top option at the position, but also among the best defensive backs in the league. Jackson currently stands at seven interceptions, and leads the NFL with 16 passes-defensed. He has routinely demonstrated an impressive instinct for finding the football, while keeping his targets in range and maintaining a visual on opposing quarterbacks. Diggs will be a tough test, as his speed and route-running abilities make him a difficult cover. Still, Jackson is a more complete corner than he was last season. Look for him to keep Diggsin range, while getting some help on the high-low coverage.

At the end of the day, the 26-year-old has shown the ability to be a formidable force at the position for many years to come. As a result, it is a near certainty that Jackson will command top-dollar on the open market. With the Patriots typically reluctant to sign cornerbacks to long-term lucrative deals, they may soon release that the price of allowing Jackson to leave may be more costly than a financially-hefty contract.

Q: Do you see a scenario where N’Keal is part of the game plan other than blocking?

From: Bill Perkins (@bpboxer)

Hey Bill. Thanks for the great question. Always glad to see some N’Keal Appeal in the mailbag. While Harry has not had the breakout year for which many fans had hoped, he has played well in a specialized role in the Patriots offense. As a blocker in the run game, Harry has been invaluable to the offensive line, tight ends and fullback Jakob Johnson in providing additional protection for the run, as well as some passing situations.

However, I still believe that there is still a chance that Harry becomes an effective target in the Patriots offense. To do so, he will have to prove that he can operate outside his comfort zone. At 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, Harry’s size and strength could make him an effective weapon in short yardage situations, in both receiver and tight end packages. At his best, Harry has the frame to work as both a red zone and perimeter target, moving between the X- and Z-receiver roles. Ironically, this may be the week to do it. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills are only the 12th most productive team in the league versus tight ends. Though Harry is not technically a tight end, his size, physicality and contested catch ability could make him a factor in the intermediate area of the field.