Mailbag: Could this be the year the Patriots fall off?


I asked for questions and you delivered. It's time for another edition of the Around The NFL Mailbag. Thanks to everyone who got involved. Let's dig in ...

I can't be the only one who thinks the Cowboys could come down to earth after last season's 12-4, right? Last year was the type of season during which everything went right, and it nearly got them into the NFC Championship Game (shame about that bogus call, Dez). Adrian Peterson would struggle to be as productive as DeMarco Murray was last season, and let's not forget that Peterson will have played one game in 21 months by Week 1. Will he still be the same guy we remember? One thing I do know: If the Cowboys don't find a better Murray replacement than Darren McFadden, we're headed back to Eightneightville.

We've already seen seven guys rush for 2,000 yards -- including three in the past 11 seasons -- so that's probably the most likely to happen (I mean, Jamal Lewis did it, it can't be that hard). We've never had a receiver go over 2,000, but that's only a matter of time as long as we have quarterbacks throwing for 5,000 yards every season.

The least likely is probably the 3,000/1,000 feat. Asking your quarterback to run around like that is the surest recipe for a twisted knee, dislocated shoulder or worse. There's a reason Michael Vick is the only QB who's cleared 1,000 yards on the ground, and he didn't come within 500 yards of 3,000 as a passer in that 2006 season. The sad thing is that for a brief time Robert Griffin III looked like a guy destined for multiple 3K/1K campaigns. Instead, he's the cautionary tale why you never want your QB moonlighting as a halfback.

The Bills -- and no other team is close. The hooks: A revitalized Rex Ryan, mojo fully restored. A promising roster filled with new talent, led by LeSean McCoy and that Chip Kelly-sized chip on his shoulder. A legit quarterback competition (OK, Matt Cassel vs. EJ Manuel is about as mundane as it gets, but still, QB battles make for fun theater). Did I mention Rex Ryan? Hard Knocks was never better than the 2010 season that followed Ryan's Jets. This would be the most anticipated sequel since The Dark Knight. I can even picture Ryan's introduction in Episode 1, the coach swinging into his parking space in that ridiculous truck as Liev Schreiber intones, "Rex Ryan has always known how to make an entrance ..." Please, please, please, let me get what I want.

We can potentially figure this out. OK ...

Here are the teams on New England's home schedule: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, Titans, Eagles, Redskins and Steelers.

Of that group you can eliminate the Dolphins, Jaguars, Titans and Redskins. Sorry, guys. That leaves us with two intriguing division matchups Bills (Rex vs. Belichick), Jets (Revis Bowl), an inter-conference scorcher (BB vs. Chip) and one battle of classic conference heavyweights (Brady vs. Big Ben). I have my doubts that the season would start with an AFC-NFC showdown, so let's install Patriots-Steelers as the heavy favorite for Kickoff Thursday. That's a great frickin' game.

Oswald acted alone. This is hard for people to accept, because the American public still struggles to process that a human gutterball like Lee Harvey Oswald could have single-handedly orchestrated a hit on the most powerful man on the planet. So we cook up conspiracy theories about the mafia and the Soviets and Fidel Castro and the C.I.A. and the grassy knoll. Then people make the mistake of taking Oliver Stone seriously and away we go. Marc, I know you vehemently disagree with me on this topic, but this is the hard truth that you -- and millions of other Americans -- must make peace with.

I can tell you who killed JFK, but I cannot, in good conscience, suggest to you sensible second-round offensive-line targets for the defending NFC champions. Hit up @movethesticks.

See, now I think you guys are just trying to embarrass me in front of my friends.

For those of you who don't listen to the Around The NFL Podcast (shame on you), the "Buffalo tax" is the few extra million the Bills must shell out to convince big fish to spend their winters in Western New York. We imagine there would be some players who would jump at the chance to be part of the first London franchise. But we can just as easily imagine the distance, culture change and tax ramifications forming an imposing obstacle.

Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VI in Toronto was huge for me as a 9-year-old kid in 1990. My cousin Matt and I used to re-enact that match all the time, especially the part when Hogan got knocked over the ropes and repeatedly told the ref, "My knee's gone, man! My knee's gone!" We thought that was so funny. In retrospect, I'm sure Hogan legitimately damaged his knee in the fall, though he managed to continue. It was the Hulkster's A.P.-in-2012 moment.

The biggest surprise to me was the Murphy's Law nature of Jadeveon Clowney's rookie season. This time last year, smart football people were comparing Clowney to Lawrence Taylor. And now? We don't even know if he'll ever be the same guy after microfracture knee surgery. Clowney is proof that no player is a sure thing in the draft. Luck plays as big a role as anything.

On the positive side, I don't think anybody saw Odell Beckham going from sidelined kid with a devilish hamstring to the greatest playmaker in football in one month. It was a remarkable rise to superstardom that makes Beckham the natural successor to Derek Jeter as the preeminent sports star in New York City. What he does for an encore is one of my favorite subplots for 2015.

Your job sounds like one of the torture methods in Zero Dark Thirty. My worst job was probably the one day I worked as a cold caller for a nationally known home security company that made no attempt to hide the fact that our job was to play to the inherent fears of old people. I wasn't aware of this until I took the gig, and I never went back after that first day of interrupting people during dinner. That's not true actually. Like a month later, I returned to collect my $39 pay check for eight hours of work. I remember my supervisor seemed almost impressed with my lack of dignity.

Derek Carr enjoyed a promising debut season in Oakland, playing 16 games and throwing 21 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions. But he was far from perfect. Carr missed too many easy throws, averaged just 5.77 yards per attempt and posted a middling passer rating of 76.6. Popular consensus has been quick to point to Carr as a home run for the embattled Reggie McKenzie, but it's still too early to know what Oakland has. As for a active QB equivalent: Is a Rich Man's Alex Smith a compliment? I kind of think it is.

I have a theory that all Papa John's commercials make perfect sense if you're on acid. Also, if you play every Manning-Papa commercial back-to-back, it syncs up perfectly with Pink Floyd's Darkside Of The Moon. I'd suggest you try it, but just know you'll almost certainly never be the same.

Here's the thing: The Patriots are eventually going to fall off. They can't go 12-4 forever. As Jerry Mathers can attest, the inexorable march of time has its way with us all.

We assume Tom Brady will never regress -- understandable given his sustained excellence in his post age-34 seasons -- but it's going to happen. Peyton Manning started to look old in the back half of his age-38 season. Brady turns 38 in August. And we haven't even mentioned the loss of Darrelle Revis, whose defection to the rival Jets leaves New England vulnerable in its back end.

All that said, fans like Paul should take solace in the knowledge that no organization in football runs better than the Pats in the Belichick era. I expect them to have a strong draft and I expect most of their new faces to make an impact. I expect Tom Brady to show up to camp more prepared and in better shape than any peer. AFC East teams made a ton of noise in free agency, but the Pats are still Omar. "You come at the king, you best not miss."

I warned you guys about mixing Papa John with Pink Floyd.

If you want to be part of the next mailbag, send your question to @danhanzus. Don't forget to use the hashtag #ATNmailbag or your query will almost certainly be lost in a swarm of binary code.