New England Patriots: What You Need to Know Heading in to Week 5

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor IOctober 1, 2013

AJ Green is the next test for Aqib Talib.
AJ Green is the next test for Aqib Talib.Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Instead of being remembered for Aqib Talib's heroics or Kenbrell Thompkins' fantastic catches, the Patriots' win over the Atlant Falcons on Sunday night will likely be known as the game where the Patriots lost Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork's loss will reverberate throughout New England's defense. It will be interesting to see how well the Patriots can make up for his absence—both schematically and with new personnel.

After a tough road test in Atlanta, things don't get much easier for New England. The Pats travel to Cincinnati to face the 2-2 Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

Here is a complete recap of last weekend in the world of the Patriots.

AFC East Results

AFC East Standings
New England Patriots4-01.000Won 4
Miami Dolphins3-1.750Lost 1
New York Jets2-2.500Lost 1
Buffalo Bills2-2.500Won 1

Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens Recap

After the Bills' first three games were decided by a total of 10 points, it was no surprise to see them locked in another close contest with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Bills' defense was able to hang on in a 23-20 victory, led by rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, who snagged two of Buffalo's five interceptions for the day.

Buffalo is in the midst of a youth movement—both on offense and defense—and Bills fans have to be hopeful with how their young team is handling difficult game situations. 

New York Jets vs. Tennesee Titans Recap

The Titans have been one of the league's surprising teams thus far and continued the trend with a big victory over the Jets.  Despite losing starting quarterback Jake Locker to an injury, the Titans pulled away in a 38-13 victory, and it really wasn't even that close.

Geno Smith looked like Mark Sanchez, turning the ball over in bunches, and won't be confused with a veteran quarterback anytime soon. NFL fans were spoiled last year with Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Robert Griffin III. Normal rookie quarterbacks take time to develop, so it is far too early to write Smith off.

Miami Dolphins vs. New Orleans Saints Recap

In a battle of two 3-0 teams on Monday night, the Saints clearly had the better roster and scheme. The Saints buried the Dolphins under an avalanche of points, including two touchdowns by by incomparable tight end Jimmy Graham.

The Dolphins clearly missed pass-rush specialist Cameron Wake, but they have much bigger problems on offense. Tannehill was sacked repeatedly—Jonathan Martin is a turnstile—and prize free-agent wide receiver acquisition Mike Wallace has been a mess.

Analysis: The entire AFC East sits at .500 or better, something no other division in the NFL can claim at this point. All four teams have flaws, however, which should make for an interesting finish.

Injury Report 

Patriots Injury Situation
Vince WilforkAnkleLikely Out for Season
Shane VereenWristShort Term IR
Matthew SlaterWrist2-4 Weeks
Danny AmendolaGroinUnknown
Aaron DobsonNeckUnknown
Rob GronkowskiArmUnknown

Analysis: Going into last weekend, the Patriots' health looked to be improving for the Patriots. However, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse.

Gronkowski and Amendola aren't locks to play this week in Cincinatti and the two new additions of Wilfork and Dobson certainly don't help.

Story To Watch

Who is going to step into the power vacuum vacated by the injured Vince Wilfork? Field Yates of talked with Jerod Mayo about just that:

"Obviously Vince is a huge asset to our team not only on the field, but off the field," fellow defensive captain Jerod Mayo said. "And he's a great leader, he demands double teams in the run game and he also coordinates some of the rushes in the passing game as well." 

For Mayo, losing Wilfork doesn't just mean having to play without the team's best defensive lineman and one that clears space for him and his fellow linebackers to run around, but it also affects him personally, as he and Wilfork are close friends. 

"Obviously Vince has been a staple for a long time and he rarely goes down with an injury, so it's very shocking and surprising to see my friend go down like that," he said. 

Look for Mayo and Devin McCourty to take on more vocal roles in the locker room. 

What Needs to Improve

1. Health

With Wilfork likely out for the season, the Patriots are looking awfully thin at the defensive tackle position, where they were decimated this past offseason by releasing Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick.

Tommy Kelly and Joe Vellano look to pick up the lion's share of the snaps inside, although we could see a resurgence of the speed package with Chandler Jones playing inside and Michael Buchanan on the outside.

Armond Armstead, who is eligible to start practicing after Week 6, would be a welcome addition as well.

2. Zach Sudfeld

Bad plays seem to be following Sudfeld during the regular season. Whether it is a tipped interception, a fumbled catch or a bad hop on an onside kick, he seems to be jinxed.

I'm not sure whether the Patriots need to bring in Pedro Cerrano of Major League fame to get rid of the hex, but New England fans want to see the preseason version of Sudfeld again soon.

3. Center to Quarterback Exchange

Tom Brady has fumbled the snap twice this season, which is two times more than should happen during a season. It is always tough to tell who is at fault in these situations—either the center or the quarterback—but either way, Bill Belichick cannot be worrying about fumbled snaps when deciding whether to go for it on fourth down.

4. Health

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 29:   Tom Brady #12,  Josh Boyce #82,  Julian Edelman #11 and  Aaron Dobson #17 of the New England Patriots talk during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Ke
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Did I mention health? It bears repeating. 

Not only did the Patriots lose Wilfork and have Gronkowski, Amendola and Vereen all in varying stages of recovering from injuries, but emerging rookie Aaron Dobson left Sunday night's game as well. He took a vicious hit that snapped his neck backwards and ended up in the locker room for the rest of the night. 

Tom Brady needs healthy bodies to throw to—a commodity that is drying up quickly in New England. If Amendola and Dobson are unable to go against Cincinnati, look for rookie Josh Boyce to see a good amount of snaps.


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