Put aside for a moment any consideration of the talent that departed the New England Patriots last offseason—whether it be through free agency, retirement or legal issues.
Reflect only upon the roster that the Patriots had coming into this regular season. Then, subtract from that roster Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Vince Wilfork, Shane Vereen and Matthew Slater.
Does the remaining talent scream "4-0 team" to you?
Unless you're the kind of optimist who could find the silver lining in a Congressional shutdown, the answer to that question is probably "no." But here we are, with the Pats alone in first place in the AFC East and harboring an impressive road win against the defending AFC Champion Atlanta Falcons on their resume.
How has New England managed to continue their historic run of success in the face of huge roster turnover and talent subtraction? Let's take a look at a few players responsible for the Pats' strong start in 2013.