With wideout Wes Welker being carted off the field with what appears to be a serious injury to his left knee, fans of the New England Patriots have already begun asking the question why.
Why did coach Bill Belichick decide to play his starters in a near meaningless game?
Why did we have to lose the heart and soul of our offense?
Why have our playoff hopes been dashed for the second year in a row?
With the Patriots driving down the field in the first quarter of their game with the Houston Texans, Welker, who entered the game with a league leading 122 receptions, caught a ball from quarterback Tom Brady in the left slot and ran for a first down before getting his foot caught in the Texans turf and immediately grabbing for his left knee.
Welker was being covered by safety Bernard Pollard, though the injury was sustained before Welker was hit. Pollard was involved in a below the knee hit last season while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. The play, which occurred in the first quarter of the first game, knocked Brady out for the season.
With Brady, receiver Randy Moss and the Patriots trainer looking on, Welker was helped from the field and was seen with a towel over his head in a display of obvious pain and disappointment. He was carted off the field to the Patriots looker room with approximately six minutes to play in the first quarter.
Many fans believe that any hopes of the Patriots competing in the upcoming AFC playoffs rest squarely on the shoulders of the diminutive receiver who has caught 345 passes over three years with the Patriots and is a key component to their effective passing offense.
The Patriots missed the playoffs last season after Brady was injured in the first period of their first game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite an 11-5 record, the Patriots missed the playoffs.
Entering today's game with a 10-5 record, the Patriots have clinched the AFC East and a home game for the first round of the playoffs and are playing today's game simply to determine whether they would be a number three or four seed.
Todd Civin is a feature columnist for Bleacher Report and Sports, Then and Now. His work can be found on his own blog at The 'xoxo' of Sports.