Now that Tom Brady is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL, where does that leave the Patriots? On Sunday, Matt Cassel will start his first football game as a quarterback since he was in high school. He never got a chance to start in college because he was stuck behind two Heisman Trophy winners, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, at USC. This no doubt leaves a lot of question marks for the Patriots going forward. Coming into the season, their were already questions about the Patriots defense. The secondary was the biggest concern after the Patriots lost Pro-Bowler Asante Samuel in free-agency. Unfortunately, the least of the Patriots' concerns, the quarterback position, now becomes their most glaring question mark.
Last year Tom Brady and Randy Moss put together the greatest single-season individual performances ever in their respective positions on their way to Super Bowl XLII. They took the league by storm, making secondaries look like third graders on the playground. Cruising through the regular season, the Patriots hardly even had to sweat. They became the second team in NFL history to finish the regular season undefeated, but the first to finish it 16-0. Tom Brady carved up defenses week in and week out on his way to throwing an NFL record 50 touchdown passes. Brady undoubtedly was the NFL's MVP. All but one MVP voter unanimously agreed. Add to the mix Bill Belichick's attitude to never let up and you have one of the most dynamic football teams in NFL history. However, the Patriots' season for the ages ended on a very sour note. By losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots did not achieve their one and only goal for the 2007-2008 season: Win the Super Bowl!
This year was supposed to be just another walk in the park for the Patriots in the AFC East. Another undefeated season? That probably wasn't going to happen, but another AFC East championship and a playoff birth were almost guaranteed. This was the year that the Patriots would avenge their loss from the year before and write another chapter in the iconic legacies of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Health would have been the only issue for the Patriots. That is exactly the issue right now.There is still a good chance that the Patriots can make the playoffs. Their schedule is nothing to be afraid of. It most likely will come down to how the Patriots play against their AFC East rivals. Now that Brady is hurt, the Patriots' division games become much more intriguing, and on paper, balanced. With Brady hurt, I believe the Patriots go from a Super Bowl contender, to a team that doesn't even make the playoffs. The AFC is too tough for the Patriots to make it this year. That leaves the Jets and the Bills to fight it out for a playoff spot. Miami is still a year or two away. In my mind, the Buffalo Bills become the favorites to win the division. Jason Peters has reported to the Bills and will likely play in a few weeks. With Peters, the Bills have a respectable offense, an up and coming defense and an outstanding special teams unit. They should be able to edge out the Jets in the AFC East.