Who's Catching The Ball?
The Patriots are short on pass catchers. Leading tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL. Short and shifty Julian Edleman has taken over the role Wes Welker once had and leads the team with 89 catches for 914 yards and six touchdowns. Danny Amendola, who New England signed this past offseason, is a similar slot receiver who has 51 catches for 579 yards. Other than that, New England has had no consistency. Rookies Aaron Dobson (ankle) and Kenbrell Thompskins (hip) are banged up and sat out last week. That left Josh Boyce, Austin Collie and Michael Hoomanawanui catching passes. The Patriots utilize quick, smaller receivers on crossing patterns.
Running Backs Of The Round Table
The Patriots haven't been able to find one lead running back all year. They started with the elusive, pass-catching Shane Vereen as the main threat, especially after he put up more than 100 rushing yards in Week 1. But he also fractured his wrist in that game. New England turned to Stevan Ridley and he got on a roll until fumbling problems sent him to the bench. Last Sunday, big-bodied LeGarrette Blount led the group with 11 carries.
Run Defense Problems
New England hasn't been known for its defense for a long time. But this year's run-stopping unit is worse than usual. The Patriots have the 31st-ranked run defense, allowing an average of 132.5 yards per game. Denver's Knowshon Moreno ran for 224 yards against the Patriots on Nov. 24. A large reason for the problem, literally, is the absence of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (Achilles), which has forced Joe Vellano and Chris Jones into the starting defensive line.
Not The Same Brady
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is having his toughest season in recent memory. His completion percentage of 60.9 percent is the lowest total of his career since 2004. His 88.1 quarterback rating is the worst in a full season since 2005. With inexperienced and rotating targets to throw to, Brady hasn't gained much chemistry. He's also taking more sacks. He's been dropped 37 times this year, the most since 2003, and fumbled eight times. Still, Brady has done enough to help the Patriots to a 10-4 record.
Not only is Ravens defensive tackle Art Jones having a breakout season, so is his younger brother and New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones. Chandler, a first-round pick a year ago, had six sacks in his rookie season. This year, he's already upped it to 11.5. He's the Patriots' most gifted defensive player. Arthur has won both wagers on the game with his kid brother.