Every week, I hope to bring you a quick Q&A with someone who covers the
MV: What is going on with
SMY: There are a lot of theories about what's going on with Welker, ranging from plausible to ridiculous. Edelman did have a strong camp and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the field more -- but he has been on the field at the expense of Welker, which is the surprising part. Welker is not injured, so that is not playing a role. Even he seems to not be sure exactly what is going on -- you would think that if the Patriots were simply trying to keep him on a pitch count for the early part of the season to keep him fresh for the latter half of the regular season and playoffs that they would have told him that, and to my knowledge they haven't. Since he played in nearly 90 percent of the offensive snaps last season, that could be it. Could the Patriots be testing Edelman to see if he'll be a viable replacement next season if they cut ties with Welker? Possible. It's even possible -- though it would be sinister -- if they were deliberately keeping his numbers low to hurt his value on the open market. That also would go against
JH: It's one of the strangest storylines surrounding this team in recent memory. There are plenty of theories and few answers, if any. Is it a punishment for the contract negotiations? Are they trying to reduce his value for next season? Are they trying to trade him? Are they phasing him out, or preparing for life without him after this season? Really, who knows? Edelman hasn't beaten him out, and he's not a better run blocker, so those theories are weak. And it would go against everything Bill Belichick preaches to think he'd keep him off the field due to spite over the contract struggle. It really might be an experiment to see how much they've really got with Edelman. But even still, that's a dangerous line to walk, and Belichick further opens himself to criticism when Welker isn't on the field for the start of a game that turned into a surprising loss.
MV: What did the
JH: It was simple and all-encompassing. The Patriots' offensive line couldn't block anyone, and Brady was uncomfortable all game. Brady only got into a rhythm in the fourth quarter when he used quick drops and passes. Even some of those plays were contested. The offensive line is a major issue with this team.
SMY: The Cardinals did just what Belichick said they would do, starting with being disruptive on the defensive line.
MV: Rookie defensive end
SMY: What's surprising is that Jones has been this good this quickly. The big knock on him coming out of Syracuse was that he might not be strong enough initially to deal with the mammoth left tackles he'd be facing, and many saw him following a
JH: Jones has been great. I was surprised that he was able to contribute so quickly in training camp, as it took him less than a week to be on the field with the first-team defense. Then he just kept making plays. He's been labeled as a pass rusher due to his position on the end of the line -- and he does that well, for sure -- but Jones stays on the field because he's a three-down player. He is very good against the run, too. He keeps containment and works off his block with ease, which is scary for a rookie. Jones is a good one right now, and he's got a chance to be great.
MV: If, as expected, Aaron Hernandez doesn't play, how will that affect the offense? Specifically, will that affect Gronkowski's role in any way? The Ravens had no answer for
JH: Hernandez won't play Sunday, and he probably won't be on the field for about a month. The loss will certainly impact the Patriots' offense, but they do have enough weapons to offset the injury, providing Brady has enough time to throw. I put together a thorough breakdown in Friday's paper of the way they've used Hernandez, the significance of his loss and the way the Patriots must counter it. Here is a link to that story.
SMY: The Patriots seemingly put a lot of eggs into the Hernandez basket coming into the season, which was a potentially high-reward move that came with some risk since he had missed time in each of his first two seasons. Hernandez really could play a starring role in this offense because he lines up everywhere, so replacing him is not as simple as swapping one guy in when he goes out. They do have
MV: The loss to the Eagles gave them more immediate things to worry about, but obviously the Ravens will have revenge on their minds after the AFC championship game. There is a lot of bad blood between these two teams after some hard-fought games over the past few seasons. How do the Patriots view this rivalry, and is this the kind of game that they also circled on their calendars when the schedule was released?
SMY: No one here would admit it if they did have this game circled. But Tom Brady has a great deal of respect for