The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Brady's ACL Changes AFC

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When you're the consensus NFL MVP, the architect of the most amazing single-season offense in NFL history, and you won your three Super Bowls with a receiver corps that didn't exactly resemble that of the late-80's 49ers, it's safe to say that your absence from the league for an entire season is going to throw that league's competitive balance into a big tizzy.

While any quarterback will benefit from having Randy Moss and Wes Welker in his stable, there is no backup or in-season pickup that will scare opposing defenses and spread the field in anywhere near the same way that Brady would. This constricts running lanes and affects the New England ground game. Brady's timing with the receivers hid problems with the New England offensive line that were finally uncovered in Super Bowl XLII, and perpetuated in a worrisome Brady-free preseason.

This makes New England a contender on the periphery, at best. It raises the floor and lowers the ceiling in the AFC East. Can the Buffalo Bills use their power running game, impressive young defense, and astounding special teams to fight for a division nod? Can Brett Favre take a Jets team stocked with high-priced free agents to unimaginable heights? The answers to these two questions just went from "maybe" to "yes." The first thing this injury does is to clear the decks for everyone but the Dolphins in that division.

Looking at the AFC overall, this puts the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars up one rung each on the conference ladder. And if the Colts don't soon recover from Peyton Manning's post-surgery rustiness and the loss of center Jeff Saturday for several weeks, there could be a situation in which the balance of power in the NFL shifts dramatically.

The Pats will sign a veteran to take the majority of snaps -- perhaps Chris Simms, unless the specter of a Culpepper-to-Moss reunion proves too tempting. They'd be wise to re-sign Matt Gutierrez; the second-year backup cut by the Pats despite the fact that he outplayed Matt Cassel in the preseason. No matter what they do, there's no replacing Tom Brady. All the Patriots can do is to go forward as best they can, and hope all that talk about a weak division isn't so much fiction.

By Doug Farrar  |  September 8, 2008; 2:15 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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As a life-long Pats fan now living in 'Skins country, I say bring back Gutierrez, start Cassel, and see what happens. If Cassel doesn't cut the mustart bring in Gutierrez. Bringing in an outsider like Simms or Culpepper now to learn the Pats' system and try to form a relationship with the team while Brady is out seems like it has less chance of success than promoting from within and it could potentially mess up the team chemistry which has been a key to their success over the past several years. Even with Cassel or Gutierrez running the offense the Pats should still be a potential playoff contender.

Posted by: dritchie | September 8, 2008 10:48 AM

The pats will be ok. You should never rely on one guy. The coaches should have backups who can be ready to step up in situations like these. Yeah, no one can do what Brady does but there should be someone on the team who can run the offense.

Posted by: Fred Lee | September 9, 2008 9:51 AM

You guys overlook the Steelers at your own peril !

Posted by: LG Walter | September 9, 2008 7:49 PM

Karma goes for the ACL.

Posted by: Cheaters | September 17, 2008 3:41 PM

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