How big of an impact will the loss of Aaron Hernandez have on the Patriots the next 4-8 weeks?
Raj: This is a crucial loss for the Patriots. I'd hate to say they lost the game because of Hernandez's injury. However, if that was really the case, then this season could be in jeopardy for New England. Although, if Wes Welker decides to show up and fill in for Hernandez, then this offense will be pretty well-set.
Rick: The loss of Aaron Hernandez is big for this team because he is able to be the versatile threat as a tight end, wide receiver, and sometimes even a running back. If the Welker snaps continue to decrease, you take away one weapon away from Brady to use. The Patriots have won without Hernandez before, but the offense has been stagnant. Especially with the offensive line struggling, Brady needs more and more time to find receivers especially if they look to stretch the seams in 3 wide receiver sets moreso than two tight end sets.
Stephen: The loss of Aaron Hernandez could be catastrophic to the Patriots, if not for the depth they built at tight end. In my opinion, he was the player the Patriots could least afford to lose, besides Tom Brady. His rare athleticism for the position created so many mismatches, opening up holes and passing lanes for other players. With the signing of Kellen Winslow, the team may be able to replicate 70 percent of what Hernandez could do, but it will still be a significant drop-off.
Jason: The loss of Hernandez had a bigger effect against the Cards when the Pats couldn't gameplan around his absence. New England's offense is dynamic enough to weather the loss even of an elite talent like Hernandez when they have the time to make the right adjustments. On a scale of 1 to last year's Colts, this injury is about a 3.
Derek: You won't find a bigger Aaron Hernandez supporter than myself, but I honestly don't think his injury is going to hav a major impact on the season As much as I would love to see him on the field in Sunday's huge game in Baltimore, the Patriots won't play another serious contender until December 10th. If the timeline for his return is correct, he will have been back on the field for over a month at that point. If the Pats are who we thought they were, then they should be able to get past teams like the Broncos and Jets missing Hernandez. As Jason pointed out, the main reason New England struggled so badly without Hernandez against Arizona was that they had no opportunity to adjust the game plan and were caught off guard. With a week of prep-time and targets like Gronk, Welker, Llyod, Edelman, and Branch, Tom Brady should have plenty of people to throw to until Aaron's back on the field.