If the Patriots get back all of their injured players, will that be enough to get them over the hump and put them in serious championship contention, or do they need to bring in another big-time talent through a trade or free-agency?
Raj: I think they'll already be in serious championship contention with everyone healthy. Look what they did with the majority of the stars on injured reserve. Tell me what other team can go to the league championship game with a depleted roster. With the healthy roster, the sky's the limit. I think as a safety net, one more free agent signing wouldn't hurt.
Rick: I think the defense is okay with all the injured players coming back even if they lose Talib. The Patriots could get a Brent Grimes in free agency and be okay at that position. I think they need one more big weapon for Brady to be the favorite in the AFC. A guy I would target is Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Eric Decker. Keep in mind that Decker used to play with Josh McDaniels as his coach in Denver. You have an offense of Amendola, Edelman, Decker, Dobson, and a tight end, that would be an explosive offense. I think the Patriots are set in the running game and hopefully will continue to use it more in 2014-15. For now, New England needs to make one or two moves to get back in championship contention. Of course, if Peyton Manning pulls a John Elway and retires after the Super Bowl, then you have to put the Patriots up there as the early AFC favorite by default, don’t you think?
Jason: There is no doubt in my mind that the Pats have the pieces in place to win a Super Bowl next year. Tom Brady always gives the offense a decent chance to put points on the board, but what he's lacked over the past decade or so is a championship-caliber (or for that matter, even a replacement-level) defense. With that side of the ball finally appearing to be shored up, the only thing the Pats need is to avoid the kind of awful luck that derailed this season.
Derek: If the Patriots stayed healthy this year…
It pains me to think about it. Add Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Gronkowski, Aqib Talib, and a full-strength Danny Amendola to the Patriots roster in the AFC Championship and it's not even a contest. Peyton Manning is shilling Papa John's on Patterson Plank Road outside of Metlife Stadium tomorrow night and Tom Brady is leading the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title.
That being said, injuries are a part of the game and there's no guarantee that two, three, or even four of those guys don't end up on IR or banged up next year as well. Let's face it, some of them don't have the most stellar track record. So if the Patriots stay healthy, they will be a force to be reckoned with. However, if the salary cap will allow for it, it wouldn't hurt to have another reliable wide out, tight end, and some linemen as an insurance policy.