Was last week's loss to Arizona a simply a fluke or cause for concern in New England?
Stephen: There were certainly elements that were flukey (blocked punt and Ryan Williams' fumble), but I think the offense has proven to be overhyped. Brandon Lloyd has not displayed in-game chemistry with Brady that we saw in training camp. Wes Welker has been phased out of the offense, but that role could change with the Hernandez situation. The offensive line has taken a clear step back without Brian Waters and Matt Light. There is definitely cause for concern on that side of the ball. Luckily the defense has shown marked improvement with the additions of Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, but I still have doubts whether the offense can get it together now that Hernandez is out for 4-6 weeks.
Jason: I don't think this one loss is even a mild cause for concern. They lost a game to the Browns two years ago, then won about nine games in a row. Last year they got beat by the Bills, then only lost one game before the Super Bowl. We'd need to see more of these types of games to start raising any red flags.
Raj: In my opinion, the loss to Arizona was a bit of both. From a fluke standpoint, how could you not? Chandler Jones forces a fumble at an impeccable time. Danny Woodhead really has the GW touchdown but Gronk decided to take an illadvised penalty. And then of course, Gostkowski missing a routine 40+ yarder under pressure. Yet, this was all in the last minute of the game. The Patriots' offense couldn't find their rhythm in the majority of the match. That is undoubtedly a cause of concern because the defense can only do so much. There are many elite teams out there and no disrespect to the Cardinals, but if the Patriots can't beat them convincingly, then this is going to be one long season.
Rick: Last week's loss to the Cardinals should cause some concern. Arizona's defense is a pretty good defense with Campbell rushing the passer and an electric player like Patrick Peterson at cornerback. The Pats had awful time management in the last 1:00 of the game and if Welker isn't on the field, Brady will have a tough time getting rid of the football. They need to get back to conventional running with Ridley to provide some balance for the offense. The question for the passing offense will be even with Kellen Winslow, do they have enough firepower to prevent a blitz-heavy defense like the Ravens from controlling the game. The defense doesn't concern me right now on the Pats' side, but the concern will be that they have to win more games with the defense than usual.
Derek: Are you ready for a surprising fact? In the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots, the winnigest team of the past decade, have started a season 3-0 all of two times. That would be 2004, when the team was in the midst of their record-breaking 21-game winning streak, and 2007 when they ran the table at 16-0. For whatever reason, the Patriots are notorious for laying an egg early in the year, often to a vastly inferior opponent, and it hasn't prevented them from having a solid year. Yes, the Pats looked like a mess on Sunday. There is no denying that the O-line needs some work, and the Hernandez injury isn't going to help their cause over the next 4-8 week, but given the general amount of inconsistency an ineptitude displayed across the league the past two weeks, I think the Pats are still in good shape. There isn't a team out there other than San Francisco who would give me pause heading into a game, and they play in the NFC. The bottom line is that I believe the Patriots are more like the team we saw in Week 1 and less like their Week 2 counterparts. There's a lot to like about this team, and they are going to be just fine.