Big rematch of last year's AFC Championship game tonight. I freaking hate 8:30 PM start times. My day crawwwwwwwwwwwwwls by. But, in the meantime, here are some things for you to digest on what we will be looking for with the Patriots this week. As has been the case this year, most of the questions are about the offense. As always, follow me on twitter @CultOfBelichick
-Patriots Offense. Can it find a rhythm? This was the biggest problem in the loss to the Cardinals last week. Tom Brady had a tipped pass picked on the first play, and then Hernandez went down on the third and they could just never recover. They were never able to string together plays, with penalties killing drives. Every time they seemed to get momentum, one thing or another would derail them and the drive would end. Let's see if a week of practice without Hernandez can help them regain some of their mojo that they had in Week 1 that had most people calling them the best team in the league.
-Can the Patriots establish a running game? The running game has been up and down, but the highs have been higher than anything we have seen in the last 8 years. Let's hope for some more consistency, as well as some good running on first down to set up second and third down. I want to see if Danny Woodhead can rebound from his poor showing last week.
-How do the newcomers (Branch and Winslow) fit in? I think you will see more Branch than Winslow here, as expected. However, Winslow should contribute a decent amount; I would guess around 25 snaps or so. They will both play, but how effective can they really be with only a week of practice in them? That is the big question and will likely be a big determining factor of who wins this game.
-Can the back third of the defense continue to be serviceable? The secondary has been okay, but not great thus far this season. However, as long as they can continue to be serviceable, the great front 7 should be able to make up for them. They have been very good about limiting big plays this season, and need to be extra careful this week with Torrey Smith as Baltimore will definitely take some shots downfield.