Jerod Mayo is done for the season. How big of a loss is this for the Patriots both in the short-term and the long-term if he ultimately doesn't come back?
Raj: Honestly, I can't say anything except for the fact that this really sucks. With Mayo out, both defensive captains (the other being Wilfork) are done for the year. And this comes right when the Patriots defense had become one of the NFL's best this season. Who's gonna step up and make those tackles now? I'm sure the Patriots have it all planned out right now or will have it planned out bySunday…I hope.
Jason: Losing Mayo would hurt if Wilfork were on the field. With Big Vince done for the year, losing Mayo is damn near catastrophic. New England's defense has been strong primarily because they've been able to limit opposing running games and intermediae passing routes, and Jerod is a big reason why. Mayo is far and away New England's best linebacker in pass coverage, and there isn't an obvious candidate to fill that role in sub-packages.
Derek: It all depends on how well the "next man up" performs. Can Dante Hightower, a 2nd year player, be effective leading the defense and making the calls? If there's one spot that the Pats are deep at, it's the line backer position. While there will no doubt be a drop-off, it's not like Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher are total slouches. Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have both filled in admirably for Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, so it's not far-fetched to think that this linebacking corps can do the same. If anything, Big Vince has a more "irreplaceable" skillset than Mayo.
As long as Aqib Talib can stay healthy, I think he gives Bill Belichick the scheming flexibility to take out players like Julio Jones and Jimmy Graham and the defense will continue their strong play.