How big of an impact will the loss of Vince Wilfork for the season have on the Patriots?
Jason: It hurts obviously, but I think that they can replace a great deal of that production with Kelly. He's no slouch. Now if something happens to Kelly … then it's time to hit the panic button.
Raj: The loss of Wilfork is huge. He's one of the leaders on the Patriots defense so his loss does affect every player on that defense. However, when Joe Vellano came on to replace him, he did a great job. If you remember, he had a huge sack on Matt Ryan. I think he will fill the void perfectly. But Wilfork's loss does create a big emotional hole within the Patriots organization and the fans, and that will be something very difficult to fix.
Derek: I feel like I'm saying something foolish or sacreligious here, but I actually think the Pats will do just fine without Big Vince. Don't get me wrong, I was devastated on Monday morning when I heard he was done for the year and I'd obviously love to have him out there. However, out of the four D-lineman on the team, I'd say that Vince was the one I've been the least impressed with this year. I think his quiet season has a lot to do with Wilfork having a foot injury. Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich have each had several "stand out" moments during the first four games. I'm having a hard time thinking of a time that Vince clearly rose to the occassion with a big play. And even though Wilfork wasn't the beast he has been in the past, the Patriots seemed to do just fine defensively the first four games.
So yeah, if we were losing the Pro Bowl-caliber Vince of the past few seasons, I'd be extremely worried. But we've been playing all year with a banged-up Vince and I don't think we're about to see an unfillable hole appear in his absence. Part of me wonders if I'm just being ignorant – that Kelly, Jones, and Ninkovich's big plays were a result of Vince taking up attention and double teams that will no longer be there, but I really think the Patriots will do their usual "next man up" routine and continue their defensive hot streak.