New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Tom Brady has habitually spread touches around in the New England offense, which has often eased the pain when a key offensive contributor goes down. But the loss of Aaron Hernandez this week strips the Pats of their two tight end sets, a weapon they’ve used frequently since the emergence of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski over the past year.

Hernandez doesn’t play like a true tight end, leading Ian Rapoport of the Boston Globe to believe that either Chad Ochocinco or Wes Welker can easily slide in to fill his role.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers

Blaine Gabbert stopped tweeting on the Twitter, which can only mean that he’s so nervous about his first NFL start that he’s lost control of all motor skills. This also means Jacksonville will rely heavily on Maurice Jones-Drew, and with Carolina’s injuries and inexperience on their front seven that’s a pretty scary thought for Panthers fans.

San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals

It takes a lot more than a massive drug bust to keep Jerome Simpson off the field.

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns

Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel thinks the Dolphins need to make Cleveland a one-dimensional team and force Colt McCoy to win the game. Kelly also wonders if Miami intends to stop an opposing tight end at some point this season.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

There’s a puddle of saliva forming around Matthew Stafford, one that we’ve contributed to and one that he certainly deserves after posting 599 passing yards and seven touchdowns over two games. But let’s remember that one of those games–last week against the Chiefs–came against a depleted defense, and now after getting hit repeatedly despite not surrendered a sack he’ll face Jared Allen.

Stafford’s had eye-popping moments of brilliance, but he’s making only his 16th NFL start today, and there’s still growing and a maturation process ahead.

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints

Arian Foster will be wearing jogging pants instead of pads today, and has been ruled out. He’s now missed two of Houston’s first three games, and was ineffective with only 33 yards on 10 carries last week against Miami before re-aggravating his hamstring injury. Ben Tate will again be the Texans’ featured back, and his 219 yards over two games is threatening to create a platoon situation, or at least a more even split once Foster is healthy.

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New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

It’s officially official: Michael Vick will start today. Last year the Eagles hosted the Giants a week after Vick’s ridiculous four touchdown Monday night performance against Washington, and New York made him look like a rather normal quarterback. Vick finished with 258 passing yards and 34 rushing yards and a touchdown while being sacked three times and fumbling twice.

Oh, and Giants punter Steve Weatherford would like to leave Philly as quickly as possible.

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans

The Broncos are riddled with injuries, and the rash of training room visits has especially hit the offense. Knowshon Moreno will likely return today, but wide receivers Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas remain out. Still, even with Moreno healthy Denver’s running game has been woefully ineffective, meaning the wise game plan is to pick apart the Titans’ young cornerbacks and inconsistent safeties.

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders

The idea of Darrelle Revis improving and mastering another aspect of shutdown coverage will lead to more than a few soiled quarterback beds on Saturdays around the NFL this year.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers

In August Antonio Gates expressed confidence in his ability to be ready for the upcoming season despite missing the final six games of last year and the entire preseason with a foot injury. Now a week after he was held without a catch for the first time since 2008 Gates will miss today’s game with another foot injury.

We’re quickly regretting not including Gates among our 11 elite players who will suck in 2011.

Baltimore Ravens at St. Louis Rams

If a football was edible, James Laurinatis would make it the highlight of his diet.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler already isn’t sure if he’ll make it through this season in one piece, and now he’s facing Clay Matthews and a Green Bay pass rush that was tied for the second most sacks in the league last year (47). Gabe Carimi’s injury isn’t as serious as what was initially reported, but that won’t keep Cutler’s face out of the turf today.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Within a few months of his arrival in Seattle Pete Carroll started to pursue Kevin Kolb. Now he’s playing the team that’s hopefully found its quarterback of the future, and he’s doing it with Tarvaris Jackson under center.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There’s fourth quarter magic surging through the arms of both the young quarterbacks facing off today in Tampa.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning will be part of the Colts’ game day routine today and will sit next to quarterbacks coach Ron Turner in the press box, no doubt gesturing wildly from high above and calling fake audibles.

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