by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
September 16, 2009

It’s indication of our battered fan psyche post-Brady (post-Pollard?) that the Patriots’ most important defensive player is said to be lost to the team for as much as two months, and we think it’s good news.

Yet here is where we find ourselves today, as word begins to filter out that Jerod Mayo sprained ligaments in his right knee in the Pats’ dramatic win over the Bills on Monday night.

Chris Gasper of the Boston Globe was the first to report that sources close to the second-year standout say he could be on the shelf for 6-8 weeks; Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald blogs this morning (again, with Encyclopedia Britannica graphics) that the defensive linchpin “should be out fewer than six weeks.”

Keep reporting and blogging, men: perhaps we can get this down to a couple of days.

Okay, maybe not. It’s clear that Mayo will not be among the Pats when they take to the Giants Stadium turf on Sunday for another all-important divisional game against an AFC East rival. That’s not good anyway you cut it. But what else may Mayo miss over the next 6 to 8 weeks?

1. Week Two – at Jets, September 20th

Normally I’d think, “okay, non-playoff team, new head coach, rookie quarterback, not a bad draw for being shorthanded,” but come on. It’s Rex Ryan, it’s Mark Sanchez (already the second best quarterback in the division)…it’s the Jets. And they played pretty well last weekend. In other words, lousy timing. Plus, they have Thomas Jones, Dustin Keller, and Kevin Faulk Redux in Leon Washington – it was the Buffalo backs and tight ends that hurt the Pats the most on Monday night. It would have been nice not only to have Mayo but to have fill-in Gary Guyton back amongst the mix on the outside.

2. Week Three – vs. Falcons, September 27th

Hey, wait a minute…isn’t there some sort of special dispensation available to the Pats here? The resurgent Falcons have established one thing above all else; with Ryan, Turner, White, Jenkins, Norwood and now Tony Gonzalez, they can hold possession and move the ball (6th in the league in total offense in ’08, right behind the Pats). Even with a sometimes-balky effort against Miami on Sunday, not a good draw here either. Good news here is this may be one that the Pats can steal with their offense alone. Being home doesn’t hurt.

3. Week Four – vs. Ravens, October 4th

Second straight playoff team. Is this a set-up? We know this is a tough draw for the Pats from past experience, though Baltimore’s consistently good defense was neither against the Chiefs last Sunday (how do you hold somebody under 200 yards and still give up 24 points?). The concern here is the Ravens have displayed newfound passing acumen (it was that which pushed them past Kansas City), and with Rice, McGahee and Heap inside the box, there would have been plenty for Mayo to do here. Like Atlanta, at least this one’s at home.

4. Week Five – at Broncos, October 11th

Okay, the Pats finally catch a break competitively-speaking, though it’s hard to completely buy into that because it’s the Broncos, its in Denver, it’s a conference game, and the guy on the other sideline used to practice against the Pats every single day. Still, maybe it’s finally catch a breath time for the Pats defense. But watch that Stokely – he’s a sneaky bastard.

5. Week Six – vs. Titans, October 18th

For crying out loud. Who made this schedule? Where’s the Rams, the Lions, the Chiefs, the Browns? The reigning AFC South champs may have had a disappointing playoff finish last year, as well as an opening night conference loss to the Steelers, but do you doubt that this will be one of the hardest-nosed teams the Pats will play all season? And never mind what a loss may do to New England’s tiebreakers come December. If Rapoport’s right and Mayo will be lost for fewer than six weeks, it may be for this home game that he returns. That would be a big boost to a front seven that will be dealing with (among other things) Chris Johnson, Lendale White and Bo Scaife.

6. Week Seven – at Buccaneers, October 25th (London)

Blimey! Might Mayo miss some prime sightseeing opportunities? Or maybe he’d prefer to avoid the flight to London altogether. I wouldn’t put this matchup at the top of the Pats’ priority list, at least where Mayo is concerned. Will Tampa be able to get their footing by October? I’m guessing any team that’s starting Byron Leftwich at quarterback may take longer than that to come together.

7. Week Eight – Bye, November 1st

Let’s hope at this juncture, pinpointing Mayo’s exact timetable is still the biggest question surrounding the Pats.

8. Week Nine – vs. Dolphins, November 8th

Watching the Fins this last Sunday, I saw a team that seemed to lack confidence in its offense. It seemed every other play call was either a trick play (throwbacks, and that rapidly aging Wildcat) or a Chad Pennington throw out of bounds. I suppose that could change, but for now, I’m not going to assign any special significance to this game some two months away, even if it is a divisional contest. If Sunday was any indication, Miami’s offense could be circling the bowl by then. Sorry, Dol-fans. Your championships will have to continue being either ancient or imaginary.

So that’s an eight week timetable, and by my count, about half of it is fraught with peril. The other half, not so much. I suppose it could be worse. They could have drawn the Colts somewhere in there.

Wait…that’s the very next week.

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