by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The Patriots enter their weekend of rest with a 5-2 record and the knowledge that, no matter what the outcome of Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets tilt, they will maintain first place in the AFC East.

After two wins featuring all the competition of pumpkins taking on the ground, New England looks as strong as they have all year. That, of course, means little to the Worry Wart, especially with so many formidable opponents yet to play.

Some other frets from Foxboro…

l_maroneyBack To The Running Back: Will Laurence Maroney continue his upward trajectory? He looked like an Arctic hare in the snow vs. Tennessee (watch this clip and note the similarity in running styles). But he seemed a little less sure of his cuts against Tampa on the Wembley pitch.

I’m glad I’m bringing up this issue, because no one ever seems to discuss it. And by “no one,” I mean “everybody.”

Pick Up The Receiver: When you begin with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, you’re probably going downhill from there. Someone has to take the third receiver spot. Brandon Tate has yet to catch an NFL pass. Here’s hoping the rookie takes over punt return duties (it’s nerve-wracking having Welker back there). Fellow rookie Julian Edelman must heal from his arm injury, which could take a few more weeks. Meanwhile, Sam Aiken scored the first touchdown of his seven-year career Sunday. In terms of his experience on offense, that says all we need to know.

Oh, Line: Despite the recent offensive production, it’s hard to say that the big men up front have played up to standard. Holding calls, false starts and (going back to the Denver game) an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Logan Mankins that made a bike jump into a lake seem thoughtful. They’ll need to get it together against better clubs.

The Bomb Applies The Balm: With both rapture and relief, we’ve watched some big plays from Tom Brady recently. Let’s see if the QB can continue with the long ball against teams with more overall talent and more overall give-a-damn than previous opponents.

Over Bill, Over Adalius: As the Patriots hit the dusty trail of the final nine games, it might help to figure out what’s happening with Coach Bill Belichick sitting linebacker Adalius Thomas. The do-everything defender, it seems, can’t. His duties have been taken over by Derrick Burgess and Gary Guyton on various downs. Can Thomas get enough time on the field to make an impact and thus earn more reps? Will it matter?

Rest up, fans. We’ve got some entertaining football on the way.

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