by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We at Worry Wart blame ourselves. With a meaningless Game 16 in our sights, we failed to target the one thing that could derail New England’s momentum heading into the playoffs.

Instead of dwelling on the infamous injury, let’s look toward the Patriots’ concerns (but mostly ours) as they face a fired-up, never-lost-without-getting-screwed Baltimore squad.

So, without any further hullabaloo regarding the Wes Welker thing, let’s proceed…

The Wes Welker Thing: Oh, come ON! What did I just say?

Let’s try that again…

Too Much Leigh Way: Maybe the return of corner Leigh Bodden will help stabilize the defensive backfield. We know Houston’s Matt Schaub is a top passer, but last week New England couldn’t have prevented a lunch lady from passing out American chop suey. It was one thing to watch rookie Darius Butler have an erratic game, but when Jonathan Wilhite and Brandon Meriweather got torched, our worry meter hit the red zone. (And, against this defense, it ended up scoring.)

Take Maroney And Run: We wonder about (and are preoccupied with) why Bill Belichick sat Laurence Maroney last week. Is the running back hurt? Is he making amends for past errors? Old reliables Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris failed to deliver, as Morris averaged about one stride per carry (1.3 yards) while Taylor fumbled in his own end zone. In order for the Pats to win, they’ve got to run the ball. Can Maroney be a factor?

Fuzzy Reception: So, with you-know-who out of the lineup, Julian Edelman becomes the clear number two receiver. Then what? More tight ends? More Kevin Faulk out of the backfield? While we love Sam Aiken’s effort and Isaiah Stanback’s rise from the practice squad, these guys are kind of like fullback/receivers: we like their blocking and their catching a pass once in a while, but we can’t see them as part of the regular offense.

Warren Piece: Though they’ve both been seen in practice, the health of defensive linemen Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork remains in question. No matter who takes the other end spot (Jarvis Green or Mike Wright), if the Ravens gain a lot of yards on first down, this Sunday will about as much fun to watch as an Andy Warhol film.

Truth Or Derrick: This past week Coach Belichick praised the play of linebacker/end Derrick Burgess. While we feel we have yet to see what drove the coach to trade two draft picks for Burgess, now would be a great time to showcase his full talents. Can New England get to Ravens QB Joe Flacco? That’s the question they need to answer.

Negative Charges: Not sure if we’ve ever seen such a sense of doom surrounding a playoff team. Just like every team that goes on a playoff run these days, this New England squad requires some luck – probably more than others.

Let’s hope that becomes our worry for next week, too.

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