by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

So, let’s get this straight: no matter what happens Sunday, the Patriots gained a bye week and home field advantage in the playoffs with their 34-3 grounding of Buffalo. Sounds like a good week to give the worrying a rest. And we will.

Yup. No concerns here. We are fret-free. Except…

Um, okay, just two quick things:

Valley Of The Dolphins: It seems that New England has a low point every season, and more often than not Miami is involved. But that can’t happen this year, right? I mean, the Dolphins are out of the playoffs, the Patriots are in. Simple.

But we had one other worry – what was it? What could possibly happen in Game 16 where the team’s playoff position is set? Hmmm…

Oh. Oh, yeah:

A Little Bit Wes: We do have our superstitions, so we’ll just remind our readers about last year’s game against Houston when a certain someone got a certain something that kept him blah-blah for X amount of time.

You know, if that certain someone were to have a seat on Sunday, no one would blame a certain coach. We’re just saying.


Now, in light of the upcoming New Year, our sincere thanks to the following NFL teams for helping to make early 2011 appear so promising.

Knock On Woodhead? Thanks, New York Jets, for releasing Danny Woodhead. Considering the Patriots got him the week before Kevin Faulk injured his knee, the timing could not have been better. Lil’ Woodhead has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and over 11 yards per reception in becoming a favorite of Tom Brady and – of course – of Foxboro fans.

Say No Moss: Thank you to the Minnesota Vikings for taking Randy Moss in exchange for a third-round pick. Back in October, this looked like a steal. Heading into January, it still does, except in the other direction. In four games with Minnesota, Moss had 13 receptions. Since being released by the Vikings and picked up by the Titans, he has five catches in four games.

We half-expect a documentary featuring blurry photos of Moss and old-timey New Englanders insisting that he did, indeed, exist.

Local Branch: Thank you, Seattle Seahawks, for trading Deion Branch back to New England for a fourth-rounder. In 11 games with the Patriots, Branch has 48 catches and five touchdowns (this season, Moss has 27 receptions and five TDs).

No Mo’ LoMo: Thanks to the Denver Broncos for taking Laurence Maroney and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder. Maroney, who has not carried the ball since Week Six, averaged 2.1 yards per carry in four games. We’d go over BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ numbers, but at this point that’s just rubbing it in.

Once Moore To The Breach: Thanks to the United Football League’s Florida Tuskers for making free agent pass rusher Eric Moore available. Moore, who played with the Giants, Saints and Rams since 2005, started his Patriot career with a strip-sack in Chicago. He now totals 11 tackles and two sacks in three games. Not a bad guy to have when you go to battle.

A Means To Their Ends: Thank you to the Baltimore Ravens for their need at tight end that compelled Bill Belichick to trade up for Rob Gronkowski. The Brobdingnagian blocker/receiver has 36 receptions and nine TD catches. While we’re here, thank you to every NFL team for passing on Aaron Hernandez at least three times. His 45 receptions and six TDs have come in handy.

Just to round out the tight end triumvirate, thanks to the Titans for deciding not to re-sign Alge Crumpler. He will catch the fewest passes in his career this year (his previous low was 24 in 2008; he currently has five), but he has had a huge impact with the kiddoes.

A Great Read On Kindle: Thanks again to the Baltimore Ravens for taking (and to Bill Belichick for passing up on) linebacker Sergio Kindle, who came into this year’s draft as a high-potential pass rusher. Kindle sat out this season and could miss 2011 due to a head injury suffered falling down stairs. He recently got arrested for a DUI (not his first).

Kind of puts that whole Devin McCourty pick into perspective, doesn’t it?

We Don’t Have That On Draft: Speaking of passing on players, thanks to all other teams for giving New England a chance at undrafted defenders Dane Fletcher, Sergio Brown and Kyle Love (and that’s just this year).

Most of all, thanks to the New York Jets for taking attention away from the Patriots this year. From “Hard Knocks” to knee knocks to foot mocks, the motley Meadowland crew has entertained all NFL fans, both intentionally and (especially) not.

Have a great New Year, dear readers. Maybe in 2011 we’ll have something to worry about.

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