Patriots Will Need to Find Way to Survive Without Fred Taylor Well, so much for the Fred Taylor experiment.

According to multiple sources, the Patriots running back underwent surgery this week to repair ligament damage in his right ankle, possibly shelving him for the remainder of the season. While there remains the chance that he could return late in the season, that line of thinking would seem to be wishful, at best.

So now what? Back to the Tom Brady air show?

One problem with that — while Air Brady has struggled to take off in the early going of the season, Taylor’s presence stabilized the offense.

Taylor was the Patriots leading rusher, carrying for 201 of the team’s 409 total rushing yards through four games. More importantly, Taylor’s presence had allowed the offense to take a more balanced approach.  Now, it appears that it’s back to back-by-committee with Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis sharing carries.

That is, unless one of them proves capable of handling a feature back role.  

Four downs: Patriots (3-1) at Broncos (4-0), 4:15 p.m.

First: Can’t Wait for This Handshake
It may not be as bitter as the memories we cherish from those icy cold midfield exchanges between Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, but this will be the first time that coach Bill meets his understudy, Josh McDaniels, as an opposing coach. After trading his franchise quarterback and alienating his best wide receiver, McDaniels has the Broncos at 4-0 heading into this game. Hmm. Maybe dude can coach a little, after all. But Josh, please, lose the hoodie with the sleeves rolled. I think that look has already been taken.

Second: Broncos think Brandon Marshall is Worth the Headache
This guy is a ticking time bomb, appropriate considering he’s also one of the NFL’s most explosive players. He called himself a “diva” in a NESN interview this summer. No kidding. His issues off the field (alleged domestic abuse) are inexcusable, and quite frankly reason enough to send him packing. Which McDaniels had to think long and hard about this offseason, after Marshall demanded out. The thing is, all that trouble aside, he makes Kyle Orton a legitimate quarterback. Yeah, Marshall is that good.

Third: Pats Defensive Backs Impress
Keep your eyes on the Patriots improving defensive backs this Sunday. They were arguably the difference last weekend against the Ravens.

Fourth: Welcome Back, Wes
Quite simply, the guy is crucial to the Patriots offense.

Forward Progress
Aaron Rodgers: In that epic (or so we were told) Vikings and Favre vs. Packers on Monday night, Rodgers was actually the game’s most impressive quarterback.

Calvin Johnson: Seeing his true potential now that Detroit has a legitimate quarterback in rookie Matthew Stafford.

Jerome Harrison: With Jamal Lewis slowing down, expect the Browns to increase Harrison’s role in the offense.

Down and Out
Braylon Edwards: All kinds of talent and sure knows how to waste it. Braylon wanted out of Cleveland — all it took was messing with LeBron’s boy (allegedly) to make it happen. New York is an interesting fit for a guy more concerned with being a celebrity than a football player.

Darren McFadden: I guess eight jinxed the guy last week, expecting he’d at least be able to move the ball on the NFL’s worst rushing defense. The guy managed six carries for -3 yards. Oops.

JaMarcus Russell: Might be the worst starting quarterback in the league. His former teammate, Jeff Garcia, called out the onetime top pick for his lazy work ethic. Remarkably, when Phil Savage was the Browns GM, he drooled over Russell. 

Fantasy Fix
Not that the Browns should ever be counted on for putting up points on their end of the scoreboard, but with Braylon Edwards out and Derrick Anderson in at quarterback, rookie Muhammad Massaquoi might be worth a roster spot.

Film Room
With the Patriots in Denver, this game winning play from earlier in the season is worth another look. Wouldn’t it be great if Gus Johnson did play-by-play for your life?