On Friday, the New England Patriots announced that Fred Taylor will need surgery on his ankle and will miss between six and eight weeks. Meanwhile, linebacker Jerod Mayo practiced Friday and is expected to start this weekend against the undefeated Denver Broncos.
What does this mean for Sunday? And beyond?
Losing Taylor is a serious blow to the Patriots offense. Tom Brady is not the 50-touchdown quarterback he was in 2007, and Taylor was showing that he had more gas left in his tank than Jacksonville thought. Through four games, Taylor was averaging 4.5 yards per carry and had over 200 rushing yards with two touchdowns.
Laurence Maroney would figure to step back into the number one running back role for the Patriots. He is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this year, and has just 78 yards through four weeks. Kevin Faulk, the primary third down back, could see increased production as well.
The fantasy impact of Taylor's injury will be realized by owners of Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Ben Watson. Given Maroney's relative lack of success this year, it appears the Patriots will be throwing the ball even more than they already were for the next couple months.
And looking at the Patriots schedule, it might not be a bad time for fantasy owners of the players surrounding Taylor for him to be out.
After a tough road test against the Broncos this week, the Pats have the pleasure of playing the struggling Titans and at the all-over-the-place Tampa Bay Bucs. In fact, the next rough defense the Patriots will face won't be until they host the Jets on November 22, at which point Taylor might be able to return.
Look for increased production from Moss, Welker and Watson, but beware the assumption that Brady's numbers will increase as well. He hasn't been Turnover Teflon this year, and increased pass attempts could lead to additional interceptions as well.
With regard to Mayo's return, the Patriots desperately need their young stud linebacker on the field. With the Broncos missing Correll Buckhalter this weekend, Mayo's presence will help the Patriots defend against athletic rookie Knowshon Moreno getting off.
Looking at the next couple games for the Pats, Mayo's presence will play a big role against three consecutive run-first offenses.