The Patriots made a habit of playing the "no respect" angle even when they were en route to winning three Super Bowls in four seasons.
Now, such an approach might actually be justified. With Tom Brady apparently done for the season before it really even began, the consensus among various football writers around the country is that the Patriots will not be an elite team without their franchise quarterback.
A quick spin around the Internet for some opinions on the State of the Pats:
We'll start with the ubiquitous Peter King, who puts his connections to good use today in his Monday Morning Quarterback column, working in some fresh information in between the Starbucks references.
He spoke to former Patriots John Lynch and Vinny Testaverde about Brady's injury. Lynch, whom King refers to as retired in the piece, said "no way" was Bernard Pollard's hit a cheap shot, while Testaverde recalls how his season ended in an eerily similar fashion 10 years ago, derailing the Jets' Super Bowl chances.
King also offers this chilling quote from Pollard:
"I tried to apologize to him. But I'm not sure he heard me. He was screaming.''
King drops the Patriots down to No. 6 in his Fine 15 rankings. Others are expecting a steeper fall. NFL.com's Vic Carucci was unimpressed with the victory over the Chiefs and says the balance of power has undeniably shifted in the NFL. Writes Carucci:
"I don't care if the Pats won their opener against Kansas City with Matt Cassel playing quarterback most of the way. Without Brady, the Patriots no longer are the Patriots. They don't dominate. They don't intimidate. They don't score at will or do the things that demand comparisons to the greatest teams in league history."
The king-is-dead tone is the similar over at ESPN.com, where Gene Wojciechowski pegs the Jets are the new favorite in the AFC East since they have the best quarterback/gunslinger, while AFC East beat writer Tim Graham tabs a new conference favorite: the 0-1 San Diego Chargers. CNNSI's Don Banks also says the Chargers will benefit the most from this.
CBS Sportsline's Mike Freeman writes that a source told him it would take "a miracle" for Brady to return this season, and that we knew the situation was dire when Brady didn't return in the second half:
"It would take Megatron to keep Brady away from football. He's the Michael Jordan of the NFL."
Raise your hand if you thought the New York tabloids would be classy about this. The New York Post seems to imply a double meaning with their Yahoo!-referencing Brady-is-hurt headline, while the Daily News plays it straighter with the Jets-as-division-favorites angle.
Guess we'll know for sure Sunday.