The Patriots are determined to show Wes Welker they're fine without him. But are they?
For Welker, though, it's a far cry from the norm.
Over the past few years, he has normally caught between 110 and 125 passes, for an average of around 7-8 per game. This year, he's barely over half of that so far.
He only had 2 catches in game 1 against the Titans, and his first catch in yesterday's loss to the Cardinals didn't occur until nearly the 2 minute warning in the 1st half. He had a big 2nd half, when the Patriots tried to play catch-up, but he was almost completely ignored in the first half.
Why are the Patriots doing this?
The consensus is that they're trying to show Welker that they don't need him to win.
Sure, they appreciate him, and they would love to have him around. But they recently had long, drawn-out contract negotiations with him and were unable to come to an agreement. Welker wants to be paid like an elite WR, and his numbers bear that out. The Patriots believe he's basically a product of the system, and that they could replace his level of production with guys like Julian Edelman, or even TE Aaron Hernandez.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, Hernandez went down with an injury yesterday, likely a high ankle sprain that will leave him sidelined for 4-6 weeks, and the Patriots' offense wasn't nearly as efficient as normal without Welker in his prominent role.
The Patriots would love to prove that they're able to maintain an excellent offense without Welker, but I'm not sure that's the case.
They were solid against Tennessee, but nothing special. They were downright sloppy and unimpressive against Arizona.
As much as they'd love to kick Welker to the curb and let him take his chances in free agency this year, it's starting to look like the Patriots may have miscalculated this time.
They might actually NEED him.