Three key players and three key games to watch in the second half of the season for the Patriots:

3 Key players

Aqib Talib

The Patriots trade for Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib means two things: They know they have issues in the secondary, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to fix them. Sure he’s had some off-field issues in the past, but Talib could immediately make an impact at corner for New England in the second half of the season. Hey, if he turns around to defend a pass he’s already the best one they have.

Rob Gronkowski

Let’s face it; the earth is a better place when Rob Gronkowski is spiking footballs through it. Gronk has been banged up through the first half of the season and we’ve seen the Patriots offense suffer at times because of it. Same goes for Aaron Hernandez, but a healthy Gronk means the No. 1 red zone weapon is back doing his thing.

Vince Wilfork

Wilfork is the heart and soul of the Patriots defense and they’ll certainly rely on him down the stretch. He’s still the best nose tackle in the game, and that’s apparent when you see him making plays while taking on two linemen at once. There’s nobody more important on the line, and that’s where it starts for New England’s ‘D.’


3 Key games

Nov. 22 at New York - Thanksgiving is already one of the best days of the year. It’s a time to spend with family and friends while stuffing your face. But what if you can have all that and watch your favorite team beat up on its rival later that night? Now that’s gravy. The Patriots hope that’s how it goes on Thanksgiving night. You’ll be extra thankful for Tom Brady this year.

Dec. 10 vs. Texans - The Pats host the Texans in what could be a battle for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC on Monday Night Football. Can the Pats run defense stop Arian Foster? Can the secondary contain big tight end Owen Daniels? And oh, Houston has the best run defense in the AFC.

Dec. 16 vs. 49ers - It doesn’t get any easier for New England six days after it plays Houston. The 49ers currently own the No.1 ranked rushing attack and No.2 ranked pass defense. They’ve feasted on both the Bills and Jets so far, combining for a 79-3 advantage. Wow.

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