With the Patriots enjoying their bye week, CSNNE.com Patriots insider Tom E Curran takes on four questions facing the team in the second half of their season.
1) What does the acquistion of cornerback Aquib Talib mean?
"As a corner, he's better than any other player the Patriots have on the field," Curran said. Talib will have to serve one more game of his suspension so he won't be available when the Patriots play Buffalo next Sunday.
2) Is Devin McCourty a safety or a corner?
Curran says no matter what position McCourty plays, the Patriots "need to get better back there in the secondary." Putting McCourty at corner gives the Pats "a more than serviceable No. 2" to go with Talib.
3) Injuries, specifically to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. A concern?
The hip and back are issues for Gronkowski and an ankle issue has slowed Hernandez. They'll have to be managed, says Curran.
4) The second half schedule: Can the Pats run the table again?
The Patriots were 5-3 at the bye last season and swept the second half, winning all eight games. Can they do it again? They play the Bills, Jets, Dolphins and Colts before being tested by the emerging AFC power Texans and one of the NFC's best in the 49ers. They're well-positioned for at least another AFC East title, says Curran.
After leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning and missing Friday night's game, Dustin Pedroia is back in the Red Sox lineup Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak to six in a 4:05 game against the Seattle Mariners.
Pedroia felt pain his left knee Thursday night and was taken out of the game by manager John Farrell as a precaution. The rainy conditions and wet field were also factors in keeping the second baseman out Thursday and Friday.
Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on the knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked various confrontations between the Orioles and Red Sox.
Left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second start of the season for Boston and right-handed reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to the PawSox. Right-hander Rob Whalen, 23, comes up from Triple-A Tacoma to make his first start of the season for the Mariners.
Jean Segura SS
Danny Valencia 1B
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Taylor Motter LF
Guillermo Heredia RF
Mike Zunino C
Jarrod Dyson CF
Rob Whalen RHP
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Deven Marrero 3B
Brian Johnson LHP