The Patriots are set to return to their normal schedule after working diligently during the bye week to put a stop to the current three-game losing streak.
The players were on hand at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to take part in the annual team picture after spending Monday evening in meetings with the coaching staff. Head Coach Bill Belichick won't address the media until Wednesday morning so it's unknown how he and his staff feel the self-evaluation period went last week.
New England practiced last Wednesday and Thursday with an accent on winning one-on-one battles, particularly along the lines. The coaches felt the physical edge that was prevalent for much of last season had been missing during the recent skid and hoped a return to that style would be forthcoming.
The team will most likely be bolstered by the return of some injured players, namely tight end Daniel Graham and guard Joe Andruzzi. Both practiced last week and then enjoyed three days of rest over the weekend, which should have them ready to go for Wednesday's workout.
Graham missed the last two games with a dislocated shoulder hat resulted from his diving attempt to snare a Tom Brady pass at San Diego on Sept. 29. He was seen wearing a harness in the locker room underneath his pads as he made his way out to practice last week. Andruzzi injured his right knee, the same one he underwent surgery on during the offseason, in the overtime win over Kansas City on Sept. 22. He hasn't played since.
Andruzzi's return in particular could be of utmost importance. If he can go against the Broncos in Foxborough on Sunday, it would allow Belichick to use his original starting offensive line. Damien Woody, Mike Compton, Matt Light, Kenyatta Jones and Andruzzi have only played just three games together and the interior guys have switched spots occasionally. With everyone healthy, Belichick could return to the group he feels is best.
One other possible lineup change could be Greg Robinson-Randall reclaiming his job at right tackle. Jones won the spot with a strong offseason and training camp and Robinson-Randall, last year's starter, has seen very little action. But he found the field in the fourth quarter against Green Bay and performed well, leading to speculation that perhaps Belichick might make another switch.
Robinson-Randall was listed as inactive in four of the first six games but with the team wanting to return to a more physical style maybe his run blocking ability might give him an edge over the more athletic Jones. Whoever gets the nod at right tackle will have his hands full with Denver's Trevor Pryce, who leads the Broncos with seven sacks this season. And with Denver's stout run defense, maybe Belichick will choose to wait another week before making such a move.
With 10 games to go and the Patriots approaching a very difficult stretch that will include five games in 25 days beginning with the Buffalo trip in two weeks, the time is now for New England to right the ship. Wild card spots will be tougher to come by in the realigned NFL but the Patriots sit just a game-and-a-half behind the division-leading Dolphins. Getting back on the winning track quickly is imperative.