Patriots fans winced when they saw quarterback Tom Brady’s leg buckle under a blow from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Bernard Pollard. Brady tore several ligaments in his left knee as a result of the hit, and we now know he will miss at least the rest of the 2008-09 season due to surgery. Stepping in to fill the pressured spot at quarterback is Matt Cassel. By now, many fans know Cassel’s background; he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at the University of Southern California, and before last Sunday’s contest against the New York Jets, he hadn’t started a football game since he was 17 years old. However, Cassel proved to be more than competent in the game, completing 16 of 23 passes for 165 yards in a 19-10 victory over New York. But can Cassel keep putting victories together for the Patriots the way MVP Tom Brady does? There may be only one or two quarterbacks in the NFL right now in the same stratosphere as Tom Brady. Maybe. Brady was the unquestionable leader of the Patriots; everybody on the team believed without a doubt that when he was taking the snaps, the team would not lose. He also has a quality that every elite athlete has; he makes players around him better. For example, many had never heard of Wes Welker before last season, but when Brady found him with short passes almost every other play, Welker became a household name among football fans everywhere. Many NFL analysts claimed that Brady was the one player the Patriots simply could not afford to lose if they were to make another run at a Super Bowl; unfortunately, that dreaded situation has become a reality. That being said, the Patriots shouldn’t just empty their lockers and head to their mansions in the tropics until next July. Right now I think that the most important thing the Patriots can do is make an inexperienced Cassel better by using the team’s experience as a whole to help him. With Cassel, Moss will have to find different ways to get open to make it easier on Cassel. Also, Cassel can’t try to do too much. He should continue to find Welker and Faulk with short passes and let Welker gain yards with his speed. To win games, Cassel needs to move the ball methodically down the field on every possession; he can’t take as many shots at big plays as Brady could. One can’t forget that the Patriots have exceptional coaches, led by Bill Belichick. A team doesn’t win three out of four Super Bowls without having plans for every scenario, so I know Belichick and his sidekicks put together a plan for this one. They’ll tailor their game plan to fit Cassel’s abilities and maximize their potential to win games. Six years ago, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s season ended when he suffered organ damage early in the season. A sixth-round draft pick named Tom Brady stepped in, and the rest is history. Could we have another Tom Brady in Matt Cassel? I think it’s too early to tell, but for now, I’ll stick with my prediction: with Belichick at the helm and Cassel relying on his veterans, the Patriots will go 10-6 and should make some noise in the playoffs.