Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/1/12

Corey Dillon led Bill Belichick's most prolific rushing attack back in 2004 en route to New England's third Lombardi Trophy in four years, in comeback and mature fashion.

Two seasons later, he was dumped as if convicted for the murder of O.J. Simpson.

The following offseason, the Patriots acquired Oakland's disheveled Randy Moss via a Draft-day trade in exchange for merely a fourth-round selection, only to be polished once more and make NFL history with 23 single-season receiving touchdowns.

Although the deep threat appeared to still be there in 2010, however, the diva was unloaded to Minnesota (and then Tennessee) just in time. Such is the Patriot way when it comes to the evaluation of their players.

Roughly a quarter of this premature 2012 campaign has transpired, and Wes Welker has followed up his first two bleak performances (a collective 8 receptions, 109 yards, zero scores and decreased snaps) with a mini-revelation (17 catches for 171 yards). What explains the frightful roller coaster ride?

Was Welker losing playing time as punishment for his Super Bowl drop and proceeding refusal to sign his franchise tender? Is he just resurfacing because of injuries to Aaron Hernandez and "cog" Julian Edelman? Were Weeks One and Two simply an anomaly for a man who has collected receptions throughout the years as though they were trick-or-treat candy and these trendy new toys called Gogos?

It could be that coaches, scouts, and replacement refs are signaling the decline of Wes Welker before both Boston dwellers and casual fans can honestly see it for themselves, hence the trade rumors.

The NFL's trade deadline is hardly explored, especially in comparison to other sports, but Roger Goodell ever-so-considerately extended it to midway point for the sake of creating more drama and intrigue (because we're so hungry we could eat another zebra).

That being said, while it's definitely arguable that Welker has not yet maxed out his worth to Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels' potent offensive unit, no other franchise would aggrandize their value by the end of October more effectively than the New England Patriots.

Of course, teams should be lining up to participate in the sweepstakes, but who would (or should) fundamentally claim the wide receiver that is feared to only be thriving in the handicap of his current offense?

On to the bracket:

AFC East

1. Miami Dolphins (3) - Trading Welker away to the Patriots originally was the franchise's biggest mistake since...um...and future material reveals itself.

2. New York Jets (6) - If Mark Sanchez is going to miraculously retain his starting job, then SOMETHING needs to be done for the passing game/secondary/punt coverage.

3. New England Patriots - They would accumulate numerous Draft picks from themselves, but not for the sake of this exercise, Spygaters.

4. Buffalo Bills - No one poses a huge threat in the receiving corps aside from Steve Johnson, but New England would most likely ask for Mark Anderson back in return.

NFC East 

1. Washington Redskins (1) - Daniel Snyder purchased a timeshare in Foxboro until Week Eight.

2. New York Giants - It's not the traditional Big Blue line of attack, but Welker for Osi Umenyiora straight up seems fair.

3. Dallas Cowboys - Never rule out Jerry Jones, but the stars align with Kevin Ogletree more than they do with the memory of Roy Williams.

4. Philadelphia Eagles - Unless he can play on the offensive line, not even Welker's quick slants will contribute to the protection of Michael Vick.

AFC North

1. Cleveland Browns (4) - There isn't a more appropriate mentor for Greg Little's butterfingers.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (5) - Brandon Tate, BenJarvus Green-Ellis...Ohio: The Perfect Bostonian Getaway.

3. Baltimore Ravens - Who knew we'd see the day when these purple birds were content on offense?.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers - They've met their season quota for wideout holdouts.

NFC North

1. Minnesota Vikings (2) - There's an established partnership with this sudden playoff contender.

2. Detroit Lions (5) - Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had the same title in 2005 with Miami and Welker.

3. Chicago Bears - Expect Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler to irrationally demand trades in a heartbeat.

4. Green Bay Packers - Don't let the rocky 2-2 road fool you - they're stacked.

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs (1) - There are a handful of pleasant reunions within the struggling youth, including Matt Cassel.

2. San Diego Chargers - Let's see how Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal ultimately pan out first, and they blew their chance in 2004.

3. Oakland Raiders - The Black Hole might feel owed a favor, or a break.

4. Denver Broncos - Eric Decker is already there, and New England isn't doing Peyton Manning any favors.

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (4) - Remove the Golden spotlight from last Monday Night, please.

2. Arizona Cardinals - This undefeated squad could pair Welker with Larry Fitzgerald quite nicely, but this isn't your baseball deadline or pack of Cards.

3. St. Louis Rams - Danny Amendola has 31 receptions for 351 yards - add another very similar target and prepare to send Sam Bradford to the injured reserve with heart palpitations.

4. San Francisco 49ers - The position has been filled.

AFC South

1. Houston Texans (2) - Solidifying their wide receiver depth would push the newbies over the edge in the AFC...

2. Jacksonville Jaguars - There's certainly welcome room for him in the depth chart and the state of Florida, but Blaine Gabbert is no Tom Brady.

3. Indianapolis Colts - Although Welker is clearly more durable than Austin Candy Cane Collie, Reggie Wayne is already the rebuilding mode's veteran presence.

4. Tennessee Titans - After Moss, they've had enough of the Patriots' sloppy seconds.

NFC South

1. Carolina Panthers (3) - Steve Smith needs someone opposite him to keep Cam Newton's chin up.

2. Atlanta Falcons (6) - Welker teaming with Roddy White and Julio Jones might just book a Super Bowl loss for the Dirty Birds.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Oddly enough, he does resemble a pirate, doesn't he?

4. New Orleans Saints - No.

Now to recap:

AFC Playoff Picture

1. Kansas City Chiefs

2. Houston Texans

3. Miami Dolphins

4. Cleveland Browns

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. New York Jets


NFC Playoff Picture

1. Washington Redskins

2. Minnesota Vikings

3. Carolina Panthers

4. Seattle Seahawks

5. Detroit Lions

6. Atlanta Falcons


Wild-Card Round

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns. One would hope that Robert Kraft maintains his class in this hypothetical situation and grants Welker a chance to legitimately compete elsewhere, and Bungles at least own Ohio.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers. Does Atlanta have any trade ammunition left after snatching Jones two Aprils ago?

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks. Give the recruiting edge to "weasel" Pete Carroll over "warden" Jim Schwartz.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins. The Patriots will assuredly want to move Welker out of the division, but the Sun Life is a much safer bet than the Big Apple and approaching Tebow Time.

Divisional Round

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs. Choosing from two of the league's best general managers, there is more potential in dealing with Scott Pioli rather than Mike Brown thanks to preexisting relationships.

Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings. Welker wouldn't elevate the Panthers any better than he would sustain the Vikings, and Plaxico Burress is still waiting for his southern hospitality.

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins. The urge to eradicate Robert Griffin's whining is greater than that to correct Russell Wilson's newfound arrogance.

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans. While Houston dangles better personnel, packaging the Dolphins' prospective 2013 Draft positioning is hook, line, and sinker.

Conference Championships 

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins. Pierre Garcon belongs in the No. 2 slot, but Percy Harvin is a migraine-in-waiting, and more fun would be had when the two are healthy together, so pack your bags Snyder.

Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs. Familiar [defensive-minded] Romeo Crennel was already gone once Welker arrived, and Joe Philbin's scheme is a better fit for the system product and rookie Ryan Tannehill, who hurled 431 yards on Sunday.

Super Bowl (*Roger Goodell's Haunted House): Minnesota Vikings vs. Miami Dolphins

If New England's true intentions are to trade Wes Welker, he should land with the franchise more likely to re-sign him long-term...then again, the Dolphins are AFC East foes, and after Chad Ochocinco Johnson and Hard Knocks, they should probably swim low for now and strive for a luckier offseason. Fool them twice, shame on Minnesota, but Miami is hilariously spurned again.

Between Mercury Morris, Ozzie Guillen, and LeBron James, it has reached the point where only the latter is savoring champagne. The Patriots are desperate for that exact fate.

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