Originally written on Foxboro Blog  |  Last updated 11/20/14

Will the real CJ2K please stand up? 

I don't know who was wearing No. 28 for the Titans on Sunday, but the Patriots managed to put a deathly end to Chris Johnson's proclamation that he'll lead the league in rushing this season. 

In New England's 31-13 trouncing of Tennessee, we saw early investments from the 2012 draft class, particularly with Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. 

For anyone who feared we had another no-show wearing ocho cinco, Brandon Lloyd showed why he will be a lethal threat out wide. 

Bill Belichick will certainly find areas to improve, but yesterday's performance provided plenty of optimism for another Super Bowl trip.

Let's take a look at this week's risers and fallers. 

 

Risers 

1. Stevan Ridley: Anyone still shedding a tear over BenJarvus Green-Ellis? You shouldn't be. Ridley, the second-year back out of LSU, didn't just flash in his first start; he exploded. The surprisngly quick 220-pounder dominated the second half, totaling 125 yards and a score on just 21 carries. Tennessee isn't exactly a top-notch defense, but I expect Ridley to easily top the 1,000-yard mark at this rate. 

2. 2012 draft class: If Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower play like they did on Sunday, this defense will be scary good. Jones—who many experts pegged as a long-term project—made in instant impact playing across from former All-Pro left tackle Michael Roos, strip-sacking Jake Locker. As if that wasn't exciting enough, Hightower recovered the fumble and returned it 6 yards to the house. Second-round safety Tavon Wilson also made a name for himself as he recorded a diving interception in the end zone. It appears the Patriots have found much-needed playmakers for their young defense. 

3. Rob Gronkowski: It's tough to single out a third player, but I tip my hat to Gronk. Playing in his first meaningful game since the Super Bowl, the 6'6" beast showed he's back, reeling in six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. He showed some rust on his signature spike, but a healthy Gronk bodes well for the Pats. 

 

Fallers

1. Wes Welker: You can't blame Welker entirely for his uncharacteristic statline (3 receptions for 14 yards), but I expected better from Tom Brady's top target. Welker wasn't targeted often and actually played fewer snaps than the Boston TE Party and Brandon Lloyd. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a bigger issue a la Randy Moss in 2010. 

2. Nate Solder: He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great. Last year's first-round pick surrendered the team's only sack—a fairly nasty one at that. He did some solid work in the run game; however, Solder still isn't up to par as a pass protector. He'll need to improve quickly in order to keep Brady upright. 

3. Pass defense: I promise I'm not hating on the pass defense, but I still doubt whether it's good enough to shut down the league's top offenses. Devin McCourty looked better than last year, yet he still left a few plays on the field. The safeties were a bit late to the ball, and the pass rush produced just two sacks and three quarterback hits. Jermaine Cunningham looked solid as a pass-rusher, but overall the pass defense needs to step it up a notch. 

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Chargers keep playoff hopes alive with comeback win

Robin Lopez responds to Khloe Kardashian dating rumors

Report: Jermaine O'Neal 'intrigued' about joining Mavs

Report: Robert Griffin III likely to return to Redskins

Izzo criticizes coaches, players after embarrassing loss

Report: Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Is Rampage Jackson heading back to the UFC?

WATCH: DeSean Jackson mocks Eagles after win

Michael Vick: Jameis Winston is the future of the NFL

Report: No NFL team is moving to Los Angeles in 2015

Report: 49ers looking for young, offensive mind as next coach

Sheldon Richardson: I'm on the same level as JJ Watt

Dan Mullen wears funny 'Christmas Vacation' sweater

WATCH: Redskins FB gets in Eagles fan's face after TD

WATCH: Utah runs trick play on first offensive play of game

Mick Cronin misses game with unruptured aneurysm

Steve Alford: Kentucky is best team I've coached against

Peyton Siva jokes that Rick Pitino is in the mob

WATCH: Montrezl Harrell ejected for throwing punch

UNC wearing Jordan-era throwback uniforms

Brian Kelly: Justin Brent gets 'distracted,' is in my doghouse

Five free agent signings that should happen in 2015

Reporter asks Rajon Rondo awkward question about trade

Video: Swaggy P elbows Steven Adams in throat, gets ejected

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Mullen wears funny Christmas sweater

RG3 returning to Redskins?

Tom Izzo hot after bad loss

Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

WATCH: DeSean mocks Eagles

Vick: Winston is the future of the NFL

No NFL team in LA next season?

UNC rocking Jordan-era throwbacks

Reporter asks Rondo awkward question

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Jon Lester and the Cubs

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.