First and foremost, the Pats D was horrible after the bye last year as well. The LBers especially were killed last year @Pittsburgh and yesterday at home. Safeties, too. Just about everyone on D, really. They looked more sloppy than rested. I feel like that is on coaching and think it relates to the extra time players get due to the CBA. The good news is they'll be better at the fundamentals next week. The week after the Steelers game last year the Pats D held the Giants scoreless for the entire first half, and lost when they brought in Sergio Brown.
The Pats constantly under-perform against the spread when they are highly favored. Again, I feel like this is on coaching. They get complacent. Like in the 4th quarter, for instance.
Third, Aqib Talib is here. If the Pats want to bring heat they can have Talib and Dennard play to their strengths in man-coverage. They can keep Devin McCourty back deep and probably bring Patrick Chung closer to the traditional SS role. They were doing some of this last year, except they didn't have a talent like Aqib Talib. Even if he doesn't perform up to standard, the D is still better than what it was last year. We have Tavon Wilson instead of James Ihedigbo, Steve Gregory instead of Sergio Brown, and so on.
If this game was with last year's team we loss bad. Belichick is still tinkering around. This week we saw some mixing of McCourty with either Gregory or Wilson. Next week, or the week after @Jets, I would count on the Pats have McCourty/Chung back there. Whatever they end up with it's far better than what the Pats had last year.