Tom Brady will take three years to fully recover from his injury, which means that he won't be "great" for a while now.
This year, Brady is completing 65% of his passes for 2364 yards (third best in AFC) and has 16 TDs to 5 INTS (same TD to INT ratio as Peyton Manning). Early this season, Brady did look "out of sync" with his receivers, and the Patriots are lucky they did not lose their first game of the year to the Buffalo Bills. However, Brady has recovered his form and is playing very well. In fact, it is shaping up to be one of his best statistical seasons ever.
Much of the "it will take three years" talk comes from using Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer as an example. Palmer suffered a somewhat equally horrible knee injury to Brady's in 2006, and it is only now that Palmer looks to have returned to form. This example is very misleading and flawed though. Palmer was "ready" to play the next season after his injury, but the Bengals roster in 2007 was not the Patriots roster in 2009. Flaws in the Cincy roster, bad coaching, and poor ownership factored more into the Bengals struggling since their last playoff appearance; not Palmer's injury.
The Patriots have lost too many important players to be a contender anymore.
Gone are Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and Richard Seymour. These players were the foundation of three championships. However, new players like Jerod Mayo and Brandon Meriweather have the Patriots allowing only 14.5 ppg (#2 behind the Colts). So, statistically, this is one of the better defense the Patriots have ever had. When you have Tom Brady, and you give him a defense that is only allowing roughly 2 TDs a game, you ARE a contender.
The Patriots basically have only two receiving weapons on offense: Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Double those two guys and you should be able to shut down this offense.
Um, if things were that easy, the Patriots would be 0-8 now. They aren't. When teams double those two WRs, tight end Benjamin Watson has stepped up and made some big plays. He is on his way to a career year, currently with 19 receptions for 271 yards and 4 TDs.
Like with all great teams, lots of silly, incorrect information gets thrown out there and just accepted as fact (like when people say Peyton Manning "struggles" against 3-4 defenses). When morons spew this kind of lazy garbage, it is up to us bloggers to kick them in the nuts, laugh in their face, and yell "WRONG!"