Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 9

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 55-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

The latest on the injury front: Four players didn't finish the game: No. 4 receiver Austin Collie (knee), starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich (foot), starting safety Steve Gregory (right thumb/wrist) and starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (unknown). Ninkovich appears to have avoided serious injury, and Dennard looked to be moving OK in the locker room despite coming off on the final drive. The injuries to Collie and Gregory appear more serious. With Collie hurt, the Patriots have rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce as candidates to bump up the depth chart. Rookie Duron Harmon would potentially elevate into a starting role to replace Gregory.

Enjoying a long break on the bye: With the Patriots' bye week up next, Bill Belichick rewarded players by giving them six straight days off, from Wednesday to Monday. Part of the consideration is that the team's next game is on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in Carolina on Nov. 18. But had the Patriots not improved to 7-2 with their best offensive performance of the season, it's hard to imagine Belichick being so generous to the players, who erupted when they received the news in the postgame locker room.

Riding with Ridley: Is it possible that fans and media members saw something that the coaching staff didn't when it came to running back Stevan Ridley? One of the more puzzling questions surrounding the team in recent weeks was why Ridley, who averaged 35.8 snaps per game in 2012, was being utilized so sparingly (20 snaps versus Dolphins; 28 snaps versus Jets) despite looking like the team's best option when he was on the field. On Sunday, Ridley played a season-high 51 snaps (including penalties) and turned in his first 100-yard performance of the season.

Timeline for Talib, Vereen & Co.: Top cornerback Aqib Talib, who hasn't played since injuring his hip Oct. 13 against the Saints, could be primed for a return Nov. 18 in Carolina; he's practiced on a limited basis the last two weeks. Meanwhile, running back Shane Vereen is eligible to return in Carolina and he is expected to be ready to play after returning to practice last week. So the Patriots could be getting two of their better players back. The status of first-year defensive tackle Armond Armstead, who is on the reserve/non-football illness list, also bears watching as he is eligible to return to practice up to Week 11.