Every year teams have to face the harsh reality that it is impossible for every player to make it through the season unscathed. That has been particularly true this year, as the NFL has seen multiple big names drop to season ending injuries.
Unfortunately, over the past few weeks the Patriots have met this issue head on. Two weeks ago Dion Lewis went down to a knee injury, while this week Julian Edelman was sidelined with a broken ankle, which is quite ironic considering that is what he normally does best to opposing defenders. Edelman’s estimated time table to return is right around the end of season, so the Patriots are fairly hopeful that he should be good go by the start of the playoffs.
While the Patriots should have no real problem going forward in the regular season, it has never been more important that they stay healthy. Now as we all know making the Pats play in these petty regular season games is just plain stupid (thanks a lot Goodell), they really cannot afford to lose any more bodies.
As of right now the receiving core consists of Amendola, who has become quite reliable over the past few weeks, a rusty LaFell, Aaron Dropson, and now Chris Harper, who hasn’t seen playing time since the preseason. If this was any other team I’d be worried, but this is the Patriots we are talking about. Tom Brady could turn me into a star, and I’m a scrawny white boy from New England. Well, now that I think of it most of our receivers have been scrawny white guys so I guess that could kind of work I guess.
Anyway I’m getting off topic. What’s important here is that the Patriots stay healthy. I’ve said throughout this year that there are four players that the Patriots can absolutely not afford to lose. The first being Brady, of course. The second being Gronk, the third being McCourty, and the fourth, Chandler Jones.
Jones right now is having the greatest defensive year that no one is talking about. He is leading the league in sacks, and has shown that he can come up with timely turnovers. However, what makes Jones truly invaluable is the constant pressure that brings on every play.
It is his presence on the line that has allowed for the current success of the Pat’s secondary. Without Chandler pressuring quarterbacks and forcing early throws, who knows how exposed this secondary would look.
Chandler has been the unsung hero of this defense, and with McCourty adding veteran leadership from the free safety position, they have managed to anchor this defensive unit, and have surprisingly turned it into one of the better groups in the league.
Now, focusing on the offensive side of the ball, I think it goes without saying just how important Gronk is to this team. It seems like every year (except for last year, thank god) we experience life without Gronk, and it’s horrible. The offense absolutely has a different feel to it when he is not in. They’re stagnant, pedestrian, and all around frustrating. He is one of the few true game changers in the league and his value to this team cannot be understated. Now with Edelman out, we need Gronk more than ever, and there is no doubt in my mind that he can deliver. He is an uncoverable machine, and there has yet to be a defense who has found an answer for him.
If he along with the three others that were mentioned can stay healthy for the remainder of the schedule, I think the Pats will be fine, and can without a doubt once again reach the mark of 16-0. Add on top of that the addition of a fresh, fired up Julian Edelman heading into the playoffs, that’s a recipe for a dominant Super Bowl run. As always, ‘In Bill We Trust’, and we’re on to 19-0.
By Jake Cianci