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The New England Patriots may have won their game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but they suffered a devastating injury to one of the most important players on the team. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending injury and was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Just when the offense seemed to be making some progress and actually clicking (in the second half of games at least), the Gronkowksi injury could just be the one the Patriots are not able to overcome.
The story of the Patriots all season has been overcoming season-ending injuries to impact players such as Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. The Patriots have done fairly well getting by without those two stars but they also have more depth in those positions. The difference with the Gronkowski injury is that there is no depth at the tight end position and no one to replace, or even come close to replacing, the production of Gronkowski. With Gronkowski done for the rest of the season, can the Patriots overcome his injury and still be a legitimate playoff team or are their chances of winning the Super Bowl all but a dream now?
Before the unfortunate Gronkowski injury, the Patriots were legitimate Super Bowl contenders. However, now with the season-ending injury to their tight end, their chances of winning the Super Bowl have gone from good to very, very slim. That is not to say it will be impossible because with Tom Brady under center and Bill Belichick on the sideline, nothing is impossible. However, the odds are stacked against the Patriots now, especially with their mediocre defense. I have the utmost faith in the Patriots but I also am realistic. I just do not believe they have enough weapons on offense to overcome this injury to be legitimate contenders.
The Patriots already have experience playing this season without their tight end as Gronkowski sat out the first six weeks of the season due to off-season surgeries. The first six weeks without Gronkowski were ugly but the team always just found a way to win. Without Gronkowski, the Patriots were 5-1. However, the statistics with Gronkowski in the game prove just how valuable to the offense he is. Here are just some of the areas that will be negatively impacted by Gronkowksi’s absence:
Now without Gronkowski in the equation, the Patriots will be easier to defend and their chances of reaching the Super Bowl will grow dimmer and dimmer.
The Patriots all season have somehow found a way to win and just barely put up more points than their opponents despite numerous injuries. Once they reach the playoffs, that kind of slow start and just escaping with wins will not suffice, especially without one of the best tight ends in the league.
It is obvious Gronkowski is irreplaceable but none of the other “weapons” even compare to what he brings to the Patriots offense. The other two tight ends, Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan, are mere second thoughts. Only Shane Vereen and Edelman are consistently reliable, but those two will not be enough to lift the offense to a championship caliber level. Stevan Ridley will probably see more playing time now because the Patriots will need a running game to make up for the loss of Gronkowski. Even if Ridley is able to hang onto the ball for the rest of the season, that will not be enough overcome the loss of one of their greatest offensive weapons.
Without a great defense to complement the offense, the Patriots’ chances of winning the Super Bowl departed on that cart with Gronkowski. Even worse, if the Patriots do not secure a bye-week, they just might be a one-and-done team this year. Maybe the Patriots will pull off some kind of miracle and surprise us all, but for now let’s just take it game by game and hope for the best.