New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez left week two’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals with an injured ankle. After missing the following three games he returned for the team’s week six matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. After playing the following week against the New York Jets, he didn’t travel with the team to London to face the St. Louis Rams. Now following the bye week, Hernandez has been involved in three straight practices and looks to be ready to face the Buffalo Bills Sunday.
But is Hernandez really healthy? That’s what Sunday will show. It looked in practice as though Hernandez was healthy enough to return but after playing sparingly in two games, he was inactive for the game in London. He has been slow to recover from this ankle injury and if he isn’t fully healthy, this week would not be the time for him to return.
The Bills are not likely to challenge the Patriots. While the Patriots possess one of the league’s worst defenses, especially in the secondary, the Bills have their own problems on offense. Beyond wide receiver Steve Johnson, there’s not much of a threat in the passing game. That will force the Bills to depend on their running game. And while C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have been very successful this season, the Patriots run defense has been one of the league’s best.
The Patriots will need Hernandez at some point. Along with Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots two starting tight ends create mismatches with every defense they face. Last year with a weak defense and few options when it came to wide receivers, it was those two that led the Patriots to the Super Bowl. The Patriots can handle teams like the Bills without Hernandez but it’s in the postseason that they’ll need the Pro Bowler.
It’s unknown how healthy Hernandez currently is. He was thought to be fully healthy when he returned in week six but that proved to be premature. If the Patriots play him Sunday before he’s ready, it could be another setback that could possibly cost him the postseason. And missing Hernandez in the postseason could cost the Patriots a return trip to the Super Bowl. Hernandez could be healthy enough to play Sunday and it may not be an issue but the Patriots should be careful with their prized possession.