Reports Saturday indicate that New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski will dress and could possibly play on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Depending on what happens in the game between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots may be playing for a first round bye. But regardless the Patriots must be careful with their star tight end.
The Patriots have had several injuries that have hampered the team this season. Key players such as Aaron Hernandez, Julien Edelman, and Gronkowski have been out for extended periods of time this season. This injury that has kept Gronkowski out occurred during week eleven against the Colts. Late in the game and having already been taken out for offensive plays, the star tight end was left in for extra points. During the team’s final extra point of the game, Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm which has kept him out since.
In 2011 Gronkowski had a record setting season recording 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. Before his injury six weeks ago, Gronkowski was looking at a similar year with 53 receptions for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last season he averaged 14.7 yards a catch and nearly matched that this year averaging 14.1 yards a catch.
Without Gronkowski the Patriots offense has still been very productive scoring at will against some of the league’s toughest defenses like the Texans and San Francisco 49ers. The Patriots could probably score on any defense in the playoffs with or without their star. But having him in the lineup certainly makes a difference in how the offense performs.
In week two this season, the Patriots other star tight end Hernandez injured his ankle placing him on the sidelines. After missing three weeks, Hernandez came back to play against the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. But the Patriots brought him back too early which forced him out of the following three games. The Patriots will not want to make the same mistake with Gronkowski especially with a playoff game as early as next week.
No matter whether the Patriots are playing for a bye week and whether or not they have Gronkowski, the Patriots should handle the Dolphins Sunday with relative ease. Without him the last five weeks the Patriots are averaging 34.2 points with 313.4 passing yards per game. But the addition of a player that was nearly matching his record breaking 2011 performance for the postseason would make a big difference. It would be wise for the Patriots to be very careful and not play Gronkowski on Sunday afternoon.