The New England Patriots (12-4) patiently waited two months for No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman to recover from a broken foot, and that patience was reward with Edelman returning to practice and expected to play in Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round matchup with the streaking Kansas City Chiefs (12-5).
But New England and quarterback Tom Brady are now fretting over the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Conflicting reports emerged Thursday regarding the NFL’s best tight end, Gronkowski, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter stating he received an injection in his knee, while NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport later tweeted Gronkowski did not receive an injection and was simply receiving regular treatment and would be a go, according to NESN.com.
Then, New England would later update its injury report and added a back injury to Gronkowski’s chart.
Now the Patriots’ third-ranked offense, averaging 28.9 points per game, will have to face Chiefs defense that just blanked the limited Houston Texans 30-0 in last week’s wild-card round, and held opponents to 17.9 points per game during the regular season with Gronkowski and Edelman dealing with nagging injuries.
However, the defending champions have overcome injuries better than almost any team in the league. The Patriots sent 18 players to injured reserve this season, including top running backs LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, but still ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense.
Yet, replacing Gronkowski might be too tall an order. Making his third All-Pro first team with 72 receptions for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns, the 26-year-old has been one of the most dominant tight ends in the league for the last five years. Though there is a chance the Chiefs would’ve contained Gronkowski better than any other squad, allowing only 652 yards and three touchdowns to tight ends this year.
Winners of 12 straight, the Chiefs have also dealt with major injury concerns ahead of the matchup, and sit as 4.5-point underdogs. Both top receiver Jeremy Maclin (ankle) and linebacker Justin Houston (knee) are each considered “game time decisions,” according to NFL.com.
Maclin was originally feared lost for the rest of the postseason after suffering a nasty injury against Houston, and he didn’t participate in Wednesday or Thursday’s practices. The Chiefs just got Houston back against the Texans after he sat out five straight games. He put up two tackles and assisted another, but didn’t record a sack, despite leading K.C. in the regular season with 7.5 sacks.
Kickoff: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Betting Line: Patriots by 4.5 points