The New England Patriots finished the regular season tied for the AFC’s best record, despite dealing with almost as many injuries as any NFL team. The No.2 seed is getting healthy as they approach their first 2016 postseason game, heading into the divisional playoffs as the favorite to represent the conference in Super Bowl 50.
It seemed like Tom Brady was the only key Patriots player on offense that didn’t go down with an injury at some point in the 2015 season. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman both missed time, while the team’s top two running backs, LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, are done for the year. On defense, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones and Devin McCourty all missed time.
Below is a look at the availability of a few New England players that were injured at the end of the regular season for Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The injury suffered by Edelman had a significant impact on New England in the regular season. The team went 9-0 when the wide receiver was healthy and just 3-4 as he recovered from a broken foot. New England averaged 33. 7 points in games that Edelman played and just 23.1 points with him on the sidelines. He hasn’t taken part in a game since Nov. 15, but the Patriots’ No.1 wide out should be a big factor in Saturday’s game.
Edelman returned to practice a few weeks ago, and he looks to be fully healthy. He told reporters that he’s “going to go full throttle,” which the team will need him to do against Kansas City’s defense. The Chiefs allowed the lowest opposing passer rating of any AFC team in the regular season. Edelman was key to New England’s Super Bowl run last year, catching 26 passes for 281 yards in three games.
Jones proved to be one of the NFL’s best defensive ends this season. He totaled a career-high 12.5 sacks, while forcing four fumbles and intercepting one pass. But Jones was held out of New England’s Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins with toe and abdominal injuries, and he was taken to the hospital on Sunday morning.
The exact details surrounding Jones’ medical emergency just a few days ago are unknown. However, it doesn’t look like the incident was too serious, and Jones hasn’t missed practice this week and is expected to play. Only the Denver Broncos had more sacks than the Patriots in the regular season. Jones had three tackles and a sack in last year’s Super Bowl.
The wide receiver has dealt with injuries throughout his career, and he was banged up towards the end of the 2015 season after playing in every game last year. Amendola re-injured the knee that he hurt the previous month on Dec. 20 against the Tennessee Titans while returning a punt. He played in Week 17 after being listed as questionable, and he’ll be good to go on Saturday, giving New England their full complement of receivers for the first time in two months.
Amendola was the team’s top wide receiver when they barely beat the Baltimore Ravens in their first playoff game of last year, catching five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Because the Patriots’ receiving corps has been so banged up this season, his 65 receptions ranked first among the team's wide outs.