NEPD Staff Writer: Joon Lee
This is in replacement of this week’s NEPD Mailbag due to a lack of questions. So to make sure we have one next week, follow me on Twitter @iamjoonlee and ask me questions throughout the weeks so we can put one together!
Here is a look at this week’s injury report:
OUT: Wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), Tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick (ankle), Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), Defensive lineman Justin Francis (ankle), Tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), Defensive tackle Kyle Love (knee), Left guard Logan Mankins (hip), Offensive lineman Nick McDonald (shoulder), Cornerback Sterling Moore (knee), Running back Shane Vereen (foot), Tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back)
Notables this week include today’s addition of Rob Gronkowski to the list. The Patriots offense will be in deep trouble if Gronkowski’s production is limited or he is unable to play in Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills. While Edelman and Hernandez have already been ruled out of the game, Dennard and Vereen have also missed the last couple of weeks due to injury. Losing Kyle Love from a defensive line that struggled against the Ravens last week would be a big loss.
With the Patriots in last place in the AFC East, the Patriots are in a “must-win” situation if they don’t want the fans to explode on WEEI and The Sports Hub. A lot of fans and analysts predicted a 14-2 record before the season, but a 13-0 record the rest of the way is quite unlikely.
With Julian Edelman out for this game, expect to see an increase in production from Wes Welker. Welker had a prolific game against the Ravens last week, reigning in 8 catches for a 142 yards. Welker was getting a lot more reps last week, even before the Edelman injury and looked to be a big part of McDaniel’s game plan.
Another big factor on the Bills side of the ball is the status of running back Fred Jackson, who suffered a sprained right knee during week one. While typically CJ Spiller would be the one replacing Jackson, he is listed on the Bills injury report as doubtful when he injured his shoulder.
Remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Buffalo Bills quarterback of the future and signed a massive extension? His mighty struggles was widely documented. He has not been bad this year so far. Fitzpatrick has thus far completed 58.1% of his passes for 581 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. If you buy into QB rating or ESPN’s QBR rating, he has a 95.2 and 50.0 respectively. Fitzpatrick has some weapons and has not been bad this year. With both Jackson and Spiller out, Fitzpatrick’s success against the struggling Patriots secondary will likely be one of the determining factors in Sunday’s game.
Speaking of the secondary, this unit really needs to step up after a very bad performance down the stretch against Ravens. Kyle Arrington has long been an overrated cornerback due to his high interception numbers. Arrington’s high number of tackles results from the number of passes he allows and his interceptions are constantly in non-essential situations. McCourty made a couple of nice plays playing against Torry Smith, but all was overshadowed with a terrible pass-interference and a couple of bad plays.
Final Score Prediction: 27-10 Patriots
With the Bill’s two biggest offensive weapons out or unlikely to make a huge impact on Sunday in Jackson and Spiller, Belichick will be able to neutralize the Bills offense and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Patriots will be extremely motivated after two straight losses and their current status as a last place team in the AFC East.
Expect the Patriots to come out and have a huge game against the Bills and their new look defense.