At this point, it isn’t even news. Yes, the New England Patriots are one of a few teams that will have high odds to win the 2014 Super Bowl. I’m not exactly going out on a limb there.
For the duration of the Brady era, the Patriots have not had to wonder if they can go all the way—but if they will. A good team led by Tom Brady has every reason to contend for a Super Bowl, but the Pats have found themselves on the losing end of playoff football in recent years.
There isn’t an NFL franchise that can waltz into the playoffs injury-free, but New England’s problem is that they have consistently missed crucial players down the stretch.
And by “crucial,” I mean Rob Gronkowski.
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The Gronk was unavailable for the playoffs last season after reinjuring his left forearm in the first quarter of New England’s opening postseason contest, which followed up a year where he appeared gimpy in the Super Bowl. Fellow tight end-extraordinaire Aaron Hernandez has missed 10 games over the past two seasons, leaving the Patriots strongest position rather vulnerable.
A combination of power-runner Stevan Ridley, slot-man Danny Amendola, and the best tight end corps in the NFL give New England an offense that is nearly impossible to contain. The problem is maintaining that combination.
Rob Gronkowski requires a fourth surgery on his troubled left forearm, which, depending on the status of a persistent infection, could lead to a fifth surgery. Gronk’s Week 1 status is up in the air, and the Patriots’ offensive weaponry is already at risk of depletion.
Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Amendola have all been slapped with the dreaded “injury prone” tag, and deservedly so. Gronkowski’s injuries appear to be bad luck, but can’t the same be said of other “injury prone” players? Amendola has missed 23 games since entering the NFL in 2009, and Hernandez has vowed to get stronger to increase his durability.
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If all three aerial weapons can stay healthy into January, the Patriots have as good of a chance as anyone. But you already know that. Gronkowski’s offseason troubles are already an indication of poor health in the Patriots locker room, and it is a development that merits close monitoring as the season approaches.
History tells us that the odds are stacked against New England’s foremost weapons all entering the postseason in prime form, but then again, Tom Brady has never been one to shy away from poor odds.