New England Patriots fans, I come bearing good and bad news.
The good: The Patriots’ offense should be fine in the playoffs.
The bad: You have to stop acting like calamity struck the Patriots by way of injuries.
Yes, the Patriots have 20 (!) players on injured reserve. But 10 of those never hit the 53-man roster this season, and just two would have been every-week starters.
Season-ending injuries are common among NFL teams other than the Cincinnati Bengals, apparently, who have avoided them but also are currently without their starting quarterback — things could be worse.
Injuries clearly are affecting the Patriots on their way to the playoffs, but they’re mostly short-term pains. Patriots fans actually should be grateful that so many key players, such as wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Josh Kline, defensive end Rob Ninkovich, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are expected back for the postseason.
That’s where the really good news comes in: The Patriots’ offense will be fine when the postseason begins and Edelman returns.
Let’s have some fun with numbers, why don’t we?
Tom Brady’s stats with Edelman: 68.7 completion percentage, 2,804 yards, 23 touchdowns, two interceptions, 113.5 passer rating.
Tom Brady’s stats without Edelman (including the final three quarters of their Week 10 matchup with the New York Giants): 59.4 completion percentage, 1,832 yards, 13 touchdowns, five interceptions, 89.4 passer rating.
Of course, many of those games with Edelman also were played with starting running back Dion Lewis and left tackle Nate Solder, so let’s extract Brady’s stats with Edelman but without those two players: 65 completion percentage, 535 yards, four touchdowns, 100.8 passer rating.
The Patriots’ offense will be fine.
I understand the concern. The Patriots’ defense currently is outplaying their offense, which probably is an uncomfortable feeling for fans who understandably have forgotten what made New England so great in its first three Super Bowl wins.
Brady has struggled as Edelman, Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski have missed games. Brady has completed just 57 percent of his passes for 1,064 yards with seven touchdowns, four interceptions and an 80.5 passer rating when at least two of those players are out of the offense.
The Patriots were 9-0 with Edelman and 3-3 without him. Brady is getting knocked around by a leaky offensive line that didn’t look quite so porous early in the season because he was able to get the ball out quickly to players like Edelman, Amendola, Gronkowski and Lewis.
The Patriots’ offense should return to form when Edelman and Amendola return, however, and opposing defenses might not know what hit them.
I’m sure the more pessimistic fans will begin talking about rust and the likelihood Edelman and Amendola won’t be 100 percent healthy.
Edelman will have practiced for a month and a half by the time his Patriots play their first playoff game. He’s working with Brady every day. They spent offseason workouts honing their craft and chemistry in the mountains of Montana. Rust is not a concern with a player of Edelman’s experience.
And not playing at 100 percent? What player is? The Patriots won a Super Bowl last season, then seemingly half their roster underwent some kind of offseason surgery. Newsflash: Players are hurt in January. And Edelman will have had eight and a half weeks to recover from a surgery that’s expected to keep a player out six to eight weeks.
Injuries have ravaged the Patriots’ roster, but it’s not quite as bad as some are convinced. The Patriots have withstood season-ending injuries to fringe starters/role players such as running back LeGarrette Blount, cornerback Tarell Brown, fullback James Develin and defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Chris Jones because of impressive roster construction and depth built by head coach Bill Belichick.
The key game-changing players — outside Solder and Lewis — will be back. And when they’re back, everything will return to close to normal.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images