FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are going to win Monday night. Sorry for not adding a spoiler alert.
It’s really just a foregone conclusion with the Buffalo Bills on the docket. The Bills have a historically bad offense that will be led by quarterback Derek Anderson, and no matter how good their defense is, there’s no way Buffalo’s offense can keep up with the Patriots.
So, the Patriots don’t need to play tight end Rob Gronkowski, who’s still limited with back and ankle injuries. New England beat the Chicago Bears, a much tougher team, on the road in Week 7 without Gronkowski. But Gronkowski said Saturday he expects to make the trip to play against his hometown team.
“Yeah,” Gronkowski said. “I expect to, yes, unless they tell me no.”
Gronkowski unexpectedly sat out last week with a back injury that popped up on the practice report Friday. He wasn’t ruled out until Sunday morning when the Patriots finally decided he couldn’t board a flight and join his teammates in Chicago.
Gronkowski reportedly was dealing with back spasms. He missed practice Wednesday but was back on the field Thursday, Friday and Saturday in a limited capacity.
“I feel good,” Gronkowski said. “Just doing everything that I need to do. Whatever the training staff — whatever I can do out on the field. Whatever coaches ask me to do, just taking it day by day, one step at a time to get back on the field.”
So, should the Patriots put Gronkowski on the field if they don’t need him? Eh, probably.
Gronkowski has playing-time and statistical incentives built into his contract, which should coax him to take the field. Gronkowski can make an additional $1.1M for 80 percent playtime, nine or more TD catches, 1,085 receiving yards and 70 or more catches. He can earn up to three of those incentives.
Gronkowski only has played 78.78 percent of offensive snaps thus far. He’s on pace for 59 catches for 926 yards with just two touchdowns. A few big games could boost those projections up to incentive level, however.
Gronkowski has undergone three back surgeries in his playing career, but back spasms aren’t as serious as his previous ailments. If he was close to playing last week, then he should be good to go against the Bills. And once the game gets out of hand, and if Gronkowski can improve his 2018 stats, then the Patriots could always yank him.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images