The Patriots will be without one of their more reliable players this Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

New England on Saturday downgraded offensive lineman Conor McDermott and tight end Hunter Henry to out due to a concussion and a knee injury, respectively. The downgrades came after running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle), safety Jabrill Peppers (hamstring) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle) were ruled out for the Week 16 matchup at Empower Field.

The Patriots still have seven players listed as questionable for the Christmas Eve primetime matchup. They did not announce a practice squad elevation along with the injury downgrades. Matt Sokol might get elevated. But the only active tight ends after Henry was ruled out were Mike Gesicki and Pharaoh Brown, who delivered an inspirational speech to the team this week.

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Sunday will be Henry’s first missed game as a Patriot. He became Bailey Zappe’s most reliable pass-catcher with seven receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. The veteran tight end also became a respected leader on the team.

McDermott split time with Trent Brown, who is questionable with an ankle and hand injury, at left tackle. New England will need to find a replacement if Brown can’t play full snaps, which he hasn’t done since Week 8.

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The injuries aren’t great for the Patriots’ chances against the Broncos, who are a touchdown favorite over New England, according to NESN Bets consensus data. But they are great for those who want the team to continue losing to increase their chances of securing a top-two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Kickoff for Patriots-Broncos is scheduled at 8:15 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

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Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images