The New England Patriots offense was set to feature its two nightmare matchups in tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The duo signed offseason contracts worth a combined maximum of $95 million.
Now, both are banged up.
Hernandez is out with an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. Gronkowski was a new addition to the injured list Friday with a hip problem. He was listed as limited in practice and questionable for the Patriots' division matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Take care how you read into that knowing coach Bill Belichick's proclivity to put his own spin on an injury report.
Gronkowski, and the Patriots in general, have dragged out of the gate. He has 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. If there's ever an opponent to get Gronk going, it's the Bills. He has 22 catches for 314 yards and seven touchdowns in four games against the AFC East rival -- Gronkowski's best numbers against any team.
Hernandez's absence, however, doesn't just equate to more targets for Gronkowski. He is the more complete tight end and an excellent blocker -- something Gronk will be asked to do more of.
"I'm always going with what the game plan gives me," Gronkowski told the Boston Herald. "You never know what kind of situations you're going to be in during the game, how the game is going to work out. Whatever the assignment is, whatever I'm asked to do, if it's going out and catching the ball, if it's staying in and blocking, if it's run blocking, whatever it is, whatever I'm asked to do, just got to go out and perform to my best ability on that play."
Fantasy owners hope this will be the week Gronkowski breaks out statistically. A bad hip doesn't help the cause.
Receiver Wes Welker, though, was more involved in the offense with Hernandez out, and it will go up even more if Gronkowski is hobbled. The same can be said for receiver Brandon Lloyd.
If anyone can adjust, it's surely Belichick and Tom Brady, but it's got to be more than annoying to spend an entire offseason building the offense around the Hernandez and Gronkowski only to have them both hurt by Week 4.
UPDATE: Gronkowski is expected to play Sunday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.