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Rob Gronkowski ruled out for New England Patriots

The New England Patriots will be short three key starters on the road Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team downgraded tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee) to out on Saturday.

Gronkowski has ramped up his practice work over the last week, and there is hope he'll return in Week 17 to get ready for the playoffs. Spikes has enjoyed a breakout season as a run-stuffer and has been durable with 14 starts after two injury-plagued seasons in the NFL. Dennard has emerged as a key part of the Patriots' secondary as a rookie seventh-round pick.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the Patriots are facing the Jaguars. If New England can't roll in this one, the team would have legitimate reason to worry heading in to the playoffs.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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