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Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski give Patriots top offense

In this week's Quarterback Index, Gregg Rosenthal noted that Tom Brady might be No. 1 if the rankings were based solely on the last five weeks.

Whereas Brady missed more throws than any quarterback through the end of October, he's converted more jaw-dropping tosses than any passer since Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were back healthy and in football shape for the 55-31 coming out party against the Steelers in Week 9.

It's no coincidence that Brady's season turned around once Gronkowski returned to the lineup. As we pointed out in June, Brady was essentially Aaron Rodgers when Gronk was on the field last season, and Andy Dalton when the All-Pro tight end was sidelined.

Among non-quarterbacks on offense, Gronkowski is the single biggest difference-maker in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2010, he leads the league in red-zone touchdowns, quarterback-to-receiver completion percentage and yards after catch.

Players of Gronk's size (6-foot-6, 265) aren't supposed to be able to bend over in mid-stride and pluck a fastball off the carpet like he did on this spectacular 23-yard touchdown grab last week.

The Boston Globe's estimable Bob Ryan opined Sunday that no tight end in history -- not Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe or John Mackey -- could match Gronkowski at this point in his career.

He's not lying.

As I pointed out on Wednesday's "Around The League Podcast," Gronkowski has rewritten the early-career expectations for tight ends as Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson did for quarterbacks and running backs in the 1980s. He broke the mold.

Gronk might be doing the heavy lifting, but he's also getting help from "making the leap" candidate Julian Edelman.

For all of the early-season handwringing over the loss of Wes Welker, Edelman has the "Slot Machine" beat in receptions (70 to 68) and the two are nearly identical in yards (711 to 717) through 12 games.

Dubbed "Minitron" by Brady this week, Edelman has shown the past two weeks why he's a sneaky choice as one of the best athletes in the league.

A converted college quarterback, Edelman is the active leader in punt-return average -- and sixth in NFL history. He's a kamikaze with the ball in his hands.

With Gronkowski and Edelman taking center stage, the Patriots lead the NFL with 35.75 points and 473.25 yards per game over the past five weeks.

For comparison's sake, Peyton Manning's vaunted Broncos offense is averaging 30.25 points and 442.75 over that span. Drew Brees' Saints aren't even in the neighborhood at 23.2 points and 396.2 yards.

To Brady's credit, he has the offense clicking on all cylinders while Stevan Ridley, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins watch from the sidelines. If Brady can seamlessly incorporate that playmaking trio over the next month, he will have a good chance to stand all alone as the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to six Super Bowl appearances.

The latest "Around the League Podcast" debates the Seahawks Super Bowl chances and asks "Who do you trust?" as the playoffs approach.

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