The news isn't particularly surprising to anyone who saw the hit that knocked Gronkowski out of the game. It was nasty. But it's a devastating development for New England's Super Bowl chances. No non-quarterback in the league is more valuable to his offense than Gronkowski. The Patriots have had one of the best offenses in the league over the last five weeks, and it's not a coincidence that it happened after Gronkowski returned from back and forearm injuries.
Chris Wesseling, during the offseason, wrote a piece that points out Tom Brady's Andy Dalton-like stats when Rob Gronkowski is out of the lineup, and Aaron Rodgers-like stats when Gronk plays. Gronkowski changes everything about how defenses attack New England because of his versatility. He gives offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels more options for play calling, and makes it far tougher to match up against the Patriots.
If we ranked the most valuable players to the Patriots before the season, we'd have placed Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo in the top five. Wilfork and Mayo already are out for the season, and it looks like Gronkowski will join them.