Sunday Scramble: Pats can survive Gronkowski injury

No soy fiesta in New England.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm is such a downer for the New England Patriots because Gronk's skill set stands alone. No one in the NFL combines his vicious blocking with his playmaking ability. Gronkowski had 392 yards and seven touchdowns in the last four weeks alone.

But we're not sure the injury makes that big a difference in the scheme of things. The Patriots have more offensive depth than any team in football. They average 35.8 points-per-week, and Gronk's tag-team partner Aaron Hernandez might be back for the team's Thanksgiving game against the Jets. New England still has Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, a strong running game and a passable quarterback. This team knows how to adjust to injuries.'s Ian Rapoport reports Gronk is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. That won't help New England's chances of getting a playoff bye with Houston and San Francisco still on the schedule, but let's be real: The bye is an uphill battle no matter. New England is two losses behind Houston and essentially two back of Baltimore because the Ravens own the tiebreaker.

Gronk's injury might cost some fantasy owners a title, but he should be back in time to help the Patriots go after another Lombardi trophy. Ultimately, that's all that matters in New England.

So you're saying there's a chance

  1. Yes, they were playing the Chiefs. But the Bengals have won in consecutive weeks by the score of 59-19. No AFC team is in a better position to jump into a playoff spot.
  1. We're guessing the Tim Tebow talk will die down for the week after Mark Sanchez averaged 8.9 yards-per-attempt in St. Louis. Tebow lost five yards on two rushes.
  1. It's a great sign for the Redskins that they won 31-6 on a day where there offense wasn't even in sync for most of the afternoon. One negative: Pierre Garcon still didn't look all the way back.

They're real and spectacular

  1. Baltimore's win over the Steelers wasn't about style points. It was nice to see their defense win a game for them. The secondary played well. Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed looked healthier. It's a huge win for AFC playoff positioning, no matter who was at quarterback for Pittsburgh.
  1. The New Orleans Saints' running game continues to roll. Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas all averaged over 4.6 yards-per-carry in Oakland. They rushed for 153 yards overall against the Raiders. New Orleans is 5-5 and back in the playoff mix, but it's still an uphill battle. Next up: San Francisco and Atlanta.
  1. One reason it's an uphill battle: There are so many contenders in the NFC. Tampa Bay is 6-4 after another magical win. Carolina went up 11 points with 4:24 to go, and still couldn't close the Bucs out. That sums up Tampa's increasingly improbable season. And Carolina's miserable one.
  1. Von Miller had three more sacks and two forced fumbles for the Broncos. A defensive player can't dominate more than he has the last three weeks. J.J. Watt also had a big game, but the Defensive Player of the Year race is turning into a doozy. Denver's defense has come along so fast. The entire Broncos team has the ruthless efficiency of Peyton Manning's old Colts squads.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Houston Texans' 43-37 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. ET.

Most ridiculous game of the year

Chad Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns, including 236 yards to Justin Blackmon. Against Houston. And still somehow lost. Houston-Jacksonville looked like the biggest dog game of the week. Instead, it gets the 8 p.m. ET NFL Replay time slot.

They won but ...

  1. The Falcons became only the third team in the last decade to lose the turnover margin by five and still win. Matt Ryan became the first quarterback since Bart Starr in 1967 to throw five interceptions with no touchdowns and still win. Atlanta's interior offensive line got manhandled for much of their victory over Arizona. It's easy to see that line collapsing against some of the great NFC front sevens in the playoffs.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Dallas Cowboys' 23-20 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

  1. On paper, the Cowboys schedule is easy. But we have no faith in this team to go on a long winning streak when they need 30 first downs and a huge comeback just to beat the Browns at home in overtime. No game is easy for this team.
  1. The Texans' defense is so damn good, yet it has been absolutely filleted in two of Houston's last four home games. Once it was to Aaron Rodgers. Some concern is appropriate when it happens against Chad Henne, right?

Don't panic

  1. I watch the Browns every week because of our weekly rookie quarterback rankings. They have to be one of the best 2-8 teams in NFL history. They compete every week, but that probably won't save Pat Shurmur's job. This Browns team reminds me a lot of Eric Mangini's Browns teams that were always better than the record indicated.
  1. So the Indianapolis Coltsaren't Super Bowl contenders. We knew that. Their big games are ones like next week against the Bills. Win that, and there's some separation in the Wild Card race. Lose, and we're back to a free-for-all.

Some panic is acceptable

  1. Ken Whisenhunt pulled John Skelton with a 13-3 lead to go to rookie Ryan Lindley. The Cardinals had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons and then Skelton got seven passes before getting the hook. Lindley threw for 64 yards on 20 attempts. At one point late in the first half, the Cardinals had more scoring "drives" (3) than first downs (2).

Lindley wasn't an upgrade. When the passing game is this bad for this long in Arizona, it is a full organizational failure from the coaches to the players to the front office. It's a shame because Darnell Dockett and the Cardinals defense played outstanding Sunday in Atlanta.

  1. The Detroit Lions are 0-4 in the NFC North. Coaches are fighting about Titus Young on the sideline. The bright side: The Lions should get a last-place schedule next year.
  1. The Rams still haven't won since that Thursday night game against Cardinals in Week 5.
  1. Yes, the three teams above are next to get forked. But we might let the Lions play on Thanksgiving first. It just doesn't seem to be in the holiday spirit to kill them now.
  1. Matt Cassel's career in Kansas City quietly may have reached its end when he got pulled for Brady Quinn on Sunday. Cassel will make a good backup for some team next year, but it's hard to image him getting a starting job.
  1. The Chargers, 3-2 at the time, led the 2-3 Broncos 24-0 at halftime in Week 6. This was not that long ago. And yet the AFC West race is now over before Thanksgiving.
  1. That whole "Nick Foles could save Andy Reid's job" concept lasted one week. But hey, no team is more talented.
  1. ESPN's game a week from Monday: The 2-8 Carolina Panthers versus the 3-7 Philadelphia Eagles. The Week 15 Titans-Jets game doesn't look much better.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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