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.
NFL.com'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
- 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.
They're real and spectacular
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Most ridiculous game of the year
They won but ...
- 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.
- 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.
Some panic is acceptable
- 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).