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What would it take to stop Rob Gronkowski?

The Patriots enter their Week 9 bout with the Broncos boasting the hottest offense in the NFL with an average of 40 points over the past four games.

Despite the early-season hand-wringing over Tom Brady's performance, informed Patriots fans have long understood their fortunes rise and fall with the health of Rob Gronkowski.

From a statistical standpoint, Brady has essentially been Aaron Rodgers with Gronk on the field over the past few seasons -- and Andy Daltonwithout the All-Pro tight end.

Gronkowski has been a man among boys over the past month, averaging over 100 yards and a touchdown per game. As NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock pointed out, Brady is so confident in his go-to receiver that he ignored an open Julian Edelman at the goal line to opt for a covered Gronkowski in the end zone on the Patriots' first of many touchdowns versus the Bears.

On his 46-yard score two quarters later, Gronkowski beat free safety Chris Conte off the line and tossed strong safety Ryan Mundy aside after the catch.

If a pair of safeties are powerless to stop him, what would it take for one defensive player to contain juggernaut Gronk?

Comparing Gronkowski to the "offensive version of J.J. Watt," NFL Media's Nate Burleson emphasized on NFL NOW this week that the Patriots tight end looks like he was "built in a lab" or "pieced together by the football gods."

Shutting Gronkowski down, Burleson said, would require a defensive back with Kam Chancellor's size, Richard Sherman's playmaking ability and Patrick Peterson's speed and quickness.

As long as Gronk is healthy, the matchups and personnel sets will continue to put defenses in a bind. He's too quick for linebackers and too physically dominant for defensive backs.

The presence of such a dominant force has a symbiotic effect on New England's offense, leaving open spaces for Edelman, Tim Wright and Brandon LaFell to exploit.

After nailing 27 of 27 passes to Gronkowski, LaFell and Wright versus Chicago, Brady sports a higher passer rating (129.1) than Peyton Manning (127.4) over the past four games.

The Broncos' offense isn't the only one clicking on all cylinders in advance of Sunday afternoon's clash of the AFC titans.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 8 game. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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