For the final month leading up to the Patriots regular season, I will be featuring two “Over/Under” pieces per week. I’ll take a New England Patriots or AFC East topic and give you my opinion of whether we will see more (over) or less (under) than the number provided.
This is the last edition in the 8-piece Over/Under series. Everyone is speculating on Rob Gronkowski’s return, and right now it looks like he could be out for the first two games. He did not travel with the team to Buffalo for today’s game, according to Albert Breer. The Patriots play the New York Jets just 4 days from now for the Thursday night game, so it’s likely they will hold him out at least until week 3. The question here is how many touchdowns can Gronk produce this season?
Rob Gronkowski: Over or Under 11.5 Touchdowns
Entering the league in the 2010 NFL season, Gronkowski has put up double digit touchdowns every year he has played. The guy has an unreal ability when it comes to getting in the endzone. His rookie year only yielded 42 total catches, but 10 of those were touchdowns.
For the last two seasons, Gronkowski has averaged roughly 1 TD per game. That kind of consistency is tough to find in the NFL, and I see no reason why Gronk can’t keep close to that pace this season. Assuming he does play from week 3 on, he would have plenty of opportunity to reach 12+ touchdowns.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Aaron Dobson look pretty good. Danny Amendola also looks like more of a touchdown threat than Welker was for New England, so the TD catches could possibly spread out a little more this season. But I think that once Gronk returns, Tom Brady will target him very often, especially in the red zone. He is the top tight end in the league still, and I’m sure Brady still feels that way.
The Pats really don’t have many dominant defenses on the schedule. Most are average, but some are decent, like Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Denver. After Thursday night’s game, I’m a lot less worried about the Ravens defense.
Zach Sudfeld should be a decent fill-in as the starter the first few games, but there is no doubt this offense runs through Gronk in the passing game. Few teams can find a player to cover him. But the Patriots need to keep him out until he is ready, because Gronk’s presence is crucial in the playoffs. If he continues to recover as he has been, I think he will still get his Pro Bowl stats.
I think Rob Gronkowski will catch 13-15 touchdowns this season.