The New England Patriots have suffered an incredible amount of key injuries throughout the 2013 season, most notably on the defensive side of the ball. This is part of the reason why this year has been so impressive, because nobody really expected the Pats to do this well, after seeing how their roster got obliterated early in the year.
There are four games remaining the regular season for New England, and while it would be nice to get a few guys back in an attempt to make a final push for the number one seed, it is more important to have everybody healthy for the playoffs. We have seen far too many scenarios where one big injury derailed an NFL teams’ Super Bowl hopes, making the health of injured contributors extremely important come January. Anybody remember Wes Welker in 2009?
Here are the key players that have either suffered a season ending injury, or are currently dealing with a less significant injury.
Jerod Mayo (LB)
Vince Wilfork (DL)
Tommy Kelly (DL)
Sebastian Vollmer (OL)
Kenbrell Thompkins (WR)- Injured his hip last week in Houston, currently questionable.
Aaron Dobson (WR)- Foot sprain suffered in week 12, questionable as well.
Marcus Cannon (OL)- Ankle injury versus Denver, has missed most of the last two games.
Alfonzo Dennard (CB)- Has been dealing with a knee injury for the last couple of weeks, seems like a situation where the Pats are waiting until he is 100% healthy to return him to the field.
Obviously there is nothing New England can do about the four players that were placed on the IR list earlier in the year. But the loss of these four players really hurt the Pats, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Their run defense has been in shambles ever since Jerod Mayo hurt his chest back in week six, and the loss of Tommy Kelly a few weeks later certainly didn’t help (not too mention Vince Wilfork). But like any championship-caliber team, they will have to work through it, if they wish to return to the Super Bowl.
Thompkins and Dobson are two important weapons in the Patriots offense, as they present the only real outside the numbers threat. Keeping them out of these next few games is fine, but they will be needed come playoff time. Every year we see opposing defenses clog up the middle of the field, forcing Brady to go to the outside. This is where the two rookies have to step up, making it imperative that they are healthy this January.
Given the success that right tackle Will Svitek has had in Cannon’s absence, I feel that Dennard being gone has affected the Patriots the most. Despite his small frame, Dennard is one of the top cover corners in the NFL, and when he is out, the back end can be exploited. Aqib Talib keeps his side of the field on lock (for the most part), and even though Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington are solid corners, they simply can’t replace Dennard. Hopefully number 37 comes back feeling like his old self, putting New England in a position to take down a team like the Denver Broncos in the playoffs.