Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
– Logan Mankins and Alfonzo Dennard returned to practice yesterday, which is excellent news for a team that seems to be enduring a plague of injury bugs. Each had not participated in practice last week with Dennard not suiting up for week 17’s game. This is a perfect example of why the Patriots needed the bye, simply to get key player healthy. That being said, Aaron Dobson missed practice, leaving his status for Saturday very much in doubt.
-Rob Gronkowski is set to have surgery Thursday of this week which immediately puts into question his ability to start the season on the active roster, much start training camp healthy. It will be about 6 1/2 months from the date of the surgery until the start of camp, a small length of time when talking about ACL surgery.
-For a position by position breakdown of the Patriots upcoming game against the Colts, check out Bleacher Report here. I think this will be a huge week, and the entire postseason really, for linebacker Jamie Collins. It is week 19 now, and he is no longer a rookie. With Spikes down he will be called upon to play more snaps than he has until this point, and he will likely be asked to play a lot in coverage. Hopefully this allows Hightower to take more of Spikes role, being used against the run more than the pass, where his size is more of a disadvantage.
-Don Banks ranks the potential Super Bowl matchups and unsurprisingly, the Patriots seem to be a hard sell. A combination of factors goes into this: the fact that the Patriots have been so good for so long, the lack of star power (Brady and Belichick aside), two of the matchups being a rematch, and the Patriots not being the flashy offense of the Broncos.
– Tom Brady has a cold but will be on the field Saturday. Chalk this up to a storyline that will be overplayed if the Patriots lose and/or Brady plays poorly.
– It appears that newly signed practice squad receiver Reggie Dunn has been asked to simulate Colts receiver T. Y. Hilton in practice this week. Dunn and Hilton have similar builds and speeds, and according to players he has been doing a good job. Linebacker Ja’Gared Davis has alos been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, adding depth to the thinning linebacker corps after the loss of Brandon Spikes.
– Just because it is the postseason doesn’t mean there are no power rankings! The Patriots seem to be in the same place, behind all the NFC contenders and the Broncos, but ahead of the rest of the AFC. Right about where you would expect to be at this point.
– The Colts have signed former Patriots receiver Deion Branch this week, presumably to gather some intel on the Patriots offense heading into this Saturday’s game. Many fans are upset to see the beloved Branch sign on the eve of a playoff matchup and the potential advantage it could give the Colts, but Tom Brady, for one, is happy for Branch and glad he is getting an opportunity with a team. Besides, if you haven’t changed your signals and audibles after two years then you deserve to lose.