How Patriots’ recent COVID losses could affect matchup vs Dolphins

Last year’s playoffs felt weird without the New England Patriots, and they’re back where they belong after a brief absence. While Bill Belichick’s group clinched a playoff spot in Week 17 vs Jacksonville, they still have a lot to play for in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

With a win and a Bills loss, the Patriots would reclaim their spot as AFC East champs. That’s probably a pipe dream given Buffalo is playing the Jets, but New York just pushed the Bucs to the brink of an upset, so anything’s possible.

Even if the Bills, win, New England will still have playoff seeding to fight for. The last thing they want is to drop in the standings with a loss to the Dolphins and face a potential first-round matchup with the Chiefs.

While the Patriots are favored to beat Miami, it seems a little concerning that the club continues to place players on the COVID list. On Tuesday, Myles Bryant and Yodny Cajuste joined the growing group.

https://twitter.com/MikeReiss/status/1478692875131133952?s=20

The Patriots placed cornerback Myles Bryant on the COVID list.

This is far from a doomsday scenario for the Patriots, but it’s noteworthy that COVID is still running amok in the locker room.

Before Week 17, the likes of Matt Judon, Kendrick Bourne, Ju’Whaun Bentley, Rhamondre Stevenson, Josh Uche and Brandon King, who’s played 76% of the special teams snaps this year, were all activated off the COVID list. In other words, don’t be shocked if more Patriots players join Bryant and Cajuste on the shelf before Sunday.

While Cajuste is a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency reserve, Bryant has played a prominent role for the Patriots defense for the better part of three months following Jonathan Jones’ season-ending shoulder injury.

In fact, Bryant has logged a 63.9% snap share over the last 10 games. Over the last four games, that percentage jumps to 76.2%.

In Sunday’s 50-10 drubbing of Jacksonville, Bryant was awarded the game ball by Belichick after tallying  three tackles and an interception. It also happened to be his 24th birthday, but it was still a convincing performance from the young corner.

This wasn’t the first time Bryant came up big for the Patriots. In the Week 13 win over Buffalo, he delivered the game-sealing pass breakup.

It’s unclear whether Bryant is vaccinated, but Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus understands that the former undrafted talent was wearing a mask during his game ball exchange with Belichick, which would indicate he’s unvaccinated.

That puts him in a tough position to get cleared in time for Sunday, even though players who test positive only have to isolate for five days now after the NFL’s decision to follow the new guidelines put in place by the CDC.

Either way, this is something to monitor leading up to Sunday, because the Pats’ secondary could have their hands full trying to contain the likes of Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki without Bryant.