Playing on a short week is never easy for any team in the NFL, especially this late in the season. But the Patriots, who have been dealing with an unfortunate amount of injuries, are already down some essential players before their matchup on Thursday against the Steelers.
Reports released Wednesday evening show New England has already ruled out five players ahead of their Week 14 game, including Rhamondre Stevenson, who suffered a potentially season-ending ankle injury last Sunday vs. the Chargers.
They also have four players listed as questionable, with two more wide receivers added to the list, which is precisely what a struggling offense needs at this point in time.
- WR Kayshon Boutte - Shoulder
- WR Demario Douglas - Concussion
- OL Riley Reiff - Knee
- RB Rhamondre Stevenson - Ankle
- CB Shaun Wade - Illness
- DL Christian Barmore - Shoulder
- OT Trent Brown - Ankle/hand
- WR DeVante Parker - Knee
- WR JuJu Smith-Schuster - Ankle
With Stevenson out, Ezekiel Elliott will have a lot on his plate (pun intended) tomorrow night, which is one of the least worries upon seeing the injury report. The biggest concern appears to be regarding the offensive line and wide receivers, with Riley Rieff not being activated from IR and Trent Brown continuing to deal with multiple ailments, keeping him sidelined more in recent weeks.
Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas remaining out is unfortuante yet not surprising. But seeing DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the list could mean big trouble for Bailey Zappe on Thursday night, as it could leave him with just Jalen Reagor and Tyquan Thornton in the lineup.
The tight ends could certainly play a bigger role in the game, but Mike Gesicki saw a season-low snap count last week, and how he will be utilized the rest of the season is unclear.
It's setting up an even more difficult task for a team in flux to handle despite the Steelers being down their starting quarterback, Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky taking over in his place. The Patriots struggled last week with more players on the field, unable to score any points through a full 60-minute game. That won't cut it tomorrow, even if Pittsburgh is also down a few of their top players.
But this may be a good thing, depending on how you view it. If you're hoping the Patriots lose out for a better draft pick, being down more players would be good news. If you're still hoping they can make the impossible happen by making the playoffs, this is not the news you want to hear.
Regardless of what inevitably happens, it makes for a more intriguing game to watch, at least.