The Patriots have traditionally been a team with a strong passing offense. Just last year, Tom Brady was slinging the football to the likes of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Things have changed a bit since then.
Between injuries and attrition, the Patriots are likely to roll with Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman at receiver. Those guys have contributed to Tom Brady's slow (for Tom Brady) start, as he's completing under 60% of his passes and averaging only 5.5 yards per attempt. Brady is still excellent, but this projects as something the Falcons can take advantage of. Unless Gronkowski returns.
It's fair to assume that Gronkowski won't be 100% back to form even if he plays, but certainly inserting him into this offense could make a huge difference. He's an elite athlete and perhaps the most dangerous weapon in the Pats' passing game, which will make life dangerous for the Falcons.
So, is he going to play? I asked SlotMachinePlayer of Pats Pulpit to give us the odds in haiku form:
Hoodie must obscure
a tall ship from enemies.
In endzone, Gronk spikes!
Brings a tear to your eye. Then I turned to Pats Pulpit and found this grim bit of news, indicating that Gronk is likely to make his season debut against the Falcons Sunday:
This game won't turn on Gronk, necessarily, but certainly it would have made life a little easier for the Falcons if he didn't play, particularly in the red zone. It'll be up to this team to come out aggressively, play good D and ensure that Gronk doesn't kill them.
Willy Mo certainly isn't going to treat Gronk any differently than any other player:
I asked #Falcons S William Moore how you cover a guy like Rob Gronkowski. He said, "You cover him. Cover him. Nothing special."— John Manasso (@jmanasso) September 25, 2013
Thoughts on stopping the tight end?