Figuring out exactly how bad Alex Mack’s injury is has preoccupied us much of the week. We finally have an answer, and unfortunately, it’s not the answer we wanted.
Pro Bowl C Alex Mack will play Super Bowl LI with fracture in left leg, sources tell ESPN. Falcons uncertain how well, or long, he'll play.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 5, 2017
Considering how integral Mack is to this offense, this is a potentially massive blow to the best offense in the NFL. There’s little question that Mack is going to start for this team and play against the Patriots, but we’re going to find out firsthand how a Pro Bowler looks (and yes, how long he can hang in) with a significant injury. It’s worth noting that he clearly played against the Packers with this.
As we’ve noted, Ben Garland is Alex Mack’s backup, and we’ve seen more of him at defensive tackle than center this past season. That’s not to say that Garland isn’t capable—he is—but he is not Mack. Regardless, Atlanta still has a strong offensive line, a terrific set of receivers and running backs, and Matt Ryan.
I still very much believe the Falcons can and will win this game, but they’re going to need Mack to overcome a fractured leg or Garland to play the game of his life to ensure it. We’ll know in less than 12 hours.