The New England Patriots are 10-2 and sit in first place in the AFC East, 2.5 games ahead of the Miami Dolphins. They have the best record in the AFC, and depending on what happens in their Monday Night game against the Ravens tonight, they could be tied with the Cowboys for the best record in the NFL. Tom Brady is having another stellar season at the ripe age of 39 and could possibly be in line for another MVP trophy, despite missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension. However, even with all of those things going right for the Pats, they must now attempt to win another Lombardi trophy without the best tight end in the league, Rob Gronkowski.
Since being drafted 42nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, Gronk has caught 430 passes for 6,636 yards and 71 touchdowns. In contrast, Jason Witten of the Cowboys entered the 2016 season with 62 receiving touchdowns in 13 seasons, meaning Gronk caught more touchdowns in less than half the amount of time than the future Hall of Famer. Gronk also ranks in the top 10 of tight end receiving yards for a career, eighth overall, sandwiched among all-time greats like Tony Gonzalez and Mike Ditka.
With all that being said, can the Patriots win it all without Rob Gronkowski?
Since the 2012 season the Pats are 36-11 (76% win percentage) in the 47 games that Gronk has started and finished. In that same amount of time, Gronk has been out or limited in 27 games. Without Gronk, the Patriots are 21-6. In 2016 alone, they are 5-0 with him limited or out of the game completely recording over 26 points per game. However, with Gronk in the lineup, the offense scores five more points per contest compared to when he is not. With him playing a full game the Pats go from undefeated to 4-2 and averaging 26.7 points in six games.
With or without Gronk
|Patriots in the regular season since 2012||Record||PPG|
|When Gronk is out or limited||21-6 (.778)||26.4|
|When Gronk is fully healthy||36-11 (.766)||32.0|
So with all of those stats, can the Patriots make another run for the Lombardi trophy? My answer is yes, they can and most likely will end up playing in the Super Bowl for the seventh time in Tom Brady’s career. I predict the Pats going either 3-1 or 4-0 in their final four games of the season as they face the Ravens, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins. The only team I can envision giving the Pats trouble is the Broncos because of their stifling defense, but Denver is not the same team that won Super Bowl 50 last season. When the Patriots reach the playoffs, the AFC does not have many standout teams that will pose a huge threat other than maybe the Raiders or Chiefs. I fully expect the Patriots to at least reach the AFC Championship game, but do not be surprised if we see them playing in the biggest game of the year even without one of their biggest stars.