Sep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots guard Marcus Cannon (61) at the line of scrimmage against the Oakland Raiders during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
As the New England Patriots are preparing for their division battle with the New York Jets for a game that determines who will be in first place, the Patriots injury issues are casting a dark shadow. With eight players questionable and three players out, the Pats have a lot of injuries to deal with and who the personnel will be that will play the Jets is still very much in question.
Both sides are not hyping this game up a lot, but this game is a big determinant in seeing how close the Jets are from being able to end the Patriots reign over the AFC East. Will the Patriots be able to overcome these injury concerns and send the Jets home with a loss?
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The biggest area of concern for the Patriots is the offensive line. With Nate Solder already being sidelined for the season, an O-line that already had a lot of preseason concerns becomes even shakier. Solder’s backup at left tackle is Marcus Cannon, but Cannon injured his toe against the Colts and after not practicing all week, he will not be available this Sunday.
This will likely force Sebastian Vollmer over to the left side, which means Cameron Fleming will play at right tackle. Behind Fleming the Patriots really don’t have many options at tackle. TE/T Michael Williams could possibly fill in and Josh Kline also played tackle in college.
The injury concerns for the offensive line don’t end there. Both starting guards Shaq Mason and Josh Kline were also listed as questionable on the injury report. Kline was limited at practice all week, but it doesn’t seem like his availability is in too much doubt, but Mason’s availability is a different story.
Mason didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday and though he did practice on Friday, he was limited. Mason has been great in run blocking and his absence would really hurt the Patriots. Tre’ Jackson who has been rotating in with Kline and Mason would be the fill in.
Sep 27, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) carries the ball in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium. New England defeated Jacksonville 51-17. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets have one of the best front fours in the NFL and the fact that the Patriots could be playing with such a beat up line is a massive problem.
One shouldn’t forget that starting center Bryan Stork is also still unavailable, as he is on I.R. Recall. Brady would really have to get the ball out quickly as he might have Jets pass rushers all over him for a majority of the game. Mason being able to play would really be huge for the Patriots simply for the depth factor.
Dion Lewis, Keshawn Martin and Brandon Bolden are also all listed as questionable. Lewis or Martin missing this game could have a large impact on the game. Lewis was questionable before last weeks performance as well and was fine, but he is very important for this game. Lewis will likely be the primary running back against such a stiff front four, as the Patriots likely will look to air it out for the majority of the game.
Martin’s absence would only be felt if LaFell is not actually game ready yet. If Lafell plays, Martin will likely not be a big part in the Patriots offense tomorrow.
The injuries don’t stop on the offensive side of the football. Jabaal Sheard who has been rotating in and out of the game and is second on the team in sacks will not play this Sunday either. He injured his ankle against the Colts and was not able to practice all week. This means that Ninkovich and Jones will be on the field for the entire game. The depth at defensive end is the problem though. Trey Flowers is questionable and Rufus Johnson is out. If Flowers is out, the Patriots are going to be very thin at defensive end.
Aug 13, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) on the side line during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium. The Green Bay Packers won 22-11. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Dont’a Hightower didn’t play last week against the Colts and after being limited at practice the entire week, he is listed as questionable as well. He is a key factor for this game as his strength and size match-up very well with Jets running back Chris Ivory.
If Hightower misses the game, Jonathan Freeny would be the main fill in, which represents a huge talent gap. My guess is that Hightower plays, but that is far from certain. Special Teams is also looking at injury problems as Matthew Slater is questionable and previously mentioned Brandon Bolden and Keshawn Martin are also key contributers on special teams are also questionable.
It is very evident that the Patriots have a lot of injuries for this upcoming week. The good news is that none of the injures seem to be long-term, but they could really hurt for this weeks game against the Jets. The Patriots will really have to embody their “next man up” philosophy and hope Tom Brady can do enough to come away with the win. The Jets are really playing good football so far and it will take a really strong Patriots effort to keep them from coming into New England and winning this game.
In the end I think the Patriots will walk away victorious with a 30-27 win over the Jets, but it will be a very hard-fought game that could go either way, especially due to injuries.
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