The Patriots shouldn’t need Rob Gronkowski to comfortably defeat the Bills. That’s why they should rest the Pro Bowl tight end on Monday.
Bill Belichick knows the only thing that matters for his team this season is to make it to the playoffs with a healthy roster. There might not be a bigger health risk on the roster than Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots know they need to be very careful with their All-Pro tight end.
The good news for New England is that Gronkowski felt sufficiently recovered from his back and ankle issues to practice with his teammates on Thursday. Typically, players who are full participants on Thursday are in line to play meaningful snaps on Monday. That shouldn’t necessarily be the case for Gronkowski.
The simple truth is that the Patriots are 14-point favorites against the Bills. Anytime a quarterback matchup consists of Tom Brady versus an ailing Derek Anderson it’s pretty clear which team has the advantage. New England should be in a position to dispatch the Bills with very little difficulty.
That’s precisely why the Patriots and Belichick should keep Gronkowski on the sidelines this week. He’s a guy that absolutely has to be healthy if New England is going to make a run at a Super Bowl title this year. This offense just isn’t the same when he’s not present to create huge matchup problems for opposing defenses. He is absolutely Brady’s most dangerous target no matter where he lines up.
Running him out there against the Bills just isn’t worth the risk. He’s not the sort of player who is going to avoid contact. Whenever Gronkowski is on the field, he’s going to try to punish defenders with his freakish size and athleticism. Predictably, that can lead to injuries.
That’s caused the Patriots to try to use him differently over the last several seasons. You don’t see him run as many routes over the middle as he did in his younger days. That’s a clear attempt to manage his physical workload. Monday gives the Patriots a chance to elevate their protection one more step.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Gronkowski plays on Monday night, but that’s not the right move for Belichick and company. They need to give their important weapon another week of recovery.