Already without Aaron Hernandez, the New England Patriots could lose Rob Gronkowski to injury as well. Gronk's status is questionable with an injured hip for Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (via NESN).
The Patriots stud tight end was a late addition to the Patriots' injury report on Friday. His team is already short-handed on pass catchers with Hernandez and Julian Edelman out this weekend, among others.
Odds that Gronkowski will miss Sunday's game are mixed. First off, Bill Belichick's injury reports have fewer truths than a police report.
The Patriots are 1-2 for the first time since 2001. There's no reason to panic yet after losing to two impressive first quarter teams in Baltimore and Arizona, but falling behind any more would be unwise.
New England needs Gronkowski in the lineup for a schematic advantage and a big target for Tom Brady to rely on.
B/R's own Aaron Nagler remembers Gronk in this contest last season:
— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) September 29, 2012
The Bills defense has been relatively untested in tight games since they haven't been in one all year. This could lead to large returns for Gronkowski and his Patriots (and fantasy owners).
Plus, wouldn't Gronkowski be on the shortlist for pass-catchers likely to play under any circumstance? The 6'6", 265-pound behemoth would come out as a decoy and hobble around all day if he had to sit out.
I can only assume Gronk will give it a go in Buffalo. Whether he will be effective though, is another story.
The Patriots need to use their star tight end as Brady's security blanket over the middle of the field. Utilizing quick seam routes off bump and run coverage and utilizing his body on short third-down passing will be a problem for Buffalo's defense.
Spearheaded by their offseason signing of puss-rusher Mario Williams, the Bills want to get after Brady early and often. Sending blitzes after a Hall of Fame quarterback, however, will only parts of the field that the Hall of Famer can pick apart.
Belichick would need Gronkowski to be a quick target in the offense along with trusted Wes Welker. They'll be counted upon to snag a ton of target to keep moving the chain.
In addition, Gronk's contribution to the running game cannot be overstated. His big body serves as an ideal sealing block for outside running lanes. Not to mention, he can take on most linebackers and take them where he wants to go if he gets a good burst off the ball. Gronk's muscles will do that for you.
The Patriots need balance in their offense to keep the Bills' ends on their toes and off of Brady's jersey.
It may as well be the key to the Patriots being in a blowout game in their favor to a competitive one.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report and loves giving fantasy football advice. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealShiek