New England Patriots Week 7 Stock Report
Whether the New England Patriots want it to or not, the talk is beginning to build about the possibility that they could go undefeated.
They would rather take it one day and one game at a time, but sports media never works that way. You can debate the scenarios until you're blue in the face, but there's no debate that the Patriots look like the class of the AFC, if not the NFL at large.
The Patriots are too busy making sure they're ready to take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium in Week 7; they don't have the free time that we have to wonder about what their record could be in 11 weeks.
And as they get ready for that game, certain players are helping the team to remain undefeated, while others are taking a step back for one reason or another, whether those circumstances are in their control or not.
Stock Up: Danny Amendola
With a dominant tight end like Rob Gronkowski drawing multiple defenders in coverage, the Patriots offense will always have room for receivers who run crisp routes underneath. That being said, there will be times when Julian Edelman has more production than Danny Amendola (read: more often than not), and there will be times when the opposite holds true (read: when Edelman is incapacitated or otherwise preoccupied).
That's exactly what happened on Sunday, when Edelman dislocated his pinky. Ford should consider changing their slogan to "Built Edelman Tough" because there's no way Edelman is going to let the pinky keep him out on Sunday.
But after a few bobbled passes, including one that resulted in a pick-six that effectively kept the Indianapolis Colts in the game, Amendola became the focal point of the Patriots offense and delivered with seven receptions for 105 yards.
Amendola's Patriots career got off to a slow start, but since the end of the 2014 season and throughout this season, he's been a key component to their success.
Stock Down: Injuries
The Patriots are dealing with a slew of key injuries at the moment. Some of them are more serious than others, but with an 11-week stretch without a bye, the Patriots might have to get creative in how they address those injuries.
Last week the Patriots placed left tackle Nate Solder (torn biceps) on injured reserve. In addition, they were without linebacker Dont'a Hightower (rib) entering the game against the Indianapolis Colts. During the game, they lost linebacker Jabaal Sheard (ankle), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (foot) and wide receiver/special teams ace Matthew Slater (leg).
Again, some of these injuries may not be that serious. Sheard and Cannon were not spotted in the stretching portion of practice on Wednesday and did not participate in practice at all, according to the Patriots' official practice report. Slater warmed up with the team but was limited in practice.
Every team has to endure some injuries, and the Patriots are getting a heavy dose of them early in the season.
Stock Up: Malcolm Butler
There's no question that Malcolm Butler is the best cornerback on the Patriots roster, but he's also proving that he can be a building block for the Patriots secondary.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck targeted Butler 13 times and completed just seven passes for 83 yards. Butler gave up a touchdown, but as he has all season long, he was right in position to make a play on the ball and just barely missed it.
Since giving up 10 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, Butler has yielded just 11 receptions on 24 targets (45.8 percent) for 198 yards, three touchdowns and one pick over the past four games.
The Patriots may be in the market for a cornerback next season, but that's because they lack depth and reliable starting options opposite Butler.
Stock Down: Rob Gronkowski
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has had quite the roller-coaster season already.
From Weeks 1 through 3, he spiked the rest of the NFL into submission (16 receptions, 308 yards, four touchdowns in three games). Since then, he's been blanketed by opposing defenses and almost entirely removed from the equation (seven receptions, 117 yards, one touchdown in two games).
Gronkowski still hasn't dropped a pass this season, and he has hauled in all but two of the passes thrown his way in the past two games, according to Pro Football Focus. That being said, seven receptions and 117 yards are the lowest two-game totals Gronkowski has posted since Weeks 3 and 4 in 2014 (five catches, 75 yards), and even in those games, he still managed to pull in two touchdowns passes.
Surely, Gronkowski will be making an impact again at some point in the 2015 season. Defenses can't hold him down forever. For now, though, Gronkowski's role appears to be that of facilitator. The extra coverage going his way is helping out slot receivers such as Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (combined 13 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6).
Stock Up: Tom Brady
Sunday night was not the best performance of Tom Brady's career, but it was another performance in what is becoming a historic season for the Patriots quarterback.
Brady finished the night 23-of-37 passing (62.2 percent) for 312 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), three touchdowns, one interception and a 104.8 passer rating. It was his lowest completion percentage and his lowest passer rating of the year.
With another three-touchdown performance, his third of the season, Brady stays on pace for his second career season of 40 or more touchdown passes, which would make him one of only four quarterbacks in league history who could make that claim (along with Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino). Also, he is the only quarterback in the league with at least four starts and only one interception.
Brady is a fixture in the stock-up category at this point, but why take his greatness for granted?
Unless otherwise noted, all injury report information provided via team news release.