The Patriots are 24-6 without Rob Gronkowski
Wednesday, the Patriots confirmed that tight end Rob Gronkowski is in the concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head in Sunday's AFC championship game victory, though Ian Rapoport reported that there are "positive vibes regarding his status for the Super Bowl.” That's good news for New England, as is the fact that the team has done fine without Gronk in the past.
The Patriots are 24-6 without their star tight end, including 4-2 in the playoffs and 1-0 in Super Bowls after they beat Atlanta while Gronkowski watched as he recovered from back surgery. Last week, Tom Brady's 138-yard, two-touchdown fourth quarter came with the QB relying on five other pass-catchers to mount a successful comeback.
Jay Kornegay, the VP of sports operations at the Westgate Casino in Las Vegas, told The Morning Huddle that the current spread (New England favored to win by five) largely assumes that Gronkowski will be fully available a week from Sunday. And if he's not, it would probably only move the line half of a point in the Eagles' direction.
To recap: Gronkowski is probably going to play. The Patriots are significant favorites whether or not he does. And yet, we are likely in for days of often baseless speculation regarding a New England player's mysterious injury—again.
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1. The Packers officially announced seven new coaching hirings Wednesday, headlined by two new coordinators. Former Dolphins coach (and Green Bay's OC from 2007-11) Joe Philbin returns to lead the offense, while former Browns coach Mike Pettine is tasked with improving a defense that finished 26th in DVOA.
2. You might be getting up to refill your drink when it takes the field, but New England's punt team is a key part of the Patriots' success.
3. Doug Pederson refused to cede play-calling duties when he took over as Eagles coach, and now his "more unorthodox" tendencies (or lack thereof) are helping the Philadelphia offense continue to fly without Carson Wentz.
4. Todd Haley, the Browns' new offensive coordinator, will call plays after Hue Jackson did so the past two seasons. "There is obviously a lot of work to do . . . but I've always been excited about facing a challenge," Haley said.
5. Among new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks's first reported hires: his former Panthers colleague, Al Holcomb, as defensive coordinator.
6. The Steelers' top three coaches—head coach Mike Tomlin and coordinators Randy Fichtner and Keith Butler—all roamed the same Arkansas State sideline exactly 20 years ago. How'd the Red Wolves do that year? They finished 4-8, with freshman Cleo Lemon (remember him!?) under center. I hope you're listening, NFL Films.
7. In Orlando for the Pro Bowl, Sean Payton has the right attitude. "You get out there and get your work done and then go out and make sure guys enjoy themselves," he said. "I think it's important for the first- and second-time guys to meet some of these guys that have been in 10, 11, 12 Pro Bowls. . . . It's a good experience."
8. Chip Scoggins makes an interesting argument in the Star Tribune. Even though the Vikings have three intriguing QB options they could try to retain, maybe they should go after Drew Brees? This is the franchise that has acquired three marquee veteran QBs since 2011, after all.
9. The Panthers are off the hook for their handling of Cam Newton after he fell to the ground on his way to the sideline during a playoff game in New Orleans earlier this month. “Sitting at home watching it on TV without a full understanding of this and without the medical background leaves you in a place where you should not draw conclusions and you should wait for all the facts," NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
10. The NFL chose not to include an ad funded by a veterans advocacy group saying "Please Stand" in its commemorative Super Bowl program.
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Retired running back Justin Forsett will appear on this Sunday's Shark Tank, selling body wipes.
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