The case for resting Gronk against the Bills this week
Timothy T. Ludwig / USA Today Sports
The Patriots are coming off of a big win in Pittsburgh last week--a win that all but guarantees them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. One of the biggest stars in that last win was Rob Gronkowski. The tight end racked up a career-high 168 receiving yards and caught 69 yards on the game-winning drive alone. The difference between the Pats offense without him in Week 14 and with him in Week 15 was gigantic. So why should New England sit him this week against the Bills?
The Pats easily handled the Bills 23-3 in their first meeting three weeks ago. Gronk was active and extremely productive, with 147 yards on nine catches. However, he was also suspended for cheap-shotting Bills corner Tre'Davious White in the fourth quarter. With Buffalo on the fringes of playoff contention and this game likely out of reach, it's easy to imagine frustrated defenders retaliating against Gronk. And even if they don't intentionally try to injure him, Gronk's physical playing style could just as easily lead to a devastating injury on its own.
If Gronkowski misses any sort of time, the Pats can kiss their Super Bowl dreams goodbye: without Gronk on the field, New England doesn't have the healthy receivers to defeat man coverage like what they just faced against the Steelers. It's absolutely essential that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have Gronk at their disposal when game-planning through the postseason.
Besides, this game is plenty winnable even with a limited (or absent) Gronk. Buffalo has been surprisingly competitive this year, but this game is in New England (where the Bills are historically terrible) and Tyrod Taylor simply can't outduel Tom Brady one-on-one. There's no reason to pile on and risk losing the NFL's best mismatch with the playoffs right around the corner.
It would be a good idea to keep Gronk dressed and ready to go. If Buffalo manages to hang with the Pats, putting him in the game could quickly ice it. But leaving him in for the whole contest against an easy opponent is simply foolish. Let's hope Coach Belichick is smart enough to do the right thing and keep him in reserves on Sunday.