I partially blame myself for Gronkowski's injury. I saw him on TV going to the locker room before the end of the game (turned out to be to get x-rays done), but I was too happy about the scoreline to really be concerned. I knew Gronk has banged up all season, and I just figured he was going to get checked out. Oops.
Without question, losing Gronk sucks for all sorts of reasons.It sucks first and foremost because it hurts the Patriots chances at getting a playoff bye. Barring other major injuries, we should be able to beat the Dolphins (twice), Jets, and Jaguars without Gronk. If we can't, well I think we have bigger problems to worry about this season. However, the Texans and 49ers will be a huge challenge without our #1 red zone threat. Losing Gronk also sucks for less important reasons, like records. Gronk likely would've broken the NFL record for TD receptions in the first 3 seasons of a career (he needed 6 more on the season to tie Moss). Brady has less of a shot at the NFL MVP without Gronk in the line-up.
But let's talk about what counts: getting to, and winning, the Superbowl. In this regard, I want to consider a few of the positives that could come about from this injury.
1. Going by even the most conservative prognostics, Gronk should be back for the playoffs, which is really all that matters at the end of the day. We absolutely should win the AFC East, guaranteeing ourselves a playoff spot. A first round bye would be nice, but it's not like having a bye has been correlated with playoff success in the recent past (for NE nor for any other teams).
2. Gronk should come back completely healthy. I don't just mean his arm -- but his hip and whatever else has been ailing him throughout the season. He'll be rusty, sure... but a healthy Gronk is downright scary. In fact, one advantage of not getting a bye would be that Gronk has an extra game to get back into game-shape before playing the AFC elite.
3. His absence forces us to learn how to win with other players. For the same reason developing a running game is beneficial for situations where the passing attack gets shut down, developing chemistry and success with other receivers should pay dividends if we get into a game where Gronk is being shut down.
4. It's not an advantage, per se, but here's another thing to be grateful about: we're not Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco. Gronk might be the second best player on the Patriots, but our best player is still healthy. Given a choice between losing Brady and losing Gronk, I think every single Patriots fan would choose Gronk without hesitation. The injury sucks, but I like our chances to win with Brady and Shiancoe (or Fells, or Hooasdfoawijfawpe) much better than with Mallett and Gronk.