While the New England Patriots currently have a 97% chance of clinching a bye week in the playoffs, head coach Bill Belichick isn't going to take any chances with his roster. If a player is hurt, he's going to put them on a snap count until they're 100%.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola played roughly 60% of the snaps against the Texans as both return from knee sprains. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower is still resting up, while Jamie Collins was held out an extra week to build up his strength after suffering from a serious virus.
Whether it's center Bryan Stork, guard Josh Kline, and wide receiver Brandon LaFell, or defensive end Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Jerod Mayo, we've witnesses Belichick walk the safe route on the path to recovery.
So it's important to note when defensive tackle Dominique Easley's injury is considered "nothing serious" and that free safety Devin McCourty's injury is a possible high ankle sprain, that their timetable isn't going to align with a standard recovery map. Even linebacker Jonathan Freeny didn't break his hand.
If a high ankle sprain requires 4-6 weeks to recover, then it's probable that the Patriots will hold McCourty out until the end of the season. If Easley's injury is "nothing serious" then the Patriots could afford to let him sit for the next two games, even if he'd be able to return against the Jets in week 16.
The Patriots have one of the most impressive depth charts in the league, as Duron Harmon is a legitimate starting caliber free safety, and Easley is one of four extremely capable defensive tackles (although none can match his pass rushing prowess).
New England can afford to rest these players because Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have done such a great job of investing in the middle class of the roster. Jabaal Sheard, Mayo, Siliga, Harmon, Amendola, James White, Tre Jackson, Scott Chandler, all of these players could be featured on half of the rosters around the league, but they instead reside on the Patriots depth chart in case of injury.
We'll continue to monitor these injuries moving forward, but don't panic if it seems like the players are sitting out for an extra long period of time. It's all a part of the plan.