The New England Patriots aren't worried about the status of quarterback Tom Brady for the divisional round. Brady suffered an ankle injury in the season finale, but he was seen walking around the locker room on Tuesday without a limp.
But ankle injuries are finicky. All it takes is one awkward sack or drop back or misstep by a lineman for the back-up quarterback to become the most important player on the team. The rest of the AFC playoff teams will have no sympathy as the Broncos, Bengals, Texans, and Steelers have all relied on their #2s and #3s to get through the regular season.
The Patriots have a lot of faith in back-up Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Bill Belichick believes he's grown this season.
"I think Jimmy has made great strides for us this season," Belichick said on Tuesday. "The reps that he's gotten on the field in preseason games and in practice, I think he's shown a lot of development - better understanding, quicker recognition and reading of the defenses, more awareness of what's happening on the defensive side of the ball, better communication, better understanding of the offense, better understanding of the defense - really everything.
"I think we see it on a daily basis from Jimmy. He's a hard working kid who's always prepared. It's a tough position to be in when you don't know if you're going to play or not, but he prepares hard to play, we push him hard to be ready to play, and he's made a lot of progress this year. As a football player I think everybody has a lot of confidence in him based on the opportunities that he's had to show what he can do and how he's working."
Garoppolo might receive more time with the first team over the bye week as Brady nurses his ankle, but hopefully the Patriots won't need their back-up to play this season. But if his number is called, Garoppolo should be ready to play.