In a little more than an hour, the New England Patriots will play their sixth game of the 2017 regular season - simultaneously their first divisional matchup of the year. The opponent, the New York Jets, have the same record as the Patriots (3-2) and home field advantage. However, most would argue that top-to-bottom, New England has the more talented team.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the top has been thinned out by some injuries as a look at today's list of inactives shows:
RB Rex Burkhead
OT Cole Croston
OT Cameron Fleming
CB Stephon Gilmore
LB David Harris
LB Harvey Langi
CB Eric Rowe
Four of the players listed above were already declared inactive prior to today: Eric Rowe, who misses his second straight game due to a groin injury, has been ruled out on Friday. He was joined yesterday by Rex Burkhead (ribs), Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and Harvey Langi (back as the result of a car accident on Friday night). Now, Cole Croston, Cameron Fleming and ex-Jet David Harris join the group.
The most noteworthy absences are Gilmore's and Rowe's as they leave the team with a shortage at the cornerback position. With the duo - which could be seen as numbers one and three on the depth chart - out, New England will have to face the Jets' passing attack with Malcolm Butler and Jonathan Jones as the presumed top cornerback duo, joined by Johnson Bademosi as the third option.
Of course, New England could opt to move safety Devin McCourty to cornerback, the position he played during his first two years in the NFL. The defensive captain has always seen considerable snaps closer to the line of scrimmage, so the change would not remove him from his comfort zone too much. And with Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung as the other starting-caliber safeties, such a move would make sense.
The Jets' inactives (via the team's Twitter account), for comparison, look as follows:
QB Christian Hackenberg
LB Obum Gwacham
RB Bilal Powell
OL Jonotthan Harrison
DB Derrick Jones
TE Jordan Leggett
LB Freddie Bishop
The biggest name on the list undoubtedly is Bilal Powell, the Jets' number one running back and arguably best offensive player. In his absence, the team will have to turn to Matt Forte, Elijah McGuire and ex-Patriot Travaris Cadet - a talented group but one that lacks the consistency and big-play ability of Powell.
One big name missing from the list is Muhammad Wilkerson, who has missed practice all week due to a knee injury and has been listed as questionable.