Later today, the New England Patriots will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that might very well pre-decide which team will ultimately hold homefield advantage throughout the AFC's half of the playoff bracket. In order to put themselves in the best position, the Patriots need to win today – and they need to do so without some core players in all three phases of the game.
After defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and special teams ace Brandon King have all been ruled out prior to today, wide receiver Chris Hogan is expected to join them on the list of inactives (according to ESPN's Adam Schefter):
A surprise for today’s big game: Patriots WR Chris Hogan not expected to play vs Steelers as he continues recovery from shoulder injury, per league source.
Hogan suffered his shoulder injury in week eight against the Los Angeles Chargers and as a result missed New England's subsequent four games. He returned last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins but despite playing more than 90% of offensive snaps was visibly limited and registered only one catch for one yard.
With Hogan out, the Patriots will likely turn to newly acquired wideout Kenny Britt as well as Phillip Dorsett to provide depth at wide receiver behind Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. Still, missing Hogan, who registered nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns when the Patriots last played the Steelers, is a blow to New England’s offense.