The New England Patriots did not only suffer their third loss of the season two weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins, they also saw one of their most important defensive lineman leave with an injury: Alan Branch suffered a knee injury that subsequently forced him to miss Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It seems as if the battle between the two AFC heavyweights will not remain Branch’s lone absence. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the veteran is expected to miss more time:
#Patriots DL Alan Branch, who is dealing with a meniscus issue, does not need surgery, source said. But he is expected to miss a few weeks.
Despite the "expected to miss a few weeks"-outlook, Branch not needing surgery certainly is good news for the player and the team. The goal to get the veteran back should therefore be set at three weeks from now: With New England on course for a first round playoff bye, the divisional round should be the target for the 32-year old’s return.
Until then, the Patriots will have to rely on the remaining players on their defensive tackle depth chart: Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guys as the top options, with Adam Butler and Ricky Jean Francois as the backups. A serviceable group, but one that is still better with Branch available.