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NFL playoffs Patriots vs. Bills: Downgrading Isaiah Wynn leaves New England with 2 possible offensive line configurations

Related: Patriots downgrade left tackle Isaiah Wynn to out for Saturday’s wild card against Bills

NFL: NOV 28 Titans at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Isaiah Wynn did not join his New England Patriots teammates on their trip to Buffalo. The Patriots’ starting left tackle was ruled out of the wild card playoff contest against the Bills on Friday, after having missed both of this week’s practices due to hip and ankle injuries.

Wynn’s loss is a big one for the New England offense. Mac Jones’ blindside protector may have had his ups and downs, especially early during this season, but he is clearly the team’s best option at left tackle and solid as both a run blocker and pass protector.

His absence also forces the team’s coaching staff to make a decision: go with the best five players available or try to keep as much continuity as possible?

There are two possible offensive line configurations to consider:

Patriots offensive line options

Left tackle Left guard Center Right guard Right tackle
Left tackle Left guard Center Right guard Right tackle
Trent Brown Ted Karras David Andrews Shaq Mason Michael Onwenu
Justin Herron Ted Karras David Andrews Shaq Mason Trent Brown

The first of those two projected lineups would allow the Patriots to get their five best available linemen onto the field at the same time. Trent Brown would move over to the left side, with second-year man Michael Onwenu taking over at right tackle.

Both Brown and Onwenu have looked good this season, even though the latter was relegated to backup status after serving as New England’s starting left guard and right tackle earlier in the year. The problem is that this group has no in-game experience together, which could be a gamble going against as talented a defense as Buffalo’s.

The second possible lineup would allow four of the five starters to stay in their current positions. The only change would be inserting second-year man Justin Herron in place of Wynn — a move that was also made last week, when the starter exited the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins.

Herron is a clear downgrade from Wynn, and does neither offer the upside nor the experience of a Brown/Onwenu pairing, but the fact that only one position would be impacted instead of two might be preferable from New England’s point of view. Add the fact that Brown has apparently not practiced at left tackle since the spring, and one might wonder if the Herron-Karras-Andrews-Mason-Brown line is the more likely one to be used.

The Patriots still have more than 24 hours to make that call, but they probably already know after a week of practice without Isaiah Wynn.