All season long the Patriots have been able to overcome injuries and continued to win. Even though that has been the case that doesn't mean the team couldn't use some improved health for the playoff run. In addition to the players the team has already lost for the season, several others are dealing with various injuries that have left their status in doubt heading into the postseason.
Devin McCourty missed the season finale against Buffalo while dealing with a concussion. Logan Mankins was knocked out of that game early with an ankle injury, and even though he returned he eventually sat out the last part of the final quarter and left the locker room wearing a walking boot. Linebacker Brandon Spikes also wasn't able to finish the Bills game after tweaking a knee injury he's played through during the second half of the season.
Our Samsonite Make Your Case poll question this week is, Which of the injured players would be most important to have healthy in the playoffs?
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Mankins is an incredibly tough player and not having him in the playoffs would be a blow to the team's collective psyche. His presence provides an edge not just for the offensive line but for the entire offense. Mankins' balky ankle could be problematic, especially considering how well the Patriots have run the ball in recent weeks. When things are going well, generally it's because Josh McDaniels is having his backs run behind Mankins off the left side. His punishing style sets the tone, and having him operate at something significantly below 100 percent would affect the offense. The Patriots have shown the ability to overcome countless injuries this season, and chances are the team would be able to deal with life without Mankins as well. But losing the captain and physical presence would be a tough pill to swallow.
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Over the last year-plus Devin McCourty has proven his value in the back end of the Patriots defense. Though he may not be a big-time playmaker as a free safety, he's the heady leader of the back end and the go-to guy in terms of communication. Given the health issues that have crept up with all the cornerbacks, and the need for rookie like Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon to see significant action, McCourty's return to the lineup is a must for the postseason if the secondary is to be a cohesive unit. He returned to practice this week after missing the finale with a concussion. That clearly puts him on the path to return to the field, where he must stay if the Patriots are to make a deep run in the postseason. The pass defense has its warts and is limited with McCourty on the field, it's that much worse and that much more susceptible to the big play without him. We saw that against the Bills when five different Bills pass catchers notched plays of 20 yards or longer. We can't see that again in January if New England's defense is going to be good enough for the team to advance in the postseason. Captain McCourty is a must-have for this defense to win.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.