The Patriots offense opened the season without Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, and things didn't go exactly as planned. But then New England swung a trade to pick up Gordon, and once Edelman returned from suspension, things started to improve.
There was a stretch of games in which the Patriots scored 38 or more points in four straight games, and Gordon was a big part of it. He eventually earned as many snaps and targets as any of the Patriots receivers, and now he's no longer part of the mix.
The news that Gordon violated the terms of his reinstatement and was placed on the reserve/suspended list dealt a blow to the Patriots offense. So, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is an obvious one: With Gordon out of the mix, who needs to step up the most to fill the void?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
The offense hasn't exactly been the model of consistency even with Gordon so the Patriots need to rely more on the running game. Sony Michel is the team's lead back, and when the offense has been at its best this season it usually involves Michel running for 100 yards.
The Patriots need to do a better job of creating space for the running game, and Michel needs to do a better job of maximizing the space that he does get. Production on the ground will open up the play-action game, and that will allow some of the secondary receivers filling in for Gordon to thrive.
Michel showed he could carry the load earlier in the season, and the running game has the most upside of any element of the Patriots offense. Give the ball to Michel and grind out the tough yards good teams need to create in January.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
With or without Gordon the Patriots offense needs to do a better job in the passing game. That's the way to score points in today's NFL, and New England hasn't been good enough in that department as of late.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't have the ability to be better. I'm looking at Chris Hogan as a player who has been a much bigger part of the offense in the past. He needs to step up and assume a larger role in the offense, and he needs to win one-on-one battles on the outside in order to do it.
Hogan has been quiet for the last year-and-a-half at this point, but I remember back to his first year when he chipped in with several important plays during the season and in the playoffs. That will need to happen this January as well if the Patriots are to make a run. He's done it before and he needs to do it again.