It seems like every year at this time one of the hot topics surrounding the Patriots is potential lineup changes for the season finale. Most years the debate is whether or not rest would be beneficial for front-line players, but this season there's an actual injury concern as well.
Tom Brady did not practice on Wednesday with his absence listed as "not injury related" on that day's practice participation report. On Thursday he was limited, though this time it was due to a left shoulder injury. Reports have indicated that the quarterback had X-rays taken following the win over Miami last Saturday, the results of which were negative.
The severity of Brady's injury is unknown but it does raise an interesting question, so we'll use it for our Samsonite Make Your Case this week.
Assuming Brady is less than 100 percent, should he play in Sunday's game against Buffalo?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
The No. 1 seed in the AFC is still at stake and having home field throughout the playoffs is important enough to play Brady. This is assuming that Brady is merely hurt and not injured - in other words, if he's able to play, he should.
There's no question that Brady is dealing with some level of discomfort. But as long as he's healthy enough to play, and doctors don't believe there's any further damage that could be done, then Brady should be out there fighting to get that top seed.
The Patriots defense hasn't been particularly effective all season long so having any added advantages - like home field - makes it worth it. Brady's shown in the past that he has the ability to perform at a high level even when he's not at full strength and I expect him to do so against a weak Bills defense.
With two weeks to rest after Sunday, Brady will have plenty of time to take care of his shoulder and make sure he's as close to 100 percent for the divisional round playoff game as possible.
Bill Belichick says he's treating the game just like the other 15, and if that's the case then Brady should be the guy running the offense.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
I understand there's some value in gaining the No. 1 overall seed as opposed to the No. 2 spot that has already been achieved. But to me there isn't a huge difference between the two, and in all honesty the Patriots should be able to win this game even without their quarterback.
First, there's a chance the two AFC North teams could meet in the divisional round and it's certainly conceivable that the home team could lose. That would allow the Patriots to host the AFC Championship game as a 2 seed if they get that far.
Second, Buffalo simply can't stop the run and Brian Hoyer should be able to hand the ball off well enough to lead the team to victory. The Bills are banged up beyond belief and even an average offense should be able to muster enough points to win.
But the most important factor to me is Brady's health. Without him operating near 100 percent I don't believe the Patriots stand a chance in the playoffs. Why risk further injury when one hit could aggravate what is clearly a pretty painful situation? Watching Brady try to get dressed after the game was uncomfortable. Now we're going to make him play a game in which his services shouldn't really be needed?
I don't see the benefit of that. I'd much rather let him rest and make sure I do everything possible to get him ready for the playoffs. Without him the offense wouldn't be anywhere near as dangerous. He's simply too important to mess with.
Now it's the fan's turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make You Case poll.