The New England Patriots had a lengthy injury report last week and return home after a tough stretch of four of their last six games being on the road. The match-up is no easier this week as Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs come to Foxboro. The Chiefs are intent on revenge after the Patriots sent Andy Reid’s troops home in the AFC Championship game on the way to Super Bowl victory number six.
Last week the Patriots had that same illness that swept through seemingly everyone’s school and workplace as they had ten players listed as questionable due to flu-like symptoms. Although most of the ill players were on the field Sunday night, their conditioning during the game and lack of practice time during the week stood out during the loss.
Last week tight end Ryan Izzo and offensive lineman Jermain Eluemunor were the only New England Patriots players ruled out due to illness. This week, only starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is on the injury report with an illness (for the third straight week). Left tackle Isaiah Wynn, cornerbacks Joejuan Williams and Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and safety Patrick Chung all played against Houston despite the illness keeping them out of practice.
The Patriots should be back to full-strength. Cannon has been rested for the opening drive of the second half in the last two games. With him on the injury report due to illness again, it may happen a third straight week. When the real story leaks out in the offseason, it will be interesting to hear just how ill Cannon really has been these past few weeks.
ALREADY RULED OUT:
The Patriots have a pair of players ruled out for the game against Kansas City already on Friday. Center Ted Karras went down with a sprained MCL during the game against Houston last week and will be out for a few weeks minimum. He was replacing David Andrews who is out for the season due to blood clots. The Patriots go to third-string center James Ferentz for the next couple of games.
Rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart–who played just 43 snaps on defense so far in 2019–is out again with a concussion/head injury (all stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted). Cowart has contributed primarily as a blocker on special teams in 2019.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FROM INJURY:
Quarterback Tom Brady got both Mohamed Sanu (ankle injury) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) back on Sunday night. Both left with injuries against Philadelphia and both missed the Dallas game. Sanu remained limited in the game being out with the offense on just 22% of the offensive plays. He has remained limited this week in practice and is questionable. Dorsett got more time on offense playing 71% of the snaps.
The Patriots are also hoping to get cornerback Jason McCourty back this week. With a deep and talented Kansas City receiving group, all hands on deck would be a big advantage this week. McCourty practiced this week in a limited fashion and projects as a game-time decision depending on how his hamstring responds to treatment.
OTHER WALKING WOUNDED:
Other key injuries in New England includes back-up linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley–a stalwart against the run–limited again this week with a knee injury and questionable. Bentley did play against Houston playing 35% of the snaps on defense and contributing on special teams.
Quarterback Tom Brady and top wide receiver Julian Edelman were both on the injury report again as well. Brady with the right elbow again and toe injury was limited on Thursday and Edelman remained limited with a shoulder injury. Edelman, of course, was on the field Sunday and played 92% of the snaps on offense.
Strong safety Patrick Chung is on the injury report again, this time with just the heel injury. Chung is expected to play a key role on Sunday against the explosive Chiefs’ offense. He again played most of the game despite his injuries last week against Houston being on the field for 96% of the defensive snaps.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS’ INJURIES:
For the Kansas City Chiefs, they’ve had their hands-full with injuries in 2019 most of the season–especially on defense. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was leading the team in sacks (5.5 sacks) when he tore a pectoral muscle earlier this month in the loss to the Titans. Last year’s second round draft pick Breeland Speaks was an expected key contributor at defensive end but injured his knee in the preseason and is out for the year.
The pass rush also has missed Alex Okafor with an ankle injury since week eight. He is expected to be at full strength despite still listed as probable with a lingering ankle injury. High-profile pass rusher Frank Clark is questionable as he has missed practice all week with flu-like symptoms (that sounds familiar). He will be a game time decision.
In the secondary, cornerback Morris Claiborne is out with a shoulder injury and rookie Rashad Fenton is out as well. Disappointing slot cornerback Kendall Fuller gets his job back by default with Fenton and Claiborne out. Fuller has been on the injury report with a thumb injury, but returned last week. Reserve safety Jordan Lucas is also questionable with an illness.
On offense, tackle Eric Fisher was on the injury report with a groin injury and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still listed with a knee injury, but both will play the entire game with no restrictions. The key losses are at running back with starter Damien Williams out with a rib injury and back-up Darrel Williams placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
This puts pressure on 31-year old LeSean McCoy and rookie sixth-round draft pick Darwin Thompson to carry the load. Or more accurately, this puts more pressure on Mahomes to carry more of the load on Sunday against the stout New England defense.
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01