Just when darkness starting seeping into the thoughts of Pats fan, a ray of light shined onto the practice field this week.  On Thursday it was Gronk – out running, skipping, jumping and high-fiving coaches.

Today, Julian Edelman made a surprise appearance in practice.

Worst-case scenarios for both injuries would be missing both until the playoffs, and even by then, who knows if either would be 100%.

Without Tom Brady’s primary two targets, you all saw how pedestrian the Pats looked.  Officially, they were 1-2 without Julian and 0-2 sans Gronk.  Many would say the remaining schedule for the Pats is a little cupcake (Texans, Titans, Jets, Dolphins), but without Edelman and Gronk, and especially how they looked against the sub-.500 Eagles, the remaining schedule is no slam dunk.

The Texans (aka, Patriots-South) will play up to the Pats, the Jets are always a tough out and the Dolphins may still be playing for a wild card spot in the final week of the season.  The Pats’ history playing in Miami isn’t exactly dominating either.  Second to only Denver, the Pats tend to struggle in the heat of South Beach.

The main issue with the Patriot offense is that Edelman is the cog that keeps the chains moving.  He’s not the primary receiver on most plays, but because Brandon LaFell tends to draw man-to-man CB coverage (1 of the top 2 CB’s) and Gronk needs attention over the top, Edelman can sneak into the middle of the field, or into a soft spot in the zone and pick up 10 quick yards to keep the drive alive.  It’s been an obvious struggle point in the last two games, with Brady throwing to a hobbled Danny Amendola, and receivers who he hasn’t built that report and trust with yet.

In all, any Pats fan can only feel good about seeing Gronk and Edelman out there.  Also key to this season, and flying a bit under the radar will be the continued improvement of Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins – who’ve missed time due to injury and illness, respectively. The Pats’ D is night and day with or without them, and getting them to 100% will ensure firming up the run D, which got torched by Denver 2 weeks back.

Within a few weeks and potentially well before the playoffs Tom Brady will be back in his comfort zone.  That’s pretty much a guarantee at this point.  Until then, they just need to find a way to win.

Mike Lovasco

Boston Sports Analyst, Spark Sports

Twitter – @BSMike

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