The New England Patriots were already facing an uphill battle in week one, as star quarterback Tom Brady begins to serve the first of a four-game suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo at least had ample time to prepare for a daunting road game against the Arizona Cardinals and had a healthy supporting cast aiding him.

Emphasis on had.

Gronkowski Ailing

Per reports, Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been dealing with a hamstring injury and may be in doubt for New England’s week one contest on Sunday Night Football.

The Pats were already going to have their work cut out for them on the road against one of the best teams in the league, but now it’s starting to look like Garoppolo may be tasked with moving the ball and scoring without the game’s top tight end.

There had been whispers surrounding Gronkowski’s status over the past week, but the player himself admitted recently that he could be closer to “week to week” than ready for a big game that arrives in less than three full days.

Between the Lines

It’s obvious any extra hits that come this week could shake the Pats ahead of a huge game, but Gronkowski referring to his injury as a weekly issue doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll sit out or even be effected. He also stated in his recent comments that he wants nothing more than to be ready and on the field, so it stands to reason that he and the Pats will do what needs to be done to get him active.

There is also the possibility that while Gronkowski’s issue is nagging, it doesn’t keep him from at least showing up and taking the field. Gronkowski even at 75% or as a decoy could be quite useful to a team down their star quarterback.

Backup Plan

The silver lining here is the Pats did take measurements to ensure they were good to go at tight end, as they traded for former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett this summer to help add depth and versatility at the position. The team would prefer to be utilizing Bennett’s size and red-zone ability in two-tight end sets, but if Gronkowski does sit, they also know they have a competent starter that can step up in his stead.

Bennett was a very productive starter in Chicago and while his role is initially expected to decrease in New England, he could find himself very busy in week one if Gronkowski is out or hindered at all.

Bad Bet

With or without Gronkowski, the Pats could be in trouble this weekend. They don’t have their star quarterback, they traded Chandler Jones away to the very team they’re facing and not having Gronkowski could accompany other injuries and suspensions that may hold the team back early on this year.

New England will ultimately be fine and could still offer a competitive game on Sunday night, but they’re not safe bets in Arizona. If you’re doing any NFL betting this week, we’d advise you just steer clear from this game, altogether.

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