Sunday 7: History shows Rob Gronkowski can turn things around, have monster divisional round


1. Maybe Rob Gronkowski shouldn’t be declared done just yet. Although the Patriots tight end has certainly struggled this year while dealing with nagging back/ankle injuries, he can rely on past history to give him some confidence for the divisional round game. In five career divisional round games, Gronkowski has 34 catches for 482 yards and seven touchdowns (this doesn't include 2012 playoffs vs. Texans when he re-injured his forearm). His 12 career playoff touchdowns are the most by any active player. “He’s the best tight end in the league — probably the best to ever play the game,” Tom Brady said earlier in the year. The tight end can also rely on past experience if the Patriots were to face the Chargers. In four games against them, he has 19 catches for 240 yards and five touchdowns. So while it may be easy to discount the 29-year-old based off his 2018 season (47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games), his talent along with past playoff history may make you want to think twice.

2. Speaking of playoff success, Julian Edelman is on the verge of a pretty impressive feat. The Patriots wide receiver needs five more receptions to move into second place all-time in playoff receptions. Right now, Edelman has 89, which is four behind Reggie Wayne. He’s not even close to Jerry Rice’s record of 151, but Edelman has passed some of the games greatest receivers like Hines Ward, Michael Irvin, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Art Monk. The 32-year-old has had at least five catches in his last four games, so don’t be surprised if Edelman passes Wayne next Sunday.

3. Stephon Gilmore was the Patriots’ lone member of the All-Pro team, while Cordarrelle Patterson made the second-team as a kick returner. The team having only one member of the All-Pro team wasn’t much of a surprise, but it was pretty surprising to see the breakdown of Patriots receiving votes: Gilmore 26, Patterson 2, Matthew Slater 4, Shaq Mason 4, Joe Thuney 2, Albert McClellan 1. This means Trey Flowers did not receive any votes, and while it doesn’t mean all that much, maybe it is a sign of things to come this offseason that he maybe won't get the massive contract many expect him to receive. The biggest knock against him is he only had 7.5 sacks, which were tied for 34th in the league.

4. Brady’s press conference Thursday gave a glimpse into how fired up the quarterback gets for the postseason and how everything is ratcheted up this time of year. “I think it’s just naturally a level of intensity that you can’t really emulate at any other point in the season and really for us, any other point in our life,” he said. “We all work hard to get to this point and to have an opportunity like we have, I don’t think you take them for granted. There’s been so many plays that I’ve seen in my career that had we not made that one play, which could be just an extra effort, could be an arm tackle, could be just one extra push of the pile that ends up being the difference in an entire game and really, an entire season. That’s what it’s all about. It’s great when it comes out for us and I think you just try to express that I don’t think you can compete any less than what you’re ultimately capable of competing at. That level, that’s intense and it’s every play and it’s just, you max out. You can’t leave everything behind. You’ve just got give everything you’ve got.” 

5. J.C. Jackson had a very good rookie season and was recognized heavily recently by Pro Football Focus, but this stat may be the best of all. When Jackson was on the field, the Patriots allowed 4.98 yards per passing play. When he wasn’t, the Patriots allowed 6.11 yards per passing play. The undrafted rookie has jumped Jason McCourty on the depth chart and is now the Patriots’ No. 2 cornerback. He didn't have his best game against the Jets, but the rookie never lacks confidence, which will serve him well in the postseason.

6. In terms of the 2019 schedule, there aren’t really any “destination” road games for Patriots fans. Here’s who the Patriots will play on the road: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Ravens, Eagles, Redskins and Texans. Fortunately for them, like this year they don’t have any real long road trips with the longest being to Houston. One thing to potentially keep an eye on is the NFL reportedly may go away from having the defending Super Bowl champion play the season opener on the Thursday of Week 1 and have a “special matchup” that night with the defending champions instead play on Sunday night.

7. Even though it is the playoffs, the Patriots will keep a regular-season schedule during the week. The team will be in Monday for meetings, have its usual day off Tuesday, before hitting the practice field Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The schedule this week had been a little different in the past as the team has had the Saturday game for the last several years. In terms of Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores, they will be done their head-coaching interviews as of this weekend. For what it’s worth, McDaniels will speak on a conference call with the New England media Tuesday morning, while Flores will not.