On Monday, the Patriots activated running back Rex Burkhead from injured reserve, 10 weeks after he suffered a neck injury against the Lions. Burkhead is eligible to play Sunday against the Vikings.
Two weeks ago, Burkhead’s backfield partner, Sony Michel, returned from a two-week absence after suffering a knee injury. Michel ran for 133 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Jets.
Also active in the Jets game was Rob Gronkowski, who Gronk-spiked a touchdown after missing the better part of a month with back and ankle injuries.
Also scoring a touchdown in the Jets game was Julian Edelman, who appears to be in full steam after missing the first four games of the season with a PED suspension, which followed a lost 2017 due to a torn ACL.
Add it all up and the Patriots, banged up and ineffective on offense for stretches this season, are finally whole again. What we will see going forward — if they can maintain their health — is the New England offense the way it’s supposed to look. Not the erratic, fractured version that put up 10 points each in two bad losses against the Lions and Titans.
This Sunday’s game in Foxborough is set up to be the first this season in which all four aforementioned skill players are on the field together. The Patriots have impressively held serve thus far, going 8-3 with running back James White checking in as the team’s leading receiver. If the playoffs started today, New England would be the second seed in the AFC and would have a first-round bye.
The Chiefs are currently the top seed, but the Patriots hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their victory over Kansas City in Week 6. If New England can manage to win one more game than the Chiefs over the final five, the road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxborough.
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The AFC might be a bit deeper this year than in years past. The Chiefs have the best offense and the best quarterback in the conference not named Tom Brady. The Steelers, before dropping a disappointing road game in Denver, looked reinvigorated as the LeVeon Bell debacle ran its course. The Texans and Chargers are two of the hottest teams in the league.
But the Patriots are rounding into form at the best possible time. They face Pittsburgh on the road and the Vikings at home, but otherwise have winnable games against each of their divisional rivals. Kansas City has to play the Seahawks in Seattle. Pittsburgh gets the Saints in the Superdome.
Only time will tell if health will be enough to get the Patriots to their third Super Bowl in four years. But at the very least, we’re about to see who this team really is over the final five weeks.