The top two pass-catchers for the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, will both be in action this Saturday against Kansas City. That we know. How effective they’ll be, however, is slightly less certain.

Gronkowski has missed multiple practices this week with knee and back pain, while Edelman will be playing for the first time since breaking his foot in a win over the Giants on November 15.

How concerned should Patriots fans be right now?

“I would worry,” Boston Globe sports columnist emeritus Bob Ryan said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “(Gronkowski) has not been the same for the last several weeks. There’s been a marked difference in Rob Gronkowski, who I believe is the greatest tight end of all time when he is at the peak of his game. He doesn’t have the explosion. He’s not even blocking as well, so there’s something going on. Missing two out of three practices is very disturbing. He’s a necessary weapon, there’s no question about it. We know how much better the team is when he’s Rob Gronkowski. He gives them an edge that no one else has. I would say this is yet another issue of concern as we look at this game on Saturday. I would be very concerned.”

Ryan said he “wouldn’t be at all shocked” if Gronkowski needed offseason knee surgery.

“Look, they’re all tough,” Ryan said. “They’re football players. They’re tough. There’s a matter to the degree they can overcome injuries, and we know that he is more than likely in the upper percentile of tough guys. Sure, he’ll do the best he can. But just watching, you know he’s not the same. This is a very inopportune time. This thing has occurred in a quiet period, in a bye week when you would have thought that he’d be able to heal up. There’s something precarious going on. If this has cropped up now when they’re in this two-week period of inactivity, then obviously there’s something to be worried about. That doesn’t mean he can’t perform and be adequate, but there’s a big difference between being adequate and being the great player who is in fact once again first-team All-Pro. But that’s based on roughly the first 10 weeks, certainly not the last six.”

Tom Brady has been his usual great self, throwing for 36 touchdowns to just seven interceptions this season. But he’ll need help Saturday, especially against a team that has won 11 straight games.

“We know we have a historically great player,” Ryan said. “The thing that worries me – and why I’m a little apprehensive about this game, is the offensive line. There’s only so much you can do if you have no time to throw. He was able to get around this offensive line as long as he has his full offensive weaponry, which included Julian Edelman. Now, Edleman will be back, but it will be nine weeks since Edelman has played. Will he have the football feel? Will he have the timing? Will he and Brady have that chemistry that they need? Brady was able to get rid of the ball in under two seconds because of the weapons he had when he had them, and when he didn’t have them, you saw some problems.”

The Patriots were held to 28 points or fewer in eight of their last nine games, this after scoring 30+ in six of their first seven.

“The team that you saw the first five or six weeks of the season was invincible,” Ryan said. “They were not going to lose. They were the best team in the league. The team that you’ve seen the last six weeks, when they’re 2-4, doesn’t even belong in the tournament, frankly. A major part of the reason is Brady has suffered from a very porous offensive line.”


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