New England Patriots depleted wide receiver corps could be a big issue

New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry (1) Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry (1) Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots loss to the Indianapolis Colts hurt for a number of reasons.

For starters, the Pats could have very easily won the game, and if a few small plays went their way, they probably would have. The loss also ensured they would lose possession of the top seed in the AFC standings, although they still hold the number 2 seed heading into a pivotal matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

One of the more under-the-radar storylines however, is the Patriots ended up leaving Lucas Oil Stadium with a lot of injuries. Damien Harris didn’t even suit up for this one, and the running game struggled to get anything going for much of the game. Ja’Whaun Bentley ended up being forced out early with an ankle injury, and it’s fair to wonder whether or not his presence would have prevented Jonathan Taylor from being able to rip off his game sealing 67 yard touchdown.

Easily the most banged up position right now is wide receiver though. Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry both left this game after taking some vicious shots to head (neither of which drew a helmet-to-helmet penalty somehow), and neither player returned to the game afterwards. Adding to the issues, Kendrick Bourne was added to the COVID list yesterday afternoon. If all 3 of these guys are missing for Sunday’s game against Buffalo, the Patriots could be in some serious trouble.

The New England Patriots lack of healthy wide receivers could be a huge issue

With all three of these guys having their status’ for Sunday’s game in jeopardy now, that leaves just Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as the only two healthy receivers on the Patriots active roster. Kristian Wilkerson and Tre Nixon are options to come off the practice squad, although obviously it would be best if that didn’t need to happen.

Agholor and Harry are both in the concussion protocol right now, so it all depends on how quickly they can get through the five step process the NFL has outlined for them. Of the two, it seems like Agholor probably has a better shot at suiting up than Harry at this point. Agholor walked to the locker room under his own power, while Harry needed assistance to just get off the field. We will get a better feel of their situation when the first injury report of the week comes out tomorrow.

Bourne on the other hand is a bit more up in the air. The NFL recently updated their COVID protocols to make it easier for vaccinated players to return to the field after a positive COVID test, but it remains to be seen whether or not Bourne is vaccinated. If he is, he stands a shot of suiting up for Sunday’s game.

Now it’s not as if the New England Patriots rely solely on their wide receivers for production. Brandon Bolden has turned himself into a very reliable checkdown option for Jones out of the backfield, and Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith still loom as threats at tight end position. Meyers leads the team in receptions to this point, so even if just one of those three guys are healthy for this game (preferably Agholor or Bourne) New England’s passing attack should be just fine.

The problem is the implications of this game loom large. Whoever wins this upcoming game will assume control of the AFC East, and considering Buffalo’s final two games come against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, it’s hard to see a way in which New England would win the division if they lose to Buffalo this weekend. The Patriots on the other hand could officially lock up the division this week if they win and the Miami Dolphins lose against the New Orleans Saints.

Not having your full complement of weapons makes things easier on the Bills, and that’s obviously a less than ideal situation. The Patriots passing game really seemed to hit their stride in the fourth quarter against the Colts, and they are going to have matchups to attack considering Buffalo is without their top cornerback in Tre’Davious White. Having guys like Agholor and Bourne available gives you more matchups you can use to your advantage.

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The New England Patriots could be in a bit of trouble if they are forced to suit up without these guys on Sunday afternoon. This game against Buffalo is absolutely must win, and if they don’t have their full arsenal of players available, that makes their job all the more difficult. We will know more about their chances to be on the field tomorrow, but as of right now, it looks like the Patriots offense has been delivered a potentially fatal blow.