Gronk, the only tolerable New England Patriot from those outside of Boston, is likely shelved for the season with a back injury and this is muy bueno for the sizzling Miami Dolphins, winners of six straight.
If there ever was a chance to steal the AFC East, the time is NOW.
Tom Brady, fighting through an injury himself, is still a high-quality quarterback without his wildebeest feasting on the spines of defenses since 2010, but he’s unequivocally nowhere near as lethal without him.
Without Gronk the numbers drop across the board for the QB poised to play until he’s 50, per ESPN, with his completion percentage falling about four points, his touchdown-to-interception ratio plummeting by just under 50 percent and his QBR (quarterback rating on steroids) dropping 19 percent.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 1, 2016
The Dolphins trail the Patriots by two games in the AFC East while both have one loss within the division. Both have similar strength of schedules remaining.
Pending Miami doesn’t lose more than once heading into their Week 17 matchup with New England — an optimistic outlook sure but not implausible — the stakes just might be for the AFC East crown.
Hope continues to build in Miami. Whether they finally turn the corner on a decade of gloom or fade down the stretch, just the fact we’re having the conversation feels nice. The AFC East is wide open.