Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/13/13
The Patriots and Ravens will once again hook up in the AFC Championship Game. This time could prove to be more difficult for the Pats, though, as they’ll reportedly be without tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski reportedly reinjured his forearm during the Patriots’ playoff victory over the Texans on Sunday, and he’ll require season-ending surgery. Gronk’s absence will be problematic for New England, but is it enough to keep the Patriots from punching their ticket to the Super Bowl? The Patriots played five games without Gronkowski earlier this season, going 4-1 in those contests. The two-time Pro Bowler then returned for New England’s season finale against Miami, and he hauled in two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots rolled to a 28-0 win. On Sunday, Gronk’s night ended early, as he headed back to the locker room in pain during the first quarter after falling awkwardly on his taped up arm. Soon after, Patriots fans’ fears were confirmed, and Bill Belichick and Co. will now be forced to prepare for Baltimore without arguably the NFL’s best tight end. Clearly, the Patriots will feel the impact of losing Gronk. Not only is he a premier pass-catcher, but New England’s rushing attack is significantly better when he’s paving the way for the team’s backs. And considering the improved health and play of the Ravens’ defense recently, Tom Brady would certainly love to have all of the Patriots’ weapons at his disposal. Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd will likely receive more attention with Gronk out, which means Brady will need to elevate his game even more in order to put points on the board. No. 12 has done it before, though, so perhaps the Patriots won’t skip a beat. Take Our Poll
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