Where Is Rob Gronkowski During the AFC Championship?

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Those who haven’t been paying close attention this NFL season will notice a certain familiar individual missing from the New England Patriots offense during the AFC Championship.

Rob Gronkowski, the team’s superstar tight end, has been out since suffering a back injury in Week 12. He later underwent surgery and was placed on the IR, erasing any chance of making a return during the postseason.

Though the Pats haven’t lost a game since Gronk went down, the offense still isn’t quite the same beast without him.

From Week 5 (not counting the first four weeks when Tom Brady was sidelined) through Week 17, Gronk played five games (not counting Week 12, in which he played seven snaps before leaving with the injury). In those five games, the Patriots averaged 32.0 points, while Brady completed 72.9 percent of his throws for 327.0 yards per game and 9.85 yards per attempt with a 12:1 TD:INT ratio.

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In the seven games without Gronk over that span, the Patriots averaged 28.57 points, while Brady completed 63.9 percent of his throws for 274.1 yards per game and 7.2 yards per attempt with a 16:1 TD:INT ratio.

So while technically the offense has seen a downgrade without Gronkowski, “downgrade” is a relative term here. The Patriots attack without Gronk still produces numbers that most teams across the league would take in a heartbeat.

With Gronk out of the lineup, Julian Edelman has been Brady’s clear No. 1 target, while other players such as Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, James White and Martellus Bennett have all stepped up to help fill the void.