The New England Patriots remain Super Bowl betting favorites at all of SBR Forum's best sportsbooks, but their chances of winning Super Bowl LI in Houston took a major hit Thursday with some bad news surrounding the NFL's best tight end.
Rob Gronkowski returned from a one-game chest/lung injury last week against the New York Jets but was knocked out of that game early with a back injury. Early this week, it didn't seem to be anything serious and Gronk was given a good chance of playing on Sunday against the visiting Los Angeles Rams, who are the biggest underdogs on the NFL odds board for Week 13.
But reports on Thursday indicated that Gronkowski has a ruptured disc in his back, will undergo surgery on Friday and miss at approximately eight weeks. So that means obviously the rest of the regular season and all of the AFC playoffs. Perhaps Gronk could return for the Super Bowl should the Pats get there. I'm not quite as confident that will happen now as Gronkowski is easily the team's second-most important player behind Tom Brady.
Gronkowski might be the best receiving tight end ever, but he has been injury prone in his career. This season he has 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. He hasn't played all 16 in a season since 2011.
Brady's numbers with Gronkowski on the field are substantially better in his career than without. Since Gronkowski entered the league in 2010, Brady's touchdown-to-interception rate is 5.1 when Gronk plays, 2.6 when he doesn't. Brady's Total QBR drops from 80 to 65 when Gronk is out.
This news might not shift the Rams line on Week 13 NFL picks much because Los Angeles is mediocre at best and the Patriots do have a very good second tight end in Martellus Bennett -- it looks like genius now that the team acquired him from Chicago this offseason. However, the Patriots' futures odds could get longer with this huge loss.