Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pats' post-Gronk receiving corps looks even thinner


Saturday, the New England Patriots learned that two of the key players expected to fill the void left by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was lost for the year last week with a torn ACL and MCL, won't be available.

The team announced via Twitter than wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) have both been downgraded to out for Sunday's pivotal division tilt against the Miami Dolphins.

That means that quarterback Tom Brady will be without three of his four leading receivers on the road against a Dolphins team playing some of its best ball of the season.

New England could clinch the division with at least one win in the final three weeks of the season, but more at risk this week is the chance to earn the AFC's No.1 seed. At 10-3 and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 11-3 Denver Broncos, a loss would put the Broncos back on the inside track for homefield advantage throughout the postseason.

Candidates to step in at outside receiver include Josh Boyce, Austin Collie and special teams ace Matthew Slater, who have combined for just nine total receptions in 2013.

The news couldn't be better for Miami, which will need all the help it can get to topple the division leaders and move one win closer to making its own postseason hopes a reality.

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