Last week, upstart satellite back Dion Lewis went down for the season with a torn ACL; this week, New England lost wideout Julian Edelman for up to eight weeks with a broken foot; and Brady has been playing behind a makeshift offensive line for weeks. While their skill players will miss crucial time, the Patriots are finally getting healthy on the line of scrimmage.
Offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (concussion), Tre Jackson (knee) and Marcus Cannon (toe) all returned to practice on Wednesday after missing seven combined games for New England.
With starting tackle Nate Solder (knee) and Ryan Wendell both on injured reserve as well, the Patriots have struggled week-to-week to put the same starting offensive line on the field, a trend that, for other less competent offenses, would prove fatal; in Week 10 versus the Giants, New England started two rookies (Shaq Mason and David Andrews) and three linemen that weren't on the Week 1 starting roster (Mason, Fleming and Bryan Stork). However, the Patriots' offense has not faltered behind this linemen-by-commitee, surging past 400 yards in four of their last games.
Brady, though, has already been sacked 21 times this year, which matches his total through 16 games in 2014. The Patriots hope the return of Vollmer, Jackson and Cannon can reverse that dangerous trend, keep Brady upright and the offense charged toward another Super Bowl.
On the other side of the ball, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that linebacker Jamie Collins is over the virus that knocked him out of the last two games and that he could be back for Monday Night Football against the Bills. His availability hinges on gaining back weight and strength.
Here's what we learned from Wednesday's practices:
- The return of the Cowboys' offense to its preseason form will have to wait another day. Wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot) did not practice, while his gimpy quarterback, Tony Romo (clavicle), took Wednesday's practice off, as is his tradition. The Cowboys have yet to activate Romo for Sunday's game against the Dolphins, but all indications are Romo will play -- Dallas released backup quarterback Brandon Weeden to make room for Romo's eventual return to the lineup.
Linebacker Sean Lee, who has been in concussion protocol, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.
- Less than a week since undergoing surgery on his thumb, Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick participated in individual drills, but did not practice on Wednesday. The veteran told the media after practice that he will start Sunday against the Texans. Fitzpatrick suffered torn ligaments in his thumb against the Raiders in Week 8, but chose to play New York's next two games before seeking treatment.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday and will be a game-time decision while cornerback Darrelle Revis (hip) and safety Calvin Pryor (ankle), who missed the Jets' Thursday night loss to the Bills, were limited. Backup running back Bilal Powell (ankle) was a full participant in practice.
- Redskins veteran defensive end Jason Hatcher, who has been dealing with knee issues all season, sat out his second straight practice Wednesday. The 33-year-old returned to the field against the Saints in Week 10 after sitting out two consecutive weeks.
- Following Green Bay's disappointing loss at home to the Lions, the Packers listed quarterback Aaron Rodgers as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury.
- Coming off their biggest win of the year, the Texans will not have their starting quarterback healthy against the Jets come Sunday. Rapoport reported that Brian Hoyer is "likely out" for Houston's Week 11 matchup.
This news comes after coach Bill O'Brien told the media Wednesday that Hoyer's status is "in the questionable category and ... he would have to practice at least once in order to play." Hoyer suffered a concussion Monday night against the Texans and was on the sidelines when backup quarterback T.J. Yates threw the game-winning touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
Speaking of Hopkins, the star wideout made a surprise appearance on the injury report. Hopkins did not practice with a knee injury.
- Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (torn triceps) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, the team announced. Marks suffered the injury during the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Ravens. Safety James Sample (arm) was also placed on IR by the Jaguars.
Running back T.J. Yeldon (foot) is questionable for Thursday night's game against the Titans, while wide receivers Allen Hurns (foot/thigh) and Marqise Lee (hamstring) are probable.
- As Chicago attempts a run at the postseason, Jay Cutler needs his top offensive skill players to stay healthy; he hasn't had much luck so far. Bears running back Matt Forte (knee) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (groin) were limited in practice Wednesday. Forte has missed Chicago's last two games, while Jeffery gutted through his injury during the Bears' Week 10 win in St. Louis. Center Hroniss Grasu (neck), linebacker Shea McClellin (MCL) and safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) were also limited.
- Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who injured his knee in Week 7, is expected to be out this week once again, Rapoport reported.
- Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (concussion, left shoulder) and running back Ryan Mathews (concussion, groin) both did not practice. Rapoport reported that Bradford will likely miss two games due to his injuries.
- Fresh off their first loss of the season, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (foot) did not practice and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) was limited.
- Niners running back Reggie Bush told the team's official website he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus, not his ACL or MCL. The former second-overall pick's season ended when he slipped on the Edward Jones Dome pavement past the sidelines.
Bush's running mate Carlos Hyde (foot) did not practice and 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (hamstring) was a limited participant. Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick (left shoulder) was listed on the 49ers' injury report but was a full participant in practice.
- Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (ankle, finger) sat out practice. Sanders left Denver's loss to the Chiefs with a suspected concussion.
Coach Gary Kubiak said in a conference call that he does not expect pass rusher DeMarcus Ware (back) to return this week against the Bears. Ware did not practice.
- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ruled out linebacker Bruce Irvin (knee) for Sunday's game against the 49ers.
Marshawn Lynch did not practice with a lingering abdominal injury and wide receiver Doug Baldwin (toe) also missed practice.
- Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd (shoulder) and tight end Ladarius Green (ankle) did not participate at practice. Floyd said in the offseason that this would be his last season.
- Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee, ankle) were both limited participants in practice. Peterson's star blocker Matt Kalil did not practice with a toe injury.
- Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd did not practice after suffering a hamstring injury during Arizona's Sunday night win in Seattle. Guard Mike Iupati also did not practice; Iupati left Sunday's win on a stretcher after suffering nerve injuries.