BOSTON (CBS) — Even without Rob Gronkowski the rest of the way, Scott Zolak still thinks the Patriots should be playing in Houston on February 5.
Unlike previous times when Gronkowski went down due to injury, the Patriots are much better equipped to deal with the loss this time around. Tom Brady is still playing at an other-worldly level and he has options in Martellus Bennett, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell to step up in Gronk’s absence. They also have a solid running game with LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis and James White all bringing their own unique skillset to the equation.
Then there’s the top seed in the AFC. With five games remaining in the regular season, the 9-2 Patriots are in a good enough position to clinch home field advantage with three of those games at Gillette Stadium. Zolak thinks they’ll win Sunday against the Rams and next Monday night against a tough Baltimore Ravens team, both at home, putting themselves in an even better position when they head to Denver in the middle of the month.
“If you find a way to win that Denver game, you’re going to the Super Bowl because that will give you home field throughout. Win the Super Bowl? I don’t know that,” Zolak on Friday’s Zolak & Bertrand.
The Raiders are also 9-2 on the season, but will have to duke it out against their AFC West counterparts (the 8-2 Chiefs and 7-4 Broncos) the rest of the way. Zolak said he’s not afraid of the young and offensively gifted Raiders, even if the Patriots have to fly to Oakland for the AFC Championship.
“You’re set up for this stretch run. You’re not playing world beaters here. Going to Denver is tough, but everybody else, you should be favored against. If you’re good enough, if you believe in it and you have enough key veterans, you should be in Houston,” said Zolak. “This is not good that Gronk isn’t there, but you should be able to survive. You’re in survival mode now; you just have to find a way to win games.”
Listen to the full segment below, including why Marc Bertrand thinks the Patriots should rest Brady and Bennett this weekend: