The New England Patriots are set to begin their Super Bowl title defense in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, and the return of Julian Edelman to the field after two months is extremely helpful, especially to Tom Brady.
Edelman will have a steel plate in his shoe to prevent any flexing or re-fracturing of the foot and is cleared to play. He’s actually been practicing for weeks, but the Patriots felt there’s no need to risk him coming back too soon, even if it did cost them home field advantage (only if the Denver Broncos make the AFC Championship game that is). Had the Patriots been in bigger trouble heading into the final week of the regular season, meaning the postseason being on the line, Edelman would have probably played.
Brady needs Edelman back, and quickly. As important as Rob Gronkowski is to him, Edelman, with 692 yards and 7 touchdowns this season, is what really makes Brady move this offense, giving him the ability for quick passes without getting into too much trouble, especially with the issues the offensive line has been having in the final six weeks, which was shown quite vividly in the loss against the Miami Dolphins, a place the Patriots often have trouble winning in.
Edelman played through the first nine games of the season, all wins for the Patriots, before his injury in the win over the New York Giants. Brady was fantastic in that 9-0 stretch, completing nearly 68% of his passes, throwing 24 touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 111.1. Without Edelman in the final seven games of the season? The Patriots went 3-4, and Brady went down to 59.4% completion percentage, 12 touchdowns to 4 interceptions and a 89.1 passer rating. Quite a huge difference, even if it wasn’t just Edelman making him play worse.
So it’s easy to see how important it is for the Patriots and Brady to get Edelman back not just not on the field, but in his previous form. The Kansas City Chiefs head into Foxboro with 11 consecutive wins and a nasty pass rush, that the best way of beating it is having a slot receiver the quarterback can get the ball to quickly. Having Danny Amendola, who also missed games during that time, will help as well, but the key to this offense is the Brady-Edelman connection.