Along with Andrews, DB Joshua Bledsoe, RB Kevin Harris, DL Sam Roberts, CB Sean Wade and OL Isaiah Wynn are inactive on New England game day. OT third year Jodni Cajuste, WR DeVante Parker and DB Marcus Jones are active despite being listed as questionable on the injury report.
The New England offensive line has struggled over the last three games, playing two full games without Andrews and most of last week’s win against the Jets without their leader at center.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was fired six times, and last Sunday, the Jets defense held the Patriots with a 31% success rate, with Andrews leaving early. In two full games without Andrews before the bye, Jones was under pressure from his 38.5% retreat and was sacked ten times.
Expected Patriots starting five on the offensive line are LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C James Ferenc, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Yodni Cajust. New England also called up OL Bill Murray from the practice squad, with rookie OT Conner McDermott active to add depth to the worn offensive line. Murray has moved from the defensive line this season, working mostly on defense.
The New England offensive line will break as Dalwyn Tomlinson’s Viking bow grab (caviar) is inactive, making it easier to match in the interior for the trio of Strange, Ferenc and Onwenu.
With a tough challenge ahead against Justin Jefferson, Dalwyn Cooke and a Viking offense, the Patriots’ defense will have the same formula as they did last week when they held the Jets to three points and 103 yards of attack. In addition to DT sophomore Christian Barmor, who is on injured reserve, Bill Belichick has a full complement of defensive personnel to plan against Minnesota’s star players.
The question for Belichick is how much more focus he puts on Jefferson compared to other Viking skill players and the ground game.
In a crushing loss to the Cowboys last week, Dallas star Trevon Diggs and the Cowboys team pinned Jefferson (three catches, 33 yards). However, the week prior, Jefferson had lost to a Buffalo minor with ten tackles for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Our best guess is that Belichick will rely on reliable corner Jonathan Jones to outshine Jefferson, allowing the Pats defense to use more defenders in the box on early downs to account for the run. But the Patriots head coach has something up his sleeve for Jefferson, who will be on third down and in the red. For example, we could see the coverage of Jefferson with brackets in critical situations.
After Buffalo fled to Detroit with a win earlier in the day, the Patriots need a win on the road in Minnesota to keep up with the AFC East.
New England kick off the Minnesota Vikings at 8:20 pm ET Thursday night.