Along with Andrews, New England’s game-day inactives are DB Joshuah Bledsoe, RB Kevin Harris, DL Sam Roberts, CB Shaun Wade, and OL Isaiah Wynn. Third-year OT Yodny Cajuste, WR DeVante Parker, and DB Marcus Jones are active despite being listed as questionable on the injury report.
New England’s offensive line has struggled over the last three games, playing two full games without Andrews and most of last week’s win over the Jets without their leader in the middle.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was sacked six times, and the Jets defense held the Pats to a 31% rushing success rate last Sunday, with Andrews exiting early. In the two full games without Andrews before the bye, Jones was under pressure on 38.5% of his drop-backs and was sacked ten times.
The Patriots expected starting five along the offensive line is: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C James Ferentz, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Yodny Cajuste. New England also called up OL Bill Murray from the practice squad, and newcomer OT Conner McDermott is active to add depth to a banged-up offensive line. Murray has transitioned from the defensive line this season, working primarily at guard.
New England’s offensive line will catch a break as Vikings nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (calf) is inactive, creating an easier matchup in the interior for the Strange, Ferentz, and Onwenu trio.
With a difficult task upcoming against Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and the Vikings offense, the Patriots defense will have a similar formula as last week’s shutdown performance where they held the Jets to three points and 103 total yards of offense. Besides second-year DT Christian Barmore, who is on injured reserve, Bill Belichick has his full complement of defensive personnel to scheme against Minnesota’s star skill players.
The question for Belichick is how much extra attention he pays to Jefferson compared to the Vikings other skill players and ground game.
In a blowout loss to the Cowboys last week, Dallas star corner Trevon Diggs and the Cowboys pass rush held Jefferson in check (three catches, 33 yards). However, Jefferson went off against an overwhelmed Buffalo secondary the week before with ten grabs for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Our best guess is that Belichick will rely on trusty corner Jonathan Jones to shadow Jefferson, allowing the Pats defense to play more defenders in the box on early downs to account for the run. But the Patriots head coach will have something up his sleeve for Jefferson on third down and in the red zone. For example, we could see bracket coverage on Jefferson in critical situations.
After Buffalo escaped in Detroit with a win earlier in the day, the Patriots need a victory on the road in Minnesota to keep pace in the AFC East.
New England will kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings at 8:20 pm ET on Thursday night.