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Rob Gronkowski’s injury is a big deal in the AFC playoff picture

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is undergoing back surgery this week and will be out for a while. One report pegs his absence at eight weeks, which would be into the playoffs.

So this is a big deal. As the Chiefs have learned with Jeremy Maclin, it’s tough to be good on offense when your best receiver (err, pass catcher, technically) is out. The Patriots without Gronk are not the same team. They’re still very, very good and championship-caliber but Gronk is the best tight end in the game by a large margin.

This is significant for the rest of the regular season as the Chiefs try to get a first round bye. It’s also significant for the playoffs. If the Chiefs are matched up against the Patriots in mid-January, Gronk may not be playing. And even if he is, he’ll be coming off back surgery. Ask Dontari Poe how long it takes to truly feel right after back surgery.

This is a big deal in the AFC.

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