A win on Sunday could vault the Patriots solidly into the AFC playoff picture and perhaps even raise hopes of stealing the AFC East Division title back.
But the Cleveland Browns, led by defender of the year defender Myles Garrett and striped quarterback Baker Mayfield, will be a tough match even at Gillette Stadium.
Both teams enter the match with 5-4 records. Only one can leave with six wins.
Follow Boston.com’s live blog for match days for updates on the results and important moments in today’s crucial AFC match.
11:35: The Patriots will officially have Rhamondre Stevenson, Trent Brown and JJ Taylor in action today after all three stayed off the team’s inactive list.
Stevenson has been officially approved to play after being in the league’s concussion protocol this week and should see a lot of burning with Damien Harris out. JJ Taylor could also see a small role in the backfield and could take on Gunner Olszewski (inactive) on punt return.
A key absence for New England: tight-end Jonnu Smith. The versatile tight end was a late addition to the injury report this week (shoulder). He probably would have played a role in carrying the ball with Harris out so it could be a punch.
On the other hand, Devin Asiasi will be active for the first time this year alongside Hunter Henry. Matt LaCosse (practice team height) will also see some firewood in the tight-end.
Brown is playing for the first time since week 1 and can take his old place by right tackle.
11:23: Damien Harris (concussion) and Nick Chubb (COVID-19) will not fit the Patriots and Browns respectively this afternoon. It sets off a battle between backup-running backs on Sunday with Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden and D’Ernest Johnson all standing in line to get significant workloads for their team.
Stevenson has come back strong from an unfortunate start to the season and even had his best game this year against the Panthers last week before bowing with a head injury. But the rookie reportedly cleared the concussion protocol on Saturday and is expected to play against the Browns.
The choice in the fourth round would probably be the team’s early back with the Ball filling in at passes.
Johnson, meanwhile, has already had a huge game this season in relief from Chubb and Kareem Hunt (IR), where they came away in 168 yards in total against the Indianapolis Colts.
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