For a moment, it seemed as though New England’s potential home-field advantage in the playoffs would be thrown into question by a team-wide illness. But after several days to recover, the Patriots seem to have avoided a worst-case scenario.
Although nearly a dozen players missed practice this week due to flu-like symptoms, only backup tight end Ryan Izzo has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the AFC South-leading Houston Texans.
Izzo, a second-year player out of Florida State, has played sparingly this season and scored his first career touchdown in Week 6.
Several key players had missed practice, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon. Nine players remain questionable on the team’s injury report due to illness, but chances are they will suit up.
Cornerback Devin McCourty told the Boston Herald earlier in the week that this was the worst sickness he had ever seen in his playing days, so much so that some players even wore facemasks to prevent infection.
McCourty’s twin brother Jason is one of two other Patriots who have been ruled out due to injuries; the star cornerback missed last week's game with a groin injury. Defensive tackle Byron Cowart has also been ruled out with a head injury.
The Patriots will need all the healthy bodies they can get against the Texans in this potential playoff preview. They only hold a one-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC and do not hold the tiebreaker. Three of their next four opponents have a winning record, too.
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