New England Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch will not be able to play in arguably the biggest game of the 2017 regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Branch went down on Monday night against the Miami Dolphins with a knee injury. He left the game and was able to return. However, he has been ruled out against the Steelers. He has not been able to practice at all this week.
Even though Branch has been in a reduced role for the Patriots this season, he has only started in six games after starting in all but one game the previous two seasons, his 6-foot-6 300-plus pound frame will be missed on Sunday.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is the leading rusher in the NFL, and they are not shy about handing him the football. He also leads in the NFL in rushing attempts with 289 on the year.
The Patriots defense has improved after a rough start to the season, but they are still ranked 23rd against the rush in terms of yards-allowed-per-game. There is also no guarantee that their best pass rusher, defensive end Trey Flowers, will be available to play even though his rib injury is much better after two missed games.
Sunday’s game will likely decide home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Whoever is available for the Patriots will have to step up to try and contain the Steelers’ loaded offense.