Alongside Andrews are DB Joshuah Bledsoe, RB Kevin Harris, DL Sam Roberts, CB Shaun Wade and OL Isaiah Wynn New England’s game day inactives. OT Yodny Cajuste in the third year, WR DeVante Parker and DB Marcus Jones are active despite being listed as questionable on the injury report.
The New England offensive line has struggled in its last three games, playing two full games without Andrews and most of last week’s win over the Jets without their leader at center.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was sacked six times, and the Jets defense held the Pats at a quick 31% win rate last Sunday, with Andrews busting early. In the two full games without Andrews before the bye, Jones was pressured 38.5% of his dropbacks and got sacked 10 times.
The expected five Patriots on the offensive line are: 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 team, and newcomer OT Conner McDermott is on hand to add depth to a battered offensive line. Murray has switched from the defensive line this season and is primarily working as a guard.
New England’s offensive line will pause as Vikings nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (Wade) is inactive, creating an easier inside matchup for the trio of Strange, Ferentz and Onwenu.
With a tough task ahead against Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings offense, the Patriots defense will have a formula similar to last week’s shutdown performance when they kept the Jets to three points and 103 total yards of offense . Alongside DT sophomore Christian Barmore, who is on injured reserve, Bill Belichick has his entire defense staff ready to take on Minnesota’s Star Skill players.
The question for Belichick is how much extra attention he gives to Jefferson compared to the Vikings’ other skill players and ground play.
In a blowout loss to the Cowboys last week, the Dallas star kept corner Trevon Diggs and Cowboys pass rush Jefferson at bay (three catches, 33 yards). However, Jefferson went on the week before with ten grabs for 193 yards and a touchdown against an overwhelmed Buffalo secondary.
Our best guess is Belichick will rely on trusted corner kick Jonathan Jones to shadow Jefferson, allowing the Pats defense to box more defenders on early downs to account for the run. But the Patriots head coach will have something up his sleeve for Jefferson in third and the red zone. For example, in critical situations we might see a staple cover at Jefferson.
After Buffalo walked away with a win in Detroit earlier in the day, the Patriots need a win away in Minnesota to keep up in the AFC East.
New England will take on the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night at 8:20 p.m. ET.