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Rob Gronkowski injury: Back surgery scheduled; 8 weeks for return

Could the door to the AFC East division crown be opening just a little more for Miami?

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are chasing the New England Patriots in the AFC East, with the front-running Patriots two games ahead of Miami heading into Week 13. The Dolphins have one head-to-head meeting with the Patriots remaining this year, but they are going to need New England to stumble at some point while Miami keeps winning if they are going to dethrone the perennial division champions.

On Thursday, media reports indicated the Patriots could spend the rest of the regular season - and most of the playoffs - without their freak-of-a-tight-end Rob Gronkowski:

An eight week recovery time would have Gronkowski out of action until the Super Bowl, should the Patriots make it that far.

Though injuries are never something you want to see anyone suffer, this could open the door slightly for the Dolphins to make a run at New England. The Patriots still have to play the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens (6-5), the Denver Broncos (7-4), and the Dolphins (7-4), along with the Los Angeles Rams (4-7) and New York Jets (3-8). Miami’s remaining schedule features the Ravens, the Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1), the Jets, the Buffalo Bills (6-5), and the Patriots.