At first blush, the most obvious benefactor is fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski’s three TDs are tied for second most in the NFL, but part of what makes him so successful is working in tandem with Aaron Hernandez.
Another thing to consider is the season ending injury to center Dan Koppen, placed on IR on Wednesday with a broken ankle. Losing a starting offensive lineman generally requires a tight end to block more and since Gronkowski is an absolute beast at 6-6, 265, why wouldn’t he help out in protecting franchise QB Tom Brady?
Thru the season’s first two weeks, Branch quietly has 15 catches for 222 yards, averaging over seven catches and 111 yards per game. Though he has no TUDs, Branch is Brady’s “go to” receiver when the Pats offense needs a big play. We know what we’re going to get from Ochocinco (straight-line speed) and from Welker (tirelessly working the middle) but Branch is the real x-factor this week.
Also, this week’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, in the first two games this year have only allowed opposing tight ends to accumulate six catches for 55 yards, and for a team that runs a base 3-4 shutting down the TE makes sense.
Any idiot can tell you a big game for the Patriots receivers is on the horizon the way Tom Brady is throwing the ball, but I think this week is perfect for Branch to score his first TD and have a very productive week, more so than Gronkowski.