Josh Gordon has been suspended again, which has left the Patriots in a precarious position. They've already faced their share of issues on offense as Tom Brady has started showing signs of aging and Rob Gronkowski, who has been banged up, has looked rather ordinary for the first time ever. Now the Patriots are going to be without Gordon, who caught 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns after joining the team in mid-September.

It turns out, the Patriots tried to prepare for this outcome. According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the Patriots "recognized" that there was a chance Gordon wouldn't play the entire season, which is why they tried to make a move for Demaryius Thomas before the trade deadline and refused to move Phillip Dorsett.

The Thomas news isn't anything new. At the trade deadline, Fox's Jay Glazer reported the Patriots were in the market for a "bonafide premium wide receiver." NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Thomas was one player the Patriots were interested in, adding that their interest in a receiver was related to Gordon facing team discipline for being tardy. So, we've known for a while that the Patriots felt like they needed to upgrade at wide receiver even after acquiring Gordon earlier in the season. It certainly seems like the Patriots didn't entirely trust Gordon.

But the Broncos ended up sending Thomas to the Texans for a fourth-round pick (they also exchanged seventh-rounders). According to NFL Network's Michael Giardi, the Patriots made a "competitive" offer, but they wanted the Texans to take on part of Thomas' salary, which is why the Texans said no. It goes without saying that in the aftermath of the Gordon suspension, the Patriots' inability to land Thomas looms large. Since joining the Texans, Thomas has caught 20 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns in six games. So it's not like the Patriots missed out on a superstar receiver, but at this point, it's entirely fair to say that Thomas would've been able to help the Patriots down the stretch.

As it stands, the Patriots' top receivers will likely be Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. It's not an awful group, but after factoring in Gronk's ongoing issues, it's becoming clear that the Patriots' group of pass catchers doesn't exactly strike fear in opposing defenses. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Patriots rely extensively on their running back group, which is made up of James White, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead.

Nobody should count the Patriots out. They're still going to win the AFC East and they could still grab a first-round bye if the Texans slip up in the final two weeks of the season. They still have Brady and Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest quarterback and coach in NFL history. But for the first time in a while, the Patriots won't be feared the way they normally are come playoff time. It was true before the Patriots lost Gordon. It's even truer now that they have lost Gordon.