Week #16 New England Patriots Fantasy Rundown
Fantasy Projections for New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
The playoff picture is finally coming into view for the Patriots and for most Fantasy footballers, its Championship week. It’s been a long time coming and for some, a bumpy road. A post-game Week #15 scoring change from a fumble to a non-fumble for Ezekiel Elliott owners swung wins to losses and vice versa. Todd Gurley’s last second catch and run, which had no real impact on the game itself, cost me .22 points and a few spots on the money lists. Tough break, but Patriots fans know how that it is. We lived through Week #14’s “Miami Mess.”
This week, Fantasy owners who had received an early Christmas gift in the form of James Connor and the season long holdout of Le’Veon Bell, have had the rug yanked out from under them when they needed it in the Fantasy playoffs. Conner isn’t expected to play for the Steelers in a must-win game for their playoff lives. Leonard Fournette has had minimal stats and unproductive ones during the Fantasy playoffs at that, for owners that drafted him in the first round and waited all year for their pay off. Patriots fans know how that feels as well this week, to a lesser degree, with the announcement that Josh Gordon has been suspended indefinitely and both Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski being absent in a crucial Week #15 battle, and heartbreaking loss, to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. Buffalo Bills fans can revel in their fates on the other side of circumstances. LeSean McCoy is expected to return after missing most or all of Weeks #14 and #15.
Week #15 was a tough one to watch for Patriots fans. They flew to Pittsburgh with an opportunity to clinch the AFC East, remain in the mix for a playoff Bye and possibly the number one overall seed throughout the playoffs. The offense never got off the plane and those opportunities, with the exception of the AFC East division title, are all but lost now.
With the exception of a 63-yard defensive miscue resulting in a Chris Hogan touchdown on a play that Profootballfocus.com determined was “the most wide open player of the 2018 NFL season.” The Patriots were only able to muster three points against a Steeler defense that allows an average of 22.6. Other than Julian Edelman, who caught the quietest seven balls for what felt like a silent 90 receiving yards, and that one Hogan play, there wasn’t an offensive player with more than 60 yard from scrimmage. On the bright side, the Patriots only lost by seven because the defense held the Steelers to only 17 points and they shut down one of the most explosive duos of wide receivers in football, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown.
The Fantasy Perspective
This week, the Patriots face a Buffalo Bills offense that would never be mistaken or compared favorably to the Steelers, but the results could be much uglier than Week #15 turned out to be. Fantasy owners were sorely disappointed in last weeks Steelers v. Patriots Steel City Snoozer, but they could be pleasantly surprised by the Patriots v. Bills afterthought at New England.
The Patriots struggle against explosive running backs that can make plays in space and mobile quarterbacks. We saw Jaylen Samuels feast for 172 total yards from scrimmage in Week #15 and Mitchell Trubisky rush for 81 yards and a touchdown Week #7 in Chicago. This one, they face a healthy LeSean McCoy and a rookie Josh Allen, who has rushed for the most yards of any quarterback in football over the last four weeks. Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson has been an embarrassment throwing the ball, but he has held on to the starting job even after the return of Joe Flacco, because of the impact he makes with his legs – 347 rushing yards over the last five games. Josh Allen has rushed for 351.. in only four and it has gone mostly unnoticed. And Allen can make all the throws.
Josh Allen verse the Patriots defense and Tom Brady’s ability to move the ball against a stout Buffalo Bills D are the key matchups this week. How much do the Patriots focus on stopping the run and keeping Allen in the pocket and how can Allen turn that opportunity into passing yards and touchdowns rather than rely on his legs like his Fantasy owners have recently. Allen has the legs to be a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback and the arm to be a Top 10 NFL one. The problem with Allen is that his arm is inaccurate while his decision making is inconsistent. This could be his best game throwing the ball this season or it could be a four interception, 147-yard stinker. That is the risk/reward of this matchup.
The Buffalo Bills
The Bills offense has been at times dreadful and others mediocre, but they haven’t been what would be considered good very often this season. That doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous and it definitely doesn’t mean they don’t have Fantasy relevant possibilities on the field in a good matchup for their players this week.
The Bills don’t have a must-start Fantasy player on their roster, but they are loaded with Flex considerations, making their team and this game potentially one of the most impactful of Week #16.
Here are the relevant rankings and Fantasy points allowed per game by position.
New England Patriots Points Per Game Allowed by Position
QB: 18.5 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game (Rank 24th)
RB: 24.9 PPG allowed (Rank 16th)
WR: 36.4 PPG allowed (Rank 16th)
TE: 13.5 PPG allowed (Rank 19th)
As I have discussed week after week after week in this column, the Patriots defense allows their fair share, and slightly more, of yards, but they aren’t one of the worst defenses in football and they aren’t a “throw the kitchen sink at them” situation. They are more “friendly” or “cordial” than “droolingly appealing” or “jaw dropping bad.” That makes opposing players an interesting weekly target without transitioning a players status from borderline to must-start purely because they face the Patriots on any given week. It isn’t because I am wishy-washy on these things. It’s because the Patriots change their defensive approach based on the matchups and the circumstances every single week and predicting gameflow is difficult when you aren’t in the position meetings with the coaches. Kenny Stills and Jaylen Samuels torched them while Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were virtually irrelevant. Aaron Rodgers threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns while Blake Bortles threw for 376 yards and four scores. That is the Patriots defense in one sentence.
Josh Allen, QB
Allen will have the most significant impact on gameflow and is the toughest decision of the day. Do the Patriots prioritize keeping him in the pocket and force him to beat them threw the air with his ridiculously strong arm or do they play him more straight up and risk him beating them with his legs.
Allen has rushed for 99 yards or more in three straight games and two of those three games he scored a rushing touchdown.
Allen hasn’t thrown for 250 yards in any game this season and he has only completed 60% of his passes or thrown multiple touchdowns once all season.
Allen has the arm to make all the throws while his accuracy and decision making has been extremely suspect. He has thrown nine interceptions to only six touchdowns. This, and the return of LeSean McCoy, is why I expect the Patriots to crowd the line and challenge Allen to beat them in the air. If Allen doesn’t run for at least 50 yards he won’t be a viable Fantasy play this week and I think the Patriots will manage to do that. What makes him such a “Boom or Bust” play this week is that while he hasn’t thrown the ball well in his rookie season, he has the raw arm to do it.
I am leaning towards sitting him in yearly leagues and fading him in Daily Fantasy, but I am tempted. I plan to start him in one of my multiple tournament lineups while I will fade him in all of the cash ones.
LeSean McCoy, RB
McCoy is a dual-threat talent who has suffered on an offense that has been brutal throwing the ball and moving the chains.
He has averaged 3.3 yards per carry and has only 29 receptions all season. He is more of a name than a true contributor at this stage of his career and in this situation. He has had four “Fantasy relevant” games all season against the New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, the Houston Texans and these New England Patriots.
McCoy caught six passes for 82 yards against this Patriots defense in Week #8, a season high in receptions and receiving yards.
I am staying away from McCoy in DFS, but he is a reluctant, borderline Flex in yearly leagues depending on the alternatives. 75-100 total yards from scrimmage and 4-6 receptions is a reasonable expectation.
Robert Foster, WR
Foster has become the guy Allen goes to down the field and his big-play ability combined with a surprising level of consistency has made him close to a must-start play in this matchup. He has had 94 receiving yards or more in three of his last four games with fewer than four receptions in all but one of them, when he had seven.
If the Patriots challenge Allen to throw down the field Foster is the guy that benefits. He could have a huge day and if he does, you want to “double-whammy” Allen and Foster. I am starting Foster in yearly leagues and stacking him with Allen in DFS in a tournament lineup or two.
Isaiah McKenzie, WR
McKenzie hasn’t had the volume to make him a viable Fantasy Flex in a championship week, but he looks a lot like Jaylen Samuels and if the Bills watched last weeks tape, I expect them to put a few plays in the plan for him. He is listed as a wide receiver, but he has had nine rushing attempts for 62 yards and two rushing touchdowns and only 11 receptions and zero touchdowns as a receiver.
If McCoy wasn’t playing I would be high on Mckenzie as a sleeper in this matchup. As things stand, I feel the need to mention him because I do expect him to make some plays and have some kind of impact. Just not enough to be relevant.
The New England Patriots
The Buffalo Bills have been a bad NFL team for the majority of the season, but a lot of it has been because of the futility of their offense and they haven’t been a a team Fantasy owners should look at to exploit.
Their defense is legitimate and ranks as one of the best in multiple Fantasy relevant categories. Once you accept that and also accept the fact that this Patriots offense isn’t the dominant unit we are used to seeing and many still think they are or can be, then you realize that most of the Patriots are not “must-start” plays and many are not necessarily good Flex plays.
Here are the relevant rankings and Fantasy points allowed per game by position.
Buffalo Bills Points Per Game Allowed by Position
QB: 12.5 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game (Rank 1st)
RB: 26.4 PPG allowed (Rank 23rd)
WR: 29.3 PPG allowed (Rank 6th)
TE: 8.4 PPG allowed (Rank 2nd)
Tom Brady, QB
Tom hasn’t been a must-start quarterback all season and in one of his toughest matchups coming off a really bad game, he is a must-sit this week. The Patriots are better at home but the Bills are the best defense against the QB in the game. The loss of Gordon won’t make any meaningful difference on Tom Brady or any one else, with the possible exceptions of Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett.
James White, RB
I don’t know what’s going on with the Patriots and their game plan for White. He is their most reliable target and one of their more talented pure athletes and yet three of his last four games he has been an afterthought rather than a focus of the game plan.
If the Bills defense has a weakness it’s against the running back, but it’s rushing more than receiving. Its difficult to see how White isn’t a Flex starter for even a championship calibre Fantasy team in yearly leagues while its also difficult to see how he is a value play in DFS. STart him in yearly leagues and fade him in DFS.
Sony Michel, RB
Michel is going to have 15-20 carries for 50-75 yards regardless of good or bad circumstances. This week, he faces a Bills defense that has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, tied for second worst in football.
The matchup makes Michel a RB2 play in yearly leagues. With his diminishing price in DFS he is an intriguing tournament play and a good value in cash games. He isn’t a red zone monster and Develin has replaced him as the primary first look for six. The upside isn’t there, but the floor is high and the matchup elevates it even higher.
Julian Edelman, WR
Even in a bad game he caught seven passes for 90 receiving yards. He had what most thought was a bad game and yet he still posted quality raw numbers for Fantasy owners.
Edelman is a DFS fade because of the matchup and his lack of touchdown potential, but he is an upper-level Flex option. If you’re chasing upside or in a tough spot after Saturday’s games, there are riskier options with higher ceilings, but Edelman is the kind of safe floor that Championship Week lineups should be constructed like. Josh Gordon’s absence won’t change how the Patriots game plan for Edelman, but it should increase his targets by a few and that’s always good. Start your studs, dance with those that brung ya and all that jazz.
Chris Hogan, WR
It was good to see him score last week but if the Steelers didn’t bungle that one play, Hogan would have been Fantasy relevant again. Josh Gordon being out raises Hogan on the depth chart and that makes him noteworthy here, but I don’t see much change in Brady’s looks to him. For whatever reason Hogan is in the doghouse and I don’t see Gordon’s absence returning the love from Brady to Hogan. Look elsewhere
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Same story different week. Tight end sucks and Gronk is a difficult matchup at even half speed.
Phillip Dorsett, WR
Dorsett is the one player that could been significantly impacted by the loss of Josh Gordon. He has been non-existent for most of the season but he is the one Patriot player with impact potential and separation speed. If he is on the field there is a chance they try to exploit it, something they have refused to do so far this season. They could be forced to this week whether they want to or intend to.
Dorsett isn’t a Fantasy viable Flex option, but if you want to throw a haymakaa in DFS tournaments, he could be that 0% owned player that contributes 100 yards and a score out of nowhere. Sort of like James Develin and his two touchdown day a few weeks back.
Good Luck in your Fantasy Championships and cashing in Daily Fantasy Sports. Tweet me when Need Be People @CJMitch73
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