Wednesday - Apr 24, 2019

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Under the Microscope – New England Patriots

The Patriots have been through a lot this year.  First, they blindsided their players by trading Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy to Buffalo just a few days before the season.  They were clearly shell-shocked by the move, and started their season by receiving a 31-0 spanking from their division rivals.  And then the injuries started.  It seems that nearly every important member of the Patriots’ defense is listed on the injury report this week, along with several offensive players.  But through all of the problems, New England has forged a 5-2 record to take the lead in the AFC East, and scored impressive victories over Tennessee and Miami.  Will their unlikely success continue?  Let’s take a look into the microscope… 

Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)
Category Yards/Game TD’s
Rushing Offense 109.9  (17) 5  (t13)
Passing Offense 195.1  (22) 8  (t13)
Rushing Defense 90.6  (7) 7  (t27)
Passing Defense 236.7  (27) 3  (t1)

Turnover Stats Upcoming Schedule
18 takeaways  (t2)
11 giveaways  (t11)
+7 overall  (t5)
8: Cleveland
9: @
10: BYE
11: Dallas
12: @Houston
13: @Indianapolis
14: Miami
15: Jacksonville
16: @NY Jets
17: Buffalo

Schedule Analysis
An AFC East schedule is never an easy one, but games against Denver, Dallas, and Indianapolis provide an added level of difficulty for the Patriots.  New England certainly can’t afford to rest on their laurels.  With three of their last four games in the division, it seems the AFC East race will come down to the last week, as it does almost every year.  This team is not exactly a fantasy juggernaut, and with some very good defenses on the card, don’t expect to see many big games from the Patriots on your roster.

Player Analysis

Tom Brady, QB – Brady is one of many players on this team that are hard to figure out.  Go ahead – start him.  I dare you.  Will you get the Tom Brady who threw for 283 yards and 2 TD’s on the road against Miami, or the Tom Brady who had 123 yards and 4 INT’s against Buffalo?  It’s hard to tell, because Brady is still experiencing the growing pains that every young quarterback goes through.  Remember, this is only his third year as the starter.  My advice is to find someone more consistent that you can keep in your lineup every week.  Brady is better suited to a backup role on your fantasy squad.

Rohan Davey, QB – While Brady has not been consistent, he has been durable.  It’s not likely that we will see Rohan Davey on the field anytime soon, and with 9 career passing attempts, you shouldn’t see him on a fantasy roster either.

Antowain Smith, RB – Although Smith is considered the Pats’ feature back, they are utilizing the committee system more than ever this year.  Antowain’s carries have been down, and he has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.  He is listed as questionable for week 8, but I could not find even a niblet of information about whether or not he will play.  If you’re holding him on your roster, keep him on the bench until you can see some production.  Even before his injury, he wasn’t generating the kind of numbers you need from a fantasy back.

Kevin Faulk, RB – Currently, Faulk is New England’s leading rusher.  He has had a few decent games on the ground, but still hasn’t reached the end zone this season.  You could insert him into your lineup in a pinch, but he’s a risky start.  When Antowain Smith returns to the field, Faulk loses most of his fantasy value.

Mike Cloud, RB – This former Chiefs backup has seen a few carries and scored three touchdowns in the last three weeks.  But, just like the others, keep your rabbit’s foot handy if you decide to start him.  He may disappear from the stat sheet completely when Faulk is ready to go.

Troy Brown, WR – This 11-year vet has always been a frustrating player to have on your fantasy squad.  If you can catch one of his good days, like the 6-for-131 and a TD he put up against Miami, then you’re golden.  But there will be many frustrating weeks where he only catches one or two passes.  He’s best used as a fill-in on your fantasy team.

Deion Branch, WR – Now playing in his sophomore season, Branch has shown a great deal of promise as a big-play receiver.  If anything, his numbers have been more consistent than Brown’s this year.  He could be sitting around on your waiver wire – pick him up if you need to fill a WR slot.  He should continue catching 4 to 6 passes a game, and hopefully will find the end zone a little more in the second half of the season.

David Patten/David Givens, WR – Although these guys will score the occasional touchdown, they really don’t get enough looks in the passing game to warrant a look from fantasy owners.

Christian Fauria, TE – Fauria has been a consistent pass-catching tight end for 9 years with the Seahawks and now the Patriots.  He won’t put up big yardage, but he is a good end zone target and had 7 TD’s last year.  You could certainly do worse for a fantasy TE, and he may be available in many leagues.

Defense/Special Teams – Despite injuries at nearly every position, this unit has managed to hold together.  Coach Bill Belichick is a master defensive planner.  His schemes have translated into a tough run defense, and his players are always attacking the ball, which has resulted in a +7 turnover ratio.  Special teams is also a strength, and this team stays in games because they win the battle of field position.  They are certainly worth a look for your fantasy team.

The Bottom Line
There is fantasy value on this team, but the offense is inconsistent and doesn’t always move the ball well.  It’s a tough task to try and figure out which week to start certain players, because they have a nasty habit of playing well against good defenses, and playing badly against bad defenses.  The Patriots are just a tough nut to crack.  I have Troy Brown and Antowain Smith on rosters this year, and I have a tough time deciding what to do with them from week to week.  I feel for you if you’re in a similar situation, but unfortunately I can’t give you much guidance beyond checking your matchups and going with your gut.

Next Week … I’ll review one of the NFL’s two remaining undefeated teams, the Minnesota Vikings.  An improved defense has the Vikes 3 1/2 games up in the NFC North.  Michael Bennett will also be returning to their lineup soon.  I’ll break down all the important players and let you know what to expect as we head into the second half of the fantasy season.

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