NEW ENGLAND (at Jacksonville)
This appears to be a poor matchup for the Patriots against the league's best defense. New England scored only 10 points through three quarters in last year's AFC Championship, before pulling it out in the final minutes. But it's unwise to underestimate . . .
This report is taken from today's Week 2 edition of Fantasy Index Weekly. The newsletter includes our player rankings and 19 pages of matchup previews, plus stat projections and custom rankings for the games being played this weekend.
... the New England offense. Even while struggling most of the day, they finished with 336 yards and 3 TDs in that playoff meeting. In the last half-season the Patriots have faced three other highly regarded defenses, all away from home. They scored 41 at Denver, 27 at Pittsburgh and 33 against the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Tough to keep this offense down. ... Tom Brady struggled for much of that championship game last year, though the final numbers don't show it: 290 yards and 3 TDs. That was a defense that gave up 192 yards and 1 TD pass on average last year. He's good, and they'll find some things that work to manage some production and probably come away with average to above-average numbers -- lesser numbers for him, but above what most other quarterbacks would do against Jacksonville. Note that the best quarterbacks to face this defense since the middle of last season did fine against it.
|Top QBs vs Jacksonville, last four|
Eli Manning didn't put up great numbers last week (224 yards and no TDs), but he didn't necessarily struggle, either, and Brady's a lot better than he is. Be careful how many quarterbacks you start ahead of him this week. ... Brady doesn't have his full complement of weapons, but it's not a void, either. He's still got Rob Gronkowski, who caught only 1 pass in last year's meeting, but was knocked out of that one in the second quarter due to a concussion. The Jaguars allowed only slightly fewer touchdowns to tight ends last season (5) than wide receivers (8), while Gronkowski caught a touchdown against Houston last week (part of a 7-for-123 game). No Julian Edelman (for three more weeks) or Danny Amendola, but there's Phillip Dorsett catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 66 yards and a touchdown against Houston. The Patriots will need to get Chris Hogan going (just 1 catch last week despite playing almost every snap), although this probably isn't the secondary to expect a wideout to have a big day against (neither of these guys compares to Odell Beckham Jr.). The expectation is that Brady will get his numbers, but unlikely any one wideout has a big day. Just 8 touchdowns by wide receivers against this defense last season, and none in Week 1. New England signed both Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler this week (releasing Riley McCarron and Chad Hansen), and unlikely that either will be on the field for more than a play or two. ... Rex Burkhead should be the main runner, with James White in passing situations. Those two split snaps down the middle in Week 1: 19 touches and 69 yards for Burkhead, 9 and 56 plus a touchdown for White. Burkhead averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, but Houston is much better defending the run than the pass, while Jacksonville skews the other way (1st against the pass and 21st against the run last season, and looking similar last week). So he should fare a little better here. Patriots didn't run much in the playoffs, but trailed for most of that one (White and Dion Lewis combined to catch 10 passes). The wild card is Sony Michel, who may be able to return from a knee injury. He's missed a lot of time, though, so we're thinking he'll have a limited role if he plays at all. With Jeremy Hill on IR, the Patriots brought in Kenjon Barner as an insurance policy, and also worked out Orleans Darkwa. ... The Jaguars had the league's 2nd-stingiest scoring defense a year ago, and it carried over to the kicking game (Jacksonville allowed under 6 kicking points per contest). But Stephen Gostkowski is productive enough that few will have a better option; he had double-digit kicking points nine times a year ago, then 9 last week. Just 6 in the playoff meeting, however. ... The Patriots Defense gets a favorable matchup in typically shaky Blake Bortles. He played carefully for most of last season, taking just 24 sacks and throwing 13 interceptions. But New England did sack him 3 times in the playoff meeting (no turnovers, though). A sack and an interception for Bortles in Week 1, while New England had a sack and forced 2 turnovers against Deshaun Watson. New England will be breaking in a new punt returner after cutting Riley McCarron.