Gronkowski Rocks As Patriots Roll
When a player like Rob Gronkowski has a career day, one has to take notice. He tied a career best in receptions (9) while setting new bests in yardage (149) and touchdowns (3). Any questions about his health have been put to rest after this performance. He looked every bit as dominant in this performance as we have ever seen from him.
That's obviously great news for Gronk owners, but it's also good news for the Patriots offense as a whole. After an awful start to the season, Tom Brady has now thrown for 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns without an interception over his last four games. At 37, it was fair to question whether he was starting to decline. He has answered those questions with his stellar performance and should be back in starting lineups with confidence.
This Patriots team does have more to offer, though. Brandon LaFell logged his second 100-yard receiving game of the season this week. In his six games he has 30 receptions for 461 yards and four touchdowns. The presence of Gronkowski guarantees he sees single coverage at all times, and he has proven capable of beating it. He sure looks like a legitimate WR3 from here on out.
[caption id="attachment_83300" align="alignright" width="300"] Gronk found the end zone a career-high three times on Sunday. Photo Credit: DGA Productions[/caption]
The other takeaway from this contest was that Jonas Gray received 17 of the 28 carries Patriot running backs received. He looks to have cemented the between-the-tackles work for the Patriots. That doesn't mean he is worth starting yet, though. Bill Belichick is a master of match-ups at the running back position. Gray is available in 85-percent of leagues on CBS Sports at the moment and needs to be added immediately.
A look ahead at the Patriots schedule reveals a plethora of potential shootouts with Denver, Indianapolis, Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego being their next five opponents. This offense got hot at the right time. Fantasy owners need to have Gronkowski, Brady, LaFell, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen ready to roll in each of these games, with Gray worthy of consideration for owners with holes at running back.
Pittsburgh racked up 620 total yards in their 51-34 victory over the Colts. On paper, this one looked like it could be high scoring, but 85 points exceeded all expectations. Ben Roethlisberger ended up throwing for 522 yards on the afternoon to raise his season total to 2,380 yards. This leaves him on pace to throw for a career-high 4,760 yards. He is also on pace to tie a career-high with 32 touchdown passes. Philip Rivers has been getting tons of love from the Fantasy community as a late round steal, but Big Ben hasn't received nearly the same amount of love. This is something that needs to change. Roethlisberger has one of the game's best running backs in LeVeon Bell, one of its best receivers in Antonio Brown and an emerging rookie in Martavis Bryant. On my Fantasy squads, he will be starting regularly over options like Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles and Matt Ryan. The consistency he brings, combined with the potential for huge scoring outputs like we saw Sunday make him my kind of starting option.
Reggie Bush took a seat in London courtesy of the ankle injury he suffered back in Week 5 against Buffalo. He has been in-and-out of the lineup, which has probably hindered his ability to get healthy faster. When healthy, he has been pedestrian, scoring just one touchdown and failing to total more than 100 yards in total offense in any game he has appeared in. Over the last two weeks, Theo Riddick has been getting some additional work and done some damage in the passing game, hauling in 13 passes for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The second year man out of Notre Dame has done enough to warrant a piece of the pie moving forward, which is bad news for both Bush and Joique Bell. Because of this, Bell and Bush can be viewed as nothing more than FLEX options when both are healthy and on the field. Riddick becomes an interesting matchup play in contests that project as high scoring affairs.
Last season, T.Y. Hilton caught 85 passes for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns while receiving 138 targets. Through eight games this year he has hauled in 53 passes for 866 yards and two touchdowns. Barring catastrophe he is well on his way to a career year. His evolution as a player has been one of the biggest reasons we have seen a third year leap in production from quarterback Andrew Luck. Hilton has gone from a one trick pony in terms of only being effective taking the top off opposing defenses, to a player that can run any route on the tree. He has also been consistent, catching five or more passes in every game this year, while gaining at least 65 yards in all but one game. Right now, he is on pace to receive 156 targets, a number that would have ranked ninth in the league last year. When thinking about Hilton, you need to start associating WR1 along with him.
Coming off a broken hand, Mark Ingram had a tough first game back in Detroit against one of the league's best run stuffing units. He predictably underwhelmed, rushing 10 times for 16 yards while adding two catches for 13 yards. The good news was that he saw all of the early down work. Against Green Bay in prime time on Sunday Night Football, Ingram had a career night, rushing for 172 yards on 24 carries with a score and adding a token catch for three yards. He ran with authority, quickly finding holes and constantly running downhill. He ran through a bunch of arm tackles and didn't shy away from contact. In other words, he looked like Chris Ivory without the dreadlocks with slightly better lateral agility. Ingram looks like he is going to be a force to close out the season in a Saints offense that is starting to hit his stride.
Golden Tate parlayed a career-year last year into a lucrative free agent deal to come play second fiddle to Calvin Johnson for the Lions. An ankle injury has hobbled Johnson over the last three-plus games, opening the door for Tate to become the top option. He has taken the job and run with it. After catching 16 passes for 201 yards though three games, he has erupted for 39 grabs on 599 yards. To say he has been on a tear would be an understatement. To say this isn't the perfect time to sell high on him is an even bigger one. Megatron has started putting in limited practices, leaving some to think there was an outside chance he was going to play this week. This means he is nearly a lock to return following the Lions’ Week 9 bye. Search out the owners in your league that are desperate at receiver and pull the trigger on a deal, even if you don't net full value. Tate is going to quickly morph back into a WR3, courtesy of the loss of targets he will suffer.
Back injuries are scary, especially for running backs. The amount of contact these guys take on a weekly basis is inhuman. Because of this, I stayed away from Arian Foster on draft day. That decision looks like a mistake, even with him missing time due to a hamstring injury. When on the field, he has been nothing short of immaculate. If you throw away a Week 4 game against Buffalo in which he was clearly hobbled, he has gained at least 115 total yards every time he has stepped on the field, while scoring nine touchdowns. In his six full-strength games, he has received an average of 25.8 touches and 145.5 total yards-per-game. If DeMarco Murray didn't start the season with seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games, Foster would be getting a ton more attention. At age 28 with 1,490 career touches under his belt, this guy is on pace to rush for 1,641 yards, even with missing a game. That would be a career-best. Another injury is all that is going to stop him because he is locked in right now. If you own him, don't sell.
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