Patriots “Deflate This” Tour Continues to Roll
We all knew coming into this season that Tom Brady and the Patriots would be on a mission. With their Week 7 victory over the Jets, New England employed a very unconventional game-plan by only calling five designed calls for the running backs with Dion Lewis on the sidelines. This was all strategy to avoid the strength of the Jets’ defense, which is their defensive front seven. Tom Brady was up to the task, going 34 of 54 for 355 yards and two touchdowns. He was extremely efficient on throws of 10 yards or more in the air, completing 9 of 14 for 181 yards. What’s more impressive is that Brady’s receivers tried to let him down in this contest with 10 drops in the game. The most impressive performance was by Danny Amendola, who caught all eight targets for 86 yards while also getting into the end zone for a score.
At 6-0 is it too early to begin wondering if the Patriots can run the table? With only three seemingly tough matchups left on the schedule (Wk. 12 @Denver, Wk. 16 @Jets, W.k 17 @Dolphins), it is easy to imagine that the drive to rub it in Roger Goodell’s face will push this team to complete a perfect season without blemishes. Personally, I see the game in Denver as being their biggest test, as it usually is. The Broncos’ defense will be looking to give Brady fits on that day, which could ultimately lead to a loss.
In terms of Fantasy, Tom Brady will be looking to finish this season as the top quarterback in the league. With the weapons around him and the schedule moving forward, it’s hard to think that he could not accomplish this. Only four of his remaining 10 games will be considered tough matchups vs. Top 8 pass defenses. Dion Lewis has surprisingly given this rushing attack the jolt it has needed, while also giving the Fantasy owners who picked him up off waivers an edge as well. Lewis, for my take, is definitely a sell high candidate if you are thin at WR, he could bring back a very strong piece at the moment. Julian Edelman is a player to watch over the next few weeks, as the finger injury he sustained against the Colts has truly affected his play. Numerous drops have hurt his potential and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him eventually take a seat for a week to let the injury heal. Brandon Lafell and Danny Amendola will swap roles as WR2 for the next few games as Lafell works himself back into game shape. Once Lafell is set to go, he could be a valuable piece to own during the Fantasy playoffs. Rob Gronkowski is, of course, the engine that makes this passing attack go. There is no question he will finish the season as the top tight end, barring injury. Gronk just wears out defenses as a game goes along, with 19 of his 34 catches coming in the second half of games.
Will the Real Miami Dolphins Please Stand Up?
A little over two weeks ago, as the Miami Dolphins were leaving London after another embarrassing loss to the New York Jets, there wasn’t one person not calling for Joe Philbin’s head. The very next day he was fired, and going into the bye week many wondered what kind of team we would see in Week 6. Now, after two consecutive dominating performances, we are left to wonder if this is the talented team that we thought they could be this season or is it a bi-product of the competition they have faced. I would say this is a combination of both. The Titans and Texans are not the most competitive teams currently, but the Dolphins have played ferociously over the last two games, which is nothing to bat an eye at. The coaching change seems to be the wake-up call the team needed after they had essentially quit on Philbin. Ryan Tannehill has come on strong with six TDs over the last two weeks, while also setting a new record with 25 consecutive completions. Although he has not had a 300 yard game since Week 2, you have to figure that this will all be changing soon, as the semi-new offense takes shape. Along with Tannehill, Lamar Miller has been on fire in the last two games as well. With back to back 100 yard rushing games, and three TDs added in, Miller is starting to flash that high-end RB2 potential that many thought he had.
We should get a real taste of this new Dolphins team in Week 8 when they travel during a short week to New England to play the hated Patriots. This game will come down to Tannehill and his ability to keep the offense on the field, as this is a plus matchup for the passing game against a susceptible Patriots secondary that ranks in the bottom third of the league. The tough matchup will belong to Lamar Miller, as the Patriots sport one of the better rush defenses in the league this season. I say ride the hot hand with the Dolphins here, as it seems they may have found a groove, and you know they will be playing from behind, which translates to plenty of opportunities in the passing game. Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews (who most have been waiting to fall off) should be busy on Thursday night. Landry finally got into the end zone in Week 7, and could very well do it again in Week 8. The targets have been steady, so to get the scoring to match would get him into the low end WR2 area. Matthews continues his strong play on the year, and is now up to 438 yards and four TDs. Matthews’ strong performances have held off sleeper darling DeVante Parker from seeing adequate time on the field, but one has to think that the early round pick’s talent cannot be held back for long. Parker is an intriguing stash option for your bench to have ready for playoff time.
Cowboys Lost Without Romo
Since the injury to Tony Romo, the once explosive Cowboys offense has been nothing more than a wet firecracker. These last few weeks have been tough to watch, as it has not mattered whether Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel was under center; this team just can’t get anything going offensively. And with Dez Bryant continuing to miss games, the passing game has been non-existent to say the least. Terrence Williams has all but disappeared and Cole Beasley has been nothing but a disappointment for those hoping for a sneaky PPR waiver pickup. The most confusing aspect has been the lack of a run game. Joseph Randle was supposed to take this job and run with it (pun intended), but there have been spots in which he has looked fluid in his running, and others where he has danced behind the line resulting in losses. Now he has developed a back/oblique injury that could sideline him going forward, which will ultimately cost him his starting job.
The lone bright spot moving forward is the oft-injured Darren McFadden. Coming off his first 100 yard game in almost two years, it looks as though the offense will be going through McFadden for the foreseeable future. He has all the tools to succeed in this scheme and behind this offensive line, but will he hold up to the expanded workload? The same was being said for DeMarco Murray early on during last season as well, and look where that led him. If McFadden is available in your league, definitely grab him. But I would also try and capitalize off such a great performance and float him in trade discussions. Look towards the Randle owner in the league and see what you can get back in return. With the next two games being difficult matchups against Top 8 rushing defenses (Seattle and Philadelphia), his value will not be as high as it is this week.
Looking ahead, if you are in a power position in your league, I would attempt to deal for Dez Bryant this week. Chances are he misses another week, but should be back by Week 9. You may be able to talk down his price due to the current QB situation, deal a lower level RB/WR combo to make up the difference and have your starting lineup set for the playoffs. With five of the next seven games being plus matchups for Bryant, he should round right back into form rather quickly.
Panic Time in Indy
The events that occurred in Miami just two weeks ago could be on the horizon in Indianapolis, if things continue to go south. The clock seems to be ticking on Chuck Pagano’s job as the losses keep mounting, and the offense that everyone thought would be explosive now sits at a disappointing 17th in the league. Andrew Luck has missed time with injuries, but when he has been in the lineup this team is just not firing on all cylinders. Offensive line woes have been a contributing factor, as Luck was getting no time in the pocket and getting hammered, which could have led to the shoulder issues. Offseason acquisitions Frank Gore and Andre Johnson have added age to the team, but that is about all. Gore has been the more active of the two, rushing for a total of 446 yards with only three TDs, but the issue with Gore has been early season fumbling issues, especially inside the red zone. Andre Johnson has been a failure thus far. He seems to have lost the battle with Father Time, as he has looked slow on the field and routinely gets jammed at the line, which prevents opportunities to get open.
This past Sunday, the Colts just got flat out embarrassed at home by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints’ rushing attack ran all over the Colts’ defense in this game, but the telling part of the game was the struggles of Andrew Luck. Luck was pressured on 19 drop backs, but his decision making was flawed. Luck forced too many passes into tight windows, resulting in two interceptions, while other times just missing open receivers. Once the game got out of hand, Luck started to heat up against the prevent defense, so he finished with a 300-yard, three TD performance, which was great for Fantasy owners. But, watching the entirety of this game there should be cause for concern going forward. Frank Gore got only nine carries, which is not Gore’s game at all, as he is typically a volume back. The game-plan obviously got away from the run and went pass-heavy after the Colts were down big early. T.Y. Hilton was the big winner in the receiving game after breaking off for two late game TDs and finishing with 150 yards on just four catches. Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief both caught four passes as well, but neither broke 50 yards in the game.
Firing Chuck Pagano could be the answer, as it seems to have been for the Dolphins and their coaching change. This could light a fire under the team, especially the offense that is in definite need of a spark. One has to wonder whether Luck is truly healthy, but the going is not getting any easier moving forward. The weight of the Luck name could still bring back a nice return in the trade market if you are looking to improve your team in other areas, as we’ve seen QB depth has been easy to find thus far, making a deal a little easier to pull off at the right price. Frank Gore could be a buy low back that could win you games down the stretch, as he faces a bottom five schedule in points allowed to RBs going forward. He has also been valuable in PPR formats, as evident in his five catch performance in Week 7. Hilton is the most trustworthy of the receiver group here, and he will maintain high-end WR2 status, but Moncrief could be a sleeper during playoff time. Moncrief is consistently out-snapping Andre Johnson, which should result in an uptick of targets later in the season. Johnson is cut-worthy at this point unless you can find a desperate owner in your league that thinks he will turn it around. Unless there is a major change, the Colts will continue to struggle with their offensive identity.