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*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
The Patriots got up 7-0, quickly, in this game and just stayed one step ahead of the Vikings all game. Another Belichick gem. He’s a master of having his team in position in December. They shut down Thielen-Diggs and just choked out the Vikings to a somewhat easy victory, 24-10.
The Pats jump to 9-3 and stay in the hunt for the #1 seed…needing the Chiefs to lose a game to get back control. The Pats have the tiebreaker over KC from their previous win over the Chiefs. The Patriots could run the table from there, but safer to predict a 3-1 finish to wind up 12-4 and the likely #2 seed unless the Texans stay red hot and sneak in…but if the Texans-Patriots tie, record-wise, NE beat HOU Week 1 for the tiebreaker.
The Vikings fall to 6-5-1. They lost a golden opportunity to close in on the Bears for the NFC North title. Minnesota is perplexing. They seem so good…but they are borderline bad this year. Against teams with a winning record, they are 0-4 this season. Their quality wins this season are beating Philly by 2 points weeks ago and beating the Packers last week…but now we all know that the Packers suck. If Minny gets whacked on MNF by Seattle, their playoff light grows very dim. They’d need to win out to sneak into the playoffs (MIA-DET-CHI). If the Vikings beat Seattle…then Minnesota has the inside track on a wild card spot. Playoff-like atmosphere game for MIN-SEA this week.
We see the Vikings falling to Seattle, and then losing at least one more game to end up 8-7-1…and just outside the playoffs.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let’s talk Patriots defense at the top… They are doing that thing again. That thing where they are up and down as a defense to start the season and then close fast and you notice by years end that they are a top 5-10 defense for the season.
They are #9 in PPG allowed this season, and trending upward/positive. They’ve held four of their last 5 opponents to 17 or fewer points.
Two observations on why NE’s defense might be getting hot at just the right time, beyond the obvious Belichick mastery…
1) J.C. Jackson (4 tackles, 1 PD) played 89% of the snaps in this game. The rookie we’ve been touting for a few months – he, essentially, was a starter here, against Thielen-Diggs and accounted himself very well. He’s just a very good, natural/tough cover guy.
Just when it’s needed…the Pats find another CB gem…for almost nothing (a UDFA).
2) Oh, and don’t look now but Obi Melifonwu (2 tackles) has gone from a ‘bust’ hopping all over the league for a few months…to the Pats practice squad, to their active roster, to special teams, to 12 defensive snaps two games ago, and 20 snaps here.
Watching him cover a tight end in this game…he seems bigger and faster than every tight end he covers. One of the most unique prospects (a 6’4” shutdown corner/safety/linebacker) I’ve ever come across the last decade. A 2nd-round pick by Oakland in 2017, and Jon Gruden just ups and cuts him in 2018…you know, because the Raiders are loaded with talent and Gruden really understands scouting personnel and player valuations.
It’s still early but if Obi starts coming on with NE…he’s like a Hall of Fame level athlete that the Pats just picked up for free and chucked into the mix. Unreal.
Week 14 at MIA looks good. Week 16 vs. BUF looks really good for the NE-DST.
-- I would like someone to explain to me why Sony Michel (17-63-0, 1-7-0/1) is so coveted and Josh Adams is no mistrusted, by the masses? I mean, for the right now. Both lead RBs getting 15+ carries and no work in the passing game. One is a must start for the masses every week (Michel) and the other is never respected in a week (Adams).
Anyone watching them can see Michel is very OK/average as a runner and Adams has an ‘it’. Well, not anyone watching them…national football analysts have no idea what they’re doing.
How can you love Michel strong week-to-week with Rex Burkhead (7-20-0, 2-21-0/2) and Sony not a part of the passing game?
-- Tom Brady’s (24-32 for 311 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) TD passes his last 7 games: 1-3-0-1-0-2-1 (1.1 per game). The big upside week-to-week is getting more few and far between.
-- Kirk Cousins’ (32-44 for 201 yards, 1 TD/2 INTs) numbers have been slightly better than Brady’s the past 7 games. They’ve both become solid, back-end QB1 week-to-week. Gone are the top 5 hopefuls every week.
-- You think the Vikings learned anything from this game? Teams are just letting Dalvin Cook (9-84-0, 8-22-0/10) try and beat them. Overplay Thielen-Diggs and daring Minnesota to take the Dalvin bait, which they willingly do. That guy is the opposite of an MVP.
The Vikings get back Cook this year and add Kirk Cousins, and yet are a worse team this year than last. Case Keenum is on his way to taking two different teams to the playoffs the last two seasons…Cousins taking two different teams down the tubes, potentially.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes from these two teams…
NE faces at MIA, at PIT, BUF Weeks 14-16. Every game is a war for NE because of who they are. With no Xavien Howard the MIA game is good-to-go for the Pats weapons and the PIT game should be a shootout. Buffalo may be their worst fantasy opportunity game of the stretch run.
MIN faces at SEA, MIA, at DET in Weeks 14-16. Not great but not bad. Miami still has things to play for and Matt Patricia will copy the Pats blueprint from this game to deploy on the Vikings.
Snap Counts of Interest…
33 = White
30 = Michel
17 = Rex
54 = JC Jackson
20 = Melifonwu
47 = Cook
12 = Latavius