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Watching the Patriots get back to full strength and seeing the Steelers lose Joe Haden…my personal balance of power in the NFL swings back to New England winning the Super Bowl again.
The Rams are the biggest threat to that claim from the NFC. Dallas could’ve been but their injuries could leave them not even making the playoffs. The Eagles are legit because they are my Falcons/2016, Panthers/2015 team that ‘I don’t get’, but leaves me looking stupid every week. Only the Steelers can stop the Patriots in the AFC…and that looks like it might be slipping away as well. The Week 15 Patriots-Steelers game will be for all the home field marbles…and you have to go Pats there with Joe Haden gone.
What a schedule for the Patriots to finish…mostly all AFC East teams, and all of them are awful. After this week in Mexico with ‘bad’ Oakland, it’s MIA-BUF-MIA-PIT-BUF-NYJ to finish. The Patriots are finishing 13-3 +/- a game.
Denver is toast. Two games in a row allowing 40+ points with that defensive talent…deciding to hire Vance Joseph may have been the single most destructive thing the Broncos could have done to their franchise. An aging, veteran group gets a goofy, out of touch young head coach the players are laying down for/walking all over. Why isn’t there 24/7 media reports on Denver quitting on their head coach? That stuff is just reserved for east coast teams…a.k.a. the Giants.
The Broncos have a kick returner who has literally fumbled every other ball he touches…and still he’s out there and fumbled the first punt of the game and destroyed the early Denver momentum and the beat down was on from there.
It’s a shame. The schedule is set up for the Broncos to finish nicely…but they won’t. Not this team. Not this coach. The Computer projects them 6-10/7-9 to finish.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- One of the reasons the Patriots won this game so convincingly and has their stock on the rise again is that Rex Burkhead (10-36-0, 3-27-1/3) is healthy and getting integrated into this offense as I hoped he would be for the past 2-3 years now…back when he was in Cincy, and wanting him to go to the Pats for such a role.
Rex Burkhead can do one thing better than James White or Dion Lewis and that is making all the difference – Burkhead can run routes toward the middle of the field/into traffic and reliably catch the ball like a real WR. Lewis and White are better pure screen guys; catch and go. Rex can make tough catches over the middle a la Wes Welker. He’s being used as a quasi-Welker…especially in the red zone.
Sometimes Rex is lining up as a tailback and then shooting out over-the-middle and making a left or right cut on a linebacker and catching those little Welker/Edelman timing passes. Sometimes he does it lined up as a flanker. Because Burkhead is thick/tough and has the hands of a Welker, he’s the perfect guy to work the middle as an RB…a dimension almost no NFL team has. And because he’s thick and tough…he can be your goal line back as well. He took a goal-line carry in this game but was stopped short.
I don’t know how much they’ll press Rex in this role in the regular-season ahead because most of the rest of their games should be beatdowns…and the Pats may have the division wrapped by Week 13. They may keep rotating Rex in and out to stay fresh and not wear him out. He’s a strong RB3 with RB2+ upside in games the Pats are playing to win. I don’t think this is going away, but there will be games they don’t really need him and he puts up an FF-clunker. He’s not an every week guarantee.
Rex’s uprising kicks James White (2-7-0, 3-11-1/3) from that strong RB2 in PPR…to RB3 flyer.
-- I’m getting tired of saying Brandin Cooks is on the verge of breaking out, but can I say – Brandin Cooks is so close to making a run towards top 5 WR status…possibly THE top WR for the 2nd-half of fantasy?
Considering no Chris Hogan in this game, and the Denver no-fly zone coverage, which was mostly great…and Cooks still found a way to 6 catches for 74 yards. He was held on a play he beat Chris Harris on or he would have added a 30+ yard TD.
Every week with Cooks it’s an ‘almost TD’. I’m sick of saying it, but it’s reality…and a reason to ‘buy low’ with him as a disrespected WR2 valuation who could be a top 3-5 WR the rest of the season. He’s the #14 WR in PPG in nonPPR this season and #19 in PPR. Had he caught that TD pass instead of getting held/grabbed by the arm…he would have jumped into the top 13 WRs for PPR and top 7 among nonPPR. He’s that close…just one more step and he’s going to help win fantasy titles.
The schedule ahead is pure gold, especially now that Joe Haden is likely out for their Week 15 game.
-- That same schedule I keep referring to…it helps Tom Brady (25-34 for 266 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) project as a top 3 fantasy QB the rest of the season, and it also helps the Patriots DST – a defense that has held their last five opponents to 17 points or fewer.
Those last five games, the Patriots have held opponents to 13.4 PPG.
Last season, the Patriots defense led the NFL with 15.4 PPG allowed.
Stephon Gilmore is back and looks better than he has all year.
It’s the schedule more than anything. The Steelers are a better defense, but considering the loss of Joe Haden…the Patriots are a potential better play for a DST the rest of the way. Tough call until we see the Steelers without Haden.
-- I only have one note on Denver…because there’s literally nothing going on with them. The same disappointing game over and over…
Demaryius Thomas (5-44-1/8) looks revitalized with Brock Osweiler back. We pointed out their connection a few weeks ago, and Thomas has gone from never scoring TDs to back-to-back weeks with them. DT goes from guy we mocked to a possible PPR WR1 the rest of the season…as long as Osweiler, not Paxton Lynch is at QB.
Snap Counts of Interest…
55 = Emm. Sanders
50 = Demaryius
47 = Cody Latimer (he looks good)
24 = CJ Anderson
23 = Dev. Booker
16 = Jamaal Charles
36 = Rex Burkhead
27 = Danny Amendola
21 = Dion Lewis
11 = James White