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Another week, another game where the Patriots slip by a team everyone thought they would crush. They survived the Texans, and their rookie QB, four games ago. They got pretty well handled by the Panthers three weeks ago. They stumbled around and held off a last-ditch effort by the Buccaneers two weeks ago. They were outplayed in chunks of this game by the Jets and were further aided by the touchdown reversal from Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
We’ve got a front row seat to the decline of the New England Patriots. Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t win the Super Bowl…it’s just not a given anymore. It’s not a given that they’ll even get to the playoffs this year but they probably will… They’ll probably do what they normally do – improve and fix things week-after-week and the next thing you know they’ll win several games in a row and push towards earning home-field advantage as we all go “Typical Patriots.”
The thing about 2017 is -- I’m not sure that last paragraph is accurate. I may be guilty of holding onto the old theory/philosophy of the Patriots greatness always rising above. It’s one thing for the Patriots to have a blip, but every week this season appears to be a chore for them. This game is a perfect example that with 10 days to prepare and to fix what ails them…they almost lost to the J-E-T-S.
The Patriots came out and got punched him right in the mouth by the Jets and were down 14–0 before anyone knew what was happening. That’s not the old killer Patriots. But because there’s still plenty of magic left the Patriots regathered themselves and pushed back into the lead and eventually the win…but it wasn’t pretty. Actually, it’s the same game over and over again this season —bad defense, feeble running game and Brady dealing off and on magical throws. The defense doing just enough for coming up with the big play or lucky play to hold off the other team’s last gasps.
The great thing about a declining Patriots team is – no one knows what team is the obvious favorite for the Super Bowl. There are about 10–15 teams that I could see getting hot enough to make a run at it this season. I don’t think that I’d bet on any of my hopefuls with any confidence whatsoever.
As for the Jets, you have to give it up to Todd Bowles – somehow he’s kept this team viable. He’s been dealt an awful roster and was a blink away from taking down the Patriots and sitting top of the AFC East. How intriguing would that have been? Instead, the Jets had their typical luck and let it slip right out of their hands.
Considering that the Jets are not a very good team and that the Buccaneers are a bad team...the fact that the Patriots are having a hard time putting these teams away and are falling behind to them early in games is not a good sign. I don’t think this game was so much about the Jets having a scrappy team as much as it’s another wake-up call that the Patriots are as randomly good/bad as most ‘good’ teams in the league.
Fantasy player notes…
-- I’m pretty much selling out right now to get Brandin Cooks (6-93-0/9). I’m making a bet that Cooks is about to race to top 3-5 fantasy WR status. I’d say he’s headed to #1, but I’m not sure Antonio Brown can be toppled.
We get so hung up on TDs as ‘proof’ a player is good or not that we chase and/or lament that we don’t have Will Fuller or Nelson Agholor and their great TD paces but then that spike ceases and you’re left with an empty WR no one cares about. From white-hot value to waivers in a matter of weeks.
Cooks has 2 TDs this season, he’s been inches/moments away from 4-5 others. Tackled at the one…DPI in the end zone…in this game he caught a beautiful 42-yard bomb from Brady heading toward the pylon but his over the shoulder catch momentum took him out at the 2-yard line. I can recall most of them…but have to check my phone calendar to see when my kid’s birthdates are again. I know one is in September…it may have been around the same time in Week 2 when Cooks was slanting across the middle open in the red zone and if Brady hit him in stride it was an easy score but Brady threw the ball low and Cooks dove to grab it…one yard short of a TD.
I’m ready to go all-in acquiring Cooks where I don’t have him already. I’m more sure Cooks is headed to the top 3 than I am Tyreek Hill, but I have bets on both.
*4 of 6 games this season over 85 yards receiving.
*5 or more catches in a game in three of his last 4 games.
*Last two weeks: 5.5 rec., 94.0 yards and 0.0 TDs.
*Last 4 games: 12.9 FF PPG, 17.7 PPR on 4.8 rec., 89.3 yards, and 0.50 TDs
It’s not just the trends…I can see the activity changing/growing/improving. I have big investments in Cooks so I’m very attentive to what’s happening. The connection between him and Brady is gaining. Cooks is a superstar WR…and when he gets in total rhythm with Brady it’s going to be sick. It’s been great already but choppy; not ‘wow’ yet. ‘Wow’ is coming.
-- The one pause on Cooks is how much Brady uses/trusts Chris Hogan (1-19-0/4)…and then you see this box score gem from Hogan and think maybe Hogan is down and Cooks can rise. It’s not that.
There’s room for both. The Patriots cannot run the ball well and they cannot keep a defense together to stop anyone. New England will need to score 30+ every week to win. I think they know that and their game plan is to get to 30+ and their current roster only gets there passing…a lot. Plenty for Cooks, Hogan, Gronk.
Hogan had a couple of near-miss moments in this game and a DPI or two on his plays. He also took a shot to the ribs and missed a few snaps. He’s fine. He’s a ‘buy low’…if anyone thinks the jig is up on Hogan. Will Fuller, Nelson Agholor, Chris Hogan…one is legit TD producer the rest of the season and two are riding a lucky hot streak and will be waiver guys in 2-5 weeks. I’ll let you guess who is who.
-- The Austin Seferian-Jenkins (8-46-1/11) numbers are very encouraging. He’s #5 in PPR PPG YTD since returning from suspension. 7.0 catches and 1.0 TDs per game the past two weeks. He’s been fabulous.
Keep all those great numbers in mind when you try to trade him as a top 5/TE1 asset this week.
I am watching ASJ in all his games, as I had a lot of share in him way ahead of all this, as many of you did/do. I don’t see any ‘it’. I see a Kyle Rudolphian, Jason Wittionian (current era) run happening. Super slow TEs getting nice targets against teams who are ranked at the bottom in covering the TE so the Jets are attacking it. He’s got all these targets and catches and no yards…31-46-29-46 yards in his 4 games with all these catches – 6.6 yards per catch. He’s averaged 10+ yards per catch every year he’s been in the league. Most TEs worth a salt go 10+ yards per catch easy. Gronk is at 15.8 right now for comparison sake.
ASJ is a fine working tight end but I think his numbers and heat are rising above his reality and his future reality. Don’t give him away but don’t be afraid to trade. I see no magic here besides lots of targets. Teams will adjust/the schedule is not going to be cake for ASJ like it has the past – in the past two weeks he’s faced the #2 (CLE) and #4 (NYJ) worst defenses against the tight end. Coming up in Weeks 8-9 he has two top 10 against the TE defenses in ATL and BUF.
-- Tom Brady (20-38 for 257 yards, 2 TDs/1 INT) didn’t have his best game but he was still pretty good. I see him slipping a bit but that’s just falling from A++++ to A++. The prior 4 games to this Brady had 71%+ completion percentage in every game and 300+ yards as well. Don’t worry about Brady this year or the related weapons.
We also have to remember he’s throwing a lot against defenses that know he throwing because they cant run.
-- I’ve been dismissive of Jermaine Kearse (4-79-0/4) going to the Jets but I’m coming to appreciate what he brings to the table for them watching the tape. He’s McCown’s go-to WR and a workable WR2.5 for fantasy every week.
4.3 rec., 49.8 yards, and 0.50 TDs per game this season. Top 30 WR in PPR, Top 24 in nonPPR YTD.
-- I feel like I mention Kyle Van Noy (7 tackles, 2.0 sacks) every week, but I can’t help it – he plays better every week and was a total heist from the Detroit Lions. He should be a Pro Bowl player this year – the Patriots best defender in 2017.
7.0 tackles, 0.58 sacks per game this season…and at least 0.5 sacks in each of his last three games.
Snap Counts of Interest…
66 = Cooks
63 = Hogan
29 = Amendola
29 = Lewis
29 = White
13 – Gillislee
44 = Forte
25 = McGuire