Fantasy football owners seem to get smarter every year. The leagues seem to get deeper. The competition seems to get better. That's partially because of the sheer amount of information available to fantasy geeks willing to put the time in. But it's not always easy to find sound fantasy advice on players filling out the back ends of fantasy depth charts.
That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps. Every week, we'll look at the Patriots matchup and try to help you decide which players to start and which to sit -- or which to invest in if you're playing in a daily format. You know you're playing Tom Brady every week. You know you're playing Rob Gronkowski, when healthy. But this is where we'll delve a little deeper with the information we've gleaned by being on the beat. Hopefully someone somewhere finds it helpful.
JOSH GORDON, WR, PATRIOTS: We are officially in it's-safe-to-start-Gordon territory after what we saw last weekend. His workload saw a massive bump, from 18 snaps in each of his first two games to 63 against the Chiefs, and he was thrown to as many times as he had been in his three previous games (one with the Browns) this season. There are still some chemistry issues there with Tom Brady, particularly on back-shoulder throws, but the team is doing what it can to make sure that connection develops. He's been targeted 15 times in 99 snaps with the Patriots. He's a solid WR3 or FLEX option this week. Of course, you're starting Julian Edelman as well as a No. 2, but that's so obvious it's barely worth mentioning.
SONY MICHEL/JAMES WHITE, RB, PATRIOTS: The Patriots offense is such that it has plenty of room to support two relevant fantasy backs, which has been the case each of the last three weeks. Michel is handling the between-the-tackles load, and White is still primarily a receiver. Both are valuable. Michel has gone over 100 yards in three consecutive weeks, and White has seen the ball at least 13 times (between targets and handoffs) each of the last three weeks. I'd call both RB2 options this week.
TARIK COHEN, RB, BEARS: The formula isn't complicated. Teams are throwing against the Patriots lately. Because they're down. That means targets, catches and yards for backs. And in PPR leagues, pass-catching backs against the Patriots have feasted lately. Nyheim Hines had seven catches for 45 yards two weeks ago. Kareem Hunt had five for 105 and a touchdown last weekend. In his last two games he's been targeted 17 times and caught 14 for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Roll with the formula. Cohen is an RB2.
TAYLOR GABRIEL, WR, BEARS: Gabriel is in the WR3 conversation this week because over the last three weeks he's produced like Chicago's No. 1. He has 22 targets in that span (to Allen Robinson's 17), and he has over 100 yards in each of the last two weeks (which Robinson has yet to do). He had just two catches for 24 yards when he saw the Patriots last year, but he's hot, he's in a pass-happy offense, and his speed -- while not at the level of Tyreek Hill's -- could give the Patriots secondary some issues. I think he's a WR3 or FLEX play this week.
TREY BURTON, TE, BEARS: It's ugly out there on the tight end scene, which means if you own Trey Burton . . . you probably have to start him. I don't love the play since he's only caught six passes in his last two games and he's been targeted just eight times in that span. But Burton's a threat to score (two touchdowns in each of the last two weeks), and the Patriots have had their problems with tight ends until they opted to double Travis Kelce all over the field last weekend. Burton won't get the same treatment because he's not the same player. But that could mean more fantasy production.
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ALLEN ROBINSON, WR, BEARS: Forget about the fact that Gabriel has been the one producing like an WR1 for the Bears of late. Forget about the fact that Robinson's quarterback struggled to crack 200 yards in the first three weeks of the season and could be due for a regression after posting 670 passing yards and nine touchdowns in his last two contests. Robinson would've been in the mix for me as a FLEX option if not for the matchup. If Robinson ends up being matched up with Stephon Gilmore, he'll have a hard time getting free. If you remove the 33-yard touchdown allowed to the Lions -- a score that Duron Harmon later admitted he should've helped thwart -- Gilmore has been a lockdown defender since Week 3. He's allowed six catches on 16 targets in four games for 47 yards and a touchdown. That's a quarterback rating allowed of 66.7. Last week Gilmore allowed Sammy Watkins 18 yards on two catches and four targets. I'd say the same type of day is in play for Robinson. Run away.
JORDAN HOWARD, RB, BEARS: This is another play I'd avoid at all costs if possible. Howard is trending in the wrong direction after fumbling at the goal line last week. He's not a threat in the passing game. He's scored just one touchdown this season. The 69 yards he ran for last week were his most since he had 82 in Week 1. The issue is you might not be able to avoid Howard if you own him. You're sitting there, as a Howard hopeful, saying, "Hunt just went for 8.0 yards a pop against the Patriots last week!" Howard's not the same kind of talent Hunt is. And Hunt isn't losing carries to a more athletic back who can double as a receiver the way Howard is. Sit him down.
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