Patriots

Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy football players seem to get smarter every year. The leagues get deeper. The competition gets 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 making up the back ends of fantasy depth charts. That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps by providing you with information we've gleaned by being on the Patriots beat.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Carson Wentz vs. Bill Belichick
With the way the Eagles offense and Patriots defense are constructed right now, there's no way you can play Carson Wentz this weekend. Even in two-quarterback leagues, he feels like a borderline play. The Eagles simply have no explosive element to their offense at the moment. And that was when Alshon Jeffery was in the lineup. Jeffery could be out due to a calf injury, and there is no one else at the receiver position who will scare the Patriots defense. As a group, Philly receivers have 933 yards receiving this year, putting them on pace for almost 1,700 yards total. Michael Thomas of the Saints is on pace to break that mark all by himself. In their last six games, Philly receivers don't have a touchdown catch longer than six yards. It's not good for Wentz. And his favorite target, Zach Ertz, will certainly be getting extra attention from Belichick's defense. Yes, Wentz may find matchups he likes in Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders (more on them later), and he has the ability to scramble for fantasy points. But you simply can't depend on Wentz, against a very good Patriots pass defense, as anything more than a borderline top-20 option this week. I'd start Matthew Stafford replacement Jeff Driskel over him. 

POPPERS

Julian Edelman
According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles are allowing a league-low 7.6 fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers, but Julian Edelman still needs to be in your starting lineup. The Patriots will want to get the football out quickly against Philly's pass-rush -- led by the still-ridiculous Fletcher Cox -- and Edelman will be a big-time beneficiary. It's worth noting that Edelman is off of the injury report for the first time since Week 3. 

Mohamed Sanu
One more week in the system. One more week to gain the trust of Tom Brady. There's a reason why both Sanu and Brady have said they're "gonna have some fun" when they get on the same page. Sanu, who played outside against the Ravens but could eventually see more time in the slot, is coming off a 10-catch game in Baltimore and should see plenty more targets this weekend. Even if he plays outside for another week, that'd be a good thing against the Eagles, who allow 29.6 fantasy points per game to opposing outside receivers -- most in the NFL. 

James White
Philly has had some success against pass-catching backs this year. They rank second in success rate allowed to backs, per Sharp Football Stats, but this feels like a game where the Patriots will rely on their excellent receiving back. The Eagles have linebackers who've struggled in coverage at times, and if the Patriots can get a 'backer -- particularly linebackers Nigel Bradham or Nate Gerry -- aligned across from White, they'll have it made. The screen game, which could slow down the Eagles pass-rush, could also be key this weekend. If it's deployed, White is likely to be the beneficiary. Rex Burkhead is someone we have to see contribute regularly -- and stay healthy -- before we could consider starting him. 

Jordan Howard
The Patriots are 26th against the run this season, allowing 4.7 yards per carry through nine games. Couple that with the fact that the Eagles passing game could be stuck in neutral -- explained above -- and Howard could be looking at a nice little fantasy day. He has 42 attempts combined in his last two games and should be used early and often again this week. 

Dallas Goedert
OK so "popping" is a relative term here on the Fantasy Beat. Will Goedert have as many fantasy points as Ertz (mentioned below)? I don't think so. But I expect him to out-perform his expectations, if that makes sense. He's considered to be in Vance McDonald/Darren Fells territory this week by some experts. I'd have him ranked higher. I'd have him ahead of Noah Fant in Denver and ahead of Mike Gesicki in Miami. The reason? I expect him to play quite a bit, since the Eagles have been using more and more two tight end sets -- and since Jeffery is looking like he'll be out or really limited. Plus, the Patriots have had a helluva time trying to stop two tight end looks. We went into detail on the "how" and "why" of things here, but it wouldn't surprise me if Goedert ended up with a top-12 fantasy day at tight end against New England. 

Tom Brady
It looked like the Patriots found something in Baltimore. Their hurry-up offense was productive and allowed Brady and his teammates to get into a rhythm we haven't seen much from them in 2019. They could use it again in Philly to help slow down players like Cox or Derek Barnett or Brandon Graham. If that's the case, Brady will be chucking it all over the lot. He'll need time -- the numbers suggest he's as good from a clean pocket as he's ever been, but he's as bad when facing pressure as he's ever been -- and if he gets it, he'll be a top-10 play this week. The Eagles secondary is flawed and their middle-of-the-field players -- their linebackers and safeties -- have been so aggressive coming downhill that I'd expect Brady and Josh McDaniels to try to toy with them early with play action. 

DROPPERS

N'Keal Harry
Going hurry-up might help Brady's numbers. I'm not sure it'll do wonders for Harry's. The rookie first-rounder was kept on the sidelines in Baltimore as Brady orchestrated a fast-paced offense in a hostile environment. Will one more week of prep have Harry ready to go if the game plan is similar in Philly? It sure sounds like Harry is going to play this weekend, but until we see what kind of role he'll have, you could only play him in the deepest of leagues as you hope for a red-zone target. (That is the type of thing Harry could help them with so it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.)

Zach Ertz
I think there's a decent chance we see Stephon Gilmore take Ertz the way we saw Aqib Talib take Jimmy Graham back in 2013.b

Miles Sanders
I wouldn't hate Sanders as a FLEX play in deep leagues, but if you're doing that, you're doing it in the hopes that as Wentz and the Eagles get away from receivers in the passing game, they start to move targets towards someone like Sanders. Still, he's had just three targets in each of Philadelphia's last four games. He could hit them for a few long ones, as he did in Minnesota in Week 6, but so far the Patriots have been pretty effective against backs in the passing game. They're fifth in the NFL, allowing just 5.0 yards per target to opposing backs. If they come at Wentz with zero-blitz pressure, that might be an effective way to neutralize Sanders in the passing game since it would likely require him to stay in the backfield to help as part of the pass-protection scheme. Wentz is smarter than most of the passers the Patriots have seen this season, but all the Patriots have to do to generate pressure is confound someone like Sanders or fellow rookie left tackle Andre Dillard. 

Sony Michel
If you're playing Sony Michel, you're hoping for a touchdown. And there's a chance you'd get one on the goal line, but the Patriots have been throwing more lately from down in close, which has meant fewer opportunities for New England's big back. He has just five red-zone carries in the last two games, and he's averaging 1.2 yards per attempt on those, with no touchdowns. What happened to Michel in the passing game in Baltimore, with one drop and one snap where it looked like he ran an incorrect route, there just doesn't seem to be much opportunity looming for him. 

Phillip Dorsett
The hurry-up might be a good thing for the Patriots passing offense, but the emergence of Sanu and a potential Harry debut make Dorsett's role a little less certain. He's dependable when he's thrown to, but he doesn't see enough targets to make him a must-start in any week. This week is no different. 

Eagles receivers
Just don't do it. 

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Chiefs DE Frank Clark gives Patriots bulletin board material for possible playoff rematch

Chiefs DE Frank Clark gives Patriots bulletin board material for possible playoff rematch

The Kansas City Chiefs are feeling mighty confident following their 23-16 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Tom Brady and the Pats offense continued to struggle in the Week 14 matchup, and some of that had to do with the constant pressure the Chiefs defense put on the 42-year-old quarterback. One of the stars for Kansas City was defensive end Frank Clark, who notched one of the Chiefs' three sacks.

After the game, Clark made it clear he wants a postseason rematch against the Patriots while noting the shortcomings of New England's offensive line.

“We’ll be seeing them in the playoffs," Clark said, per The Boston Globe. "Hopefully we do. I want them again. They don’t have a tackle that can block us. Speed, power, whatever we were throwing at them, they couldn’t handle.”

If these two teams do match up again in the playoffs, you better believe that statement will be on a bulletin board somewhere in Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots will shake off their second straight loss -- which included a few very controversial calls -- and shift their focus to next week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Patriots rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry sees only two snaps vs. Chiefs, leaves with injury

Patriots rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry sees only two snaps vs. Chiefs, leaves with injury

FOXBORO -- N'Keal Harry's almost-touchdown will receive plenty of attention over the course of the next few days, and maybe more than that as the Patriots try to figure out where they fit in the AFC playoff picture. 

Receiving less attention is the fact that Harry played only two offensive snaps in the game, his fourth regular-season contest since returning to action off of injured reserve last month. Harry played 22 snaps last week in a loss to the Texans -- his lone target going for a game-changing interception -- but clearly was not a significant part of Sunday's game plan against the Chiefs.

Perry: Patriots call blown calls 'a tough pill to swallow'

Harry left the loss to Kansas City with what the Patriots announced as a hip injury. He said after the game, however, that he was "good" health-wise. 

That he only saw two snaps before getting banged up is curious given that the Patriots appear to need all the help they can get at the moment on the offensive side of the football. Harry clearly has a long way to go before he's entrusted by Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady, but he also has physical skills -- skills he flashed on his near touchdown catch-and-run -- that could be useful.

Harry's two snaps Sunday consisted of his in-motion under route that resulted in his 12-yard catch. (That was the first time on 70 routes this season -- we analyzed them all here -- that Harry went in motion.) He also ran a clear-out vertical route on a fourth-down pass play that was intended for Julian Edelman but landed incomplete. 

In Houston, Harry ran five deep overs or dig routes. He ran three go routes, two shallow crossers, a comeback route and a hitch. He split his time almost evenly on the left and right sides of the formation and played one snap in the slot. That represented a reduction in workload for the rookie who played 55 snaps against the Cowboys in Week 11 as one of only three receivers active for the game.

While his snaps have almost disappeared, if he's healthy enough, perhaps the Patriots will try to find more ways to get the football into his hands more quickly. He showed something on his one touch Sunday. He's a large person (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) who has athleticism and is hard to tackle. At Arizona State he was a frequent recipient of short passes like the one he saw Sunday, taking them and making yards after the catch on his own.

His inability to grasp the nuances of the Patriots offense is relatively evident. Whether it was the way his ran the route in Houston that resulted in a pick, or if it was prior to his catch Sunday when he had to ask Brady about his responsibilities just before the ball was snapped, he's not fully up to speed. 

But this Patriots offense needs any and all answers it can find. Maybe Harry's second (and final) snap against the Chiefs told them he deserves more work next week in Cincinnati. If not, then it's fair to wonder if he's even more behind than we can tell.

Controversial calls in Pats-Chiefs signify larger NFL issue>>>

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