Patriots

Fantasy Football Beat: Tom Brady the better option than Deshaun Watson this week?

Fantasy Football Beat: Tom Brady the better option than Deshaun Watson this week?

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.

TOM BRADY vs. DESHAUN WATSON

Your fantasy season may be riding on whether or not you get competent quarterback play this week. In order to get competent quarterback play, you might have to make some tough choices. Should you go with Sam Darnold (against Cincinnati) over Dak Prescott? Should you play Matt Ryan over surging Kirk Cousins?

How about if you had your choice of quarterbacks in this weekend's matchup between the Patriots and the Texans. One quarterback is the best to ever do it at his position but is having a statistically down season. The other is in his prime, was in the MVP conversation for the bulk of the year, and has a trio of talented wideouts to throw to.

Still, I'd go with the 42-year-old.

We know what the Patriots defense has done to quarterbacks this season. I'm staying away from Watson almost purely based on that fact. If you have Brady as well -- or if he's available via waivers -- I'd start him over his opponent this week. He was very good last week in a driving rainstorm, despite what the numbers said. He has a pair of rookies who seem to be gaining some trust, he should have Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett back, and with Isaiah Wynn back he looks more comfortable in the pocket.

Then there's the Houston defense. They're 25th in pass yards allowed per game. They're 26th in pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. They're 27th in quarterback rating allowed. They're 31st in third-down defense. They're 32nd in red-zone defense. This could be a top-10 fantasy day for Brady. I'm confident it won't be for Watson. 

POPPERS

SONY MICHEL: If you've been patient with Sony Michel this season, it looks like you might get rewarded at the most important time of the year. (That is, if you're still in the hunt this time of year.) Michel carried 20 times on Sunday -- only the fourth time this season he's hit that number of attempts -- and looked good. He made tacklers miss behind the line of scrimmage and forced six missed tackles in all. He plowed ahead for yards late in the fourth quarter to eat clock, finishing the game with 85 yards after contact. He looks like an RB2 to me this week going against a bottom-third rush defense (4.6 yards per carry allowed).

JULIAN EDELMAN: He doesn't look good. But you know he's getting his targets. He's now played in six consecutive games with at least 10 targets. His left shoulder looked like it was causing him significant pain on Sunday, but Brady went to him anyway in big situations. There's just no way you can sit him. Particularly against this pass defense. Even if he can't raise one of his arms over his head.

CARLOS HYDE: This one is purely about opportunity. Outside of an out-of-hand-quickly loss to the Ravens in which Houston was forced to throw early and often back in Week 11, Hyde has had at least 12 attempts in each of the last eight Texans games. In that span, he's averaged 16.75 carries per game. That'll play! Even against this Patriots defense. They allowed 4.1 yards per carry to Ezekiel Elliott last week, which was solid. On the season, though, they're still allowing 4.6 yards per carry. If Bill O'Brien knows how stingy the Patriots pass defense is, expect him to try to run the thing with this guy. That should mean RB2 value this week.

DROPPERS

DeANDRE HOPKINS: We told you. You're in a holding pattern until further notice if you own Stephon Gilmore assignments in fantasy. You saw what Gilmore did to Amari Cooper owners last week. The last time Gilmore saw the Texans, he shadowed Hopkins and allowed four catches for 50 yards on nine six targets. That's pretty good for a player who that season averaged about 10 targets (159 total) and 100 yards (1,572 total) per game last season. This year Hopkins is averaging 10 targets yet again and 76.3 yards per game.

WILL FULLER: Fuller is an explosive play waiting to happen but the Patriots defense may keep him waiting all night Sunday. Only three teams in the NFL allow fewer explosive pass plays than the Patriots in 2019 (Niners, Rams, Bills). If JC Jackson sees Fuller in coverage, he'll likely have some safety help. That might force Watson to try to go elsewhere. If he starts to look for Kenny Stills in the slot, he'll be looking to test the game's highest-graded slot corner by Pro Football Focus this season in Jonathan Jones. ...Did we mention you shouldn't start Watson? Fuller is a FLEX at best. If you play him, you're hoping for the home run, which the Patriots don't typically allow.

JAMES WHITE: I could see the Patriots trying to utilize White a bit more as a runner in order to take advantage of any lighter boxes they may face if he's being handled with defensive backs in coverage down to down. If they can exploit those fronts, that may force teams to use linebackers on White again, which would lead to coverage mismatches. But it's hard to predict how much work White will get, and he's caught just seven passes in his last three games. Hard to trust him with your fantasy lives at this juncture. I'd consider him a FLEX if I'm desperate but would otherwise steer clear this week. 

ALL OTHER PATRIOTS RECEIVERS: Could Mohamed Sanu cut into Julian Edelman's workload and become fantasy-relevant? Could N'Keal Harry get into the end zone for the second straight week? Could Jakobi Meyers find himself a key piece to New England's third-down attack, as he was last week? It's so difficult to answer any of these questions at the moment, especially given we don't know if Sanu will play and how much.

At this time of year, when you value certainty over all else in your fantasy lineup, I'm not sure how you could trust any of their receiving corps pieces outside of Edelman at the moment. There's too much uncertainty as to how any of them will be used. Sanu's workload could impact Harry's, which could impact Meyers', which could impact into Phillip Dorsett's. Better off staying away this week if you can avoid it. If I had to guess one player who had the best chance of making noise from this group, it'd be Sanu. 

MORE PERRY: How Isaiah Wynn proved he can help unlock Patriots' potential>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NFL Rumors: Details of Lamar Miller's Patriots contract revealed

NFL Rumors: Details of Lamar Miller's Patriots contract revealed

The New England Patriots have signed another former Pro Bowler for pennies on the dollar, it appears.

Running back Lamar Miller officially signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in free agency Thursday, and now we know the reported details of that deal, thanks to ESPN's Field Yates.

Miller will make $1.05 million in base salary in 2020 with $200,000 guaranteed. He has an additional $1.5 million in incentives, per Yates, meaning he can earn up to $2.55 million this season. 

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

That's a pretty steep discount for the 29-year-old running back, whose four-year, $26 million contract with the Houston Texans (with $14 million guaranteed) expired this spring.

Miller made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and has two 1,000-rushing-yard seasons under his belt but missed the entire 2019 campaign after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Miller actually has the same base salary as Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who took an even bigger pay cut to join New England in free agency. Newton's contract has more incentives, though: The three-time Pro Bowler can earn up to $7.5 million this season.

Starting running back Sony Michel is still recovering from ankle surgery and may not be ready for Week 1, so Miller has the opportunity to revive his career in New England, while the Patriots are hoping to find value in another talented player coming off an injury.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Jeff Benedict details process of writing 'The Dynasty'

Patriots Talk Podcast: Jeff Benedict details process of writing 'The Dynasty'

There’s one sentiment shared by everyone who’s covered the New England Patriots for the entirety of their dynastic run. Gratitude. 

It might not show up in the day-to-day coverage of reporting on the nitty-gritty of where the team is and where it’s headed. It might not seem like it when we probe and analyze the interpersonal relationships and shine a light on where the agitations are. 

But to have had a front-row seat to history for 20 years? To watch a once-failed head coach, an overlooked quarterback and an idealistic and sometimes naïve owner combine to lift the Patriots from NFL afterthought to the most successful team in the history of America’s most beloved sport? Right place, right time for me. 

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

I coulda been born in Saint Augustine, Florida, and spent my career covering the Jaguars. I wasn’t. I got to cover the team I loved first. The team I cried over when it lost in the 1976 playoffs to the Oakland Raiders. I can still remember the sense of accomplishment I felt at the 1997 NFL Draft, the first event I covered in person on the Patriots beat. It was all I wanted to do. 

The Patriots drafted Chris Canty in the first round. It’s gotten better since then. 

When you cover the team this long, you develop a sense of “ownership.” A belief you know the story as well as anyone possibly could. It’s probably not healthy. Really, it’s a barrier to learning. But I’ll admit it lurks. So when it was announced that author Jeff Benedict would have a book called, “The Dynasty” coming out in September, there was a flash of, “I already know the story…” combined with a twinge of “Why’s he writing it? What’s he know that I don’t?"

Well, as it turns out – and as I expected from an author of Benedict’s ability – there’s a lot he knows about the Patriots that I didn’t.

I’m more than 200 pages into the 525-page book. Benedict spoke to 250 different people. He got everyone who matters on the record – Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, Roger Goodell … the list goes on. I’m learning a lot. 

Benedict, who along with Armen Keteyian wrote the best-selling book, “Tiger Woods,” is a master at digging for details and anecdotes and putting his reader in a fly-on-the-wall position because he’s such a terrific reporter and storyteller. 

”The Dynasty” won’t be released by published Simon and Schuster until September 1. There’s an embargo on the content until then. But I did get to speak with Benedict on “Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast” about the two-year process of writing this book. 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Benedict explains the process behind upcoming book, "The Dynasty" | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

“To me, we’re talking about the greatest sports dynasty, certainly of this century in America and it’s in the conversation as being the greatest sports dynasty in America ever,” said Benedict. “I did feel a tremendous sense of being overwhelmed, a sense of foreboding because it’s such an epic story. 

“I’m not an insider,” Benedict said. “I know all these guys who have been around this franchise forever. I wasn’t there for any of it. I’ve literally never covered a Patriots game … And here’s an army of men and women who’ve been around the team, so it was sort of this idea of, ‘What can you bring that would actually add value and be different?’ 

“I tried to look at it from the perspective of the one thing I can relate to is, I’m a New Englander to the core. What I do feel is I really understand my audience. And the core audience for this book is people who live in New England and people who have followed this team and are in love with this team.

"It’s not to say I don’t want to write it for people in other parts of the country. I want them to read it too and there’s a great story there even if you’re a Jets fan or a Steelers fan. But the core audience is us who live in New England.”

The start of the book is Kraft-centric. The first 100 pages cover the machinations he went through to purchase the team, keep it in Foxboro and build a stadium, which have been somewhat been taken for granted around here and are laid out in detail by Benedict. I learned a lot.

“I have a wonderful editor,” said Benedict. “My editor gave me the same challenge with this as he did with Tiger Woods and that was, ‘I want the reader to learn something new on every single page of this book.’ So if the book is 500 pages long, that’s at least 500 things you need to find that no one else knew. 

“That’s really hard in the New England market,” Benedict added. “The Patriots are the most beloved team in New England. They’re the kings. They’re covered the most. It’s saturation coverage. So I took the approach that, this is not a book about a person, this is a book about a team, about a franchise.

"I went into it with two central questions that all Patriots fans are interested in. First, how was this dynasty built? How was it made? What distinguishes this team from all of those others is they ran their course in about a decade. And after that, their ship had sailed. This dynasty has doubled the length of any of its predecessors. And the second question is how did they sustain it?”

The book is current. It gets into the departure of Brady, the machinations that led to it and the sentiments of everyone involved. Again, I know the story and what I’ve been told. But nobody told me exactly what was said, where conversations took place and how people reacted. 

Benedict has that in The Dynasty. Which serves as further proof that, in life, you think you know. But often you don’t really know.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.