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>>>

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Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Ask anyone associated with the New England Patriots, and they'll tell you Tom Brady should stay put.

Ask any Patriots opponent, and they'll tell you Brady should leave -- and never come back.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" from Radio Row in Miami on Wednesday and was asked where he thinks Brady may sign in free agency this offseason.

His answer shouldn't surprise you.

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"I hope not with New England anymore," Heyward said. " ... Let the NFC deal with him for a while. That'd be nice. He's terrorized the AFC enough."

Heyward would know. Brady's Patriots trounced his Steelers 33-3 in Week 1 of the 2019 season and have beaten Pittsburgh in six of their last seven meetings, including playoffs.

New England also has reached the Super Bowl in four of the previous six seasons and made the AFC Championship Game in eight of the last nine seasons, annually crushing the postseason dreams of AFC rivals like the Steelers, who won 10 or more games in four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017 but never reached the Super Bowl in that span.

So, you can see why Heyward (and Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu) would appreciate Brady getting out of his hair.

Unfortunately for the AFC, that doesn't look likely: The Patriots are the odds-on favorite to re-sign the 42-year-old QB in free agency, followed by three AFC teams: the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.

But Heyward still appreciates Brady's greatness, even if the 20-year veteran doesn't grant his wish.

"I think he understands the game at a different level," Heyward said of Brady. He knows when to hit you with pace. He knows when to make you feel uncomfortable, and he's gonna exploit you."

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Roger Goodell gives latest update on Patriots videotaping investigation

Roger Goodell gives latest update on Patriots videotaping investigation

The NFL's investigation of the New England Patriots remains ongoing.

The league launched an investigation into the Patriots in December after they videotaped the Bengals' sideline during Cincinnati's Week 14 road game against the Browns in Cleveland.

League commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Wednesday at his Super Bowl LIV press conference in Miami for a status on the process and why it's taken so long. Goodell provided a brief update and pushed back on the notion that it's taken too long for the investigation to complete (H/T to ESPN's Mike Reiss for transcribing).

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Question: On the videotaping incident with the Bengals, what is the status of the investigation? When do you expect it to be complete? Why is it taking so long? You have the video, the Patriots admitted wrongdoing, shouldn't it be relatively open and shut?

Goodell: "The answer to that (last) question is 'No.' It shouldn't, because our responsibility is to make sure we're being extremely thorough. We have a responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have a responsibility to partners, we have a responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened, and make sure that something that we don't know happened didn't happen. 

"And so, from our standpoint, we want to make sure we're being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this. I think it has not been that lengthy of time. We have obviously put the focus on it, but we're going to get it right. When we come to a conclusion, we'll certainly make sure people are aware of it."

The Patriots issued a statement after the incident occurred that said the video crew was sent to Cleveland to collect footage for a team website series titled "Do Your Job." New England admitted the video crew "inappropriately filmed the field" from its spot in the Cleveland press box.

Part of the footage captured by the video crew was shown exclusively on FOX Sports' NFL pregame show on Dec. 15 before the Patriots beat the Bengals 34-13 to clinch a playoff spot.

There is still no timetable for when the investigation will be completed. Goodell did not provide one Wednesday, so it looks like this matter won't be resolved until some time in the offseason.

Curran: Shanahan addresses the 28-3 collapse, adding Jimmy G