Patriots

Fantasy football Week 7: Patriots can't count on Sony Michel to carry load vs. Jets

Fantasy football Week 7: Patriots can't count on Sony Michel to carry load vs. Jets

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: JAKOBI MEYERS V. JETS SECONDARY

I know. I know. Tom Brady has done everything he can to temper expectations when it comes to his rookie receivers. So there's no possible way an undrafted player like Jakobi Meyers should be trusted on Monday night... right? Well, consider this: Josh Gordon was missing from the start of Patriots practice on Thursday after suffering an ugly knee injury against the Giants last week, and it's conceivable that he's not ready to play at MetLife Stadium.

If he's out, then Meyers could be in line for significant work as part of New England's 11-personnel packages. Phillip Dorsett is coming back off of a hamstring injury that's forced him to miss most of the last two weeks, and if he's at all limited, then that could occasionally bump Meyers into the No. 2 receiver role, potentially playing in any 21-personnel or 12-personnel packages that the Patriots opt to deploy. If Meyers has that kind of opportunity, he'll have fantasy relevance.

The Jets are much stouter against the run than they are against the pass this season, and Meyers is coming off of a four-catch, 54-yard performance after seeing four targets against the Giants. He won't carry your team by any means, but if you need a roster fill-in because there are so many receiver injuries around the league at the moment — or if you're looking for an inexpensive option in daily leagues — you could do worse than Meyers this week.

SEE 'EM POPPING

JAMES WHITE: White is on pace for another huge year despite missing a game earlier in the season. He has a shot at breaking 80 receptions for the second consecutive season, and he should continue to see plenty of targets against the Jets this week. When teams lock down on Julian Edelman on third downs, White has been the guy Brady looks to. He had nine receptions last week and he has 23 in the last three weeks. Even if Rex Burkhead returns (more on him in a bit), you should feel confident firing up White as an RB2 in point-per-reception leagues.

JULIAN EDELMAN: There's just no way you can have Julian Edelman out of your lineup these days. Even with banged-up ribs. Even with defenses focusing in on him as Brady's other receivers lick their wounds. All he does is provided consistent production week after week. And Brady continues to go to him with a heavy dose of targets week after week. In his last four games, he's racked up 41 targets, leading to 315 yards and two scores. Even when he's not 100 percent, he's one of the most reliable fantasy receivers in football. And the extra rest going from a Thursday game to a Monday game should do him a world of good.

LE'VEON BELL: Last time Bell saw the Patriots, it was a pretty easy call to keep him benched. Luke Falk was New York's starting quarterback. As long as Bill Belichick had a plan to slow down Bell, his team would be fine. They held him to 63 total yards and the Patriots won 30-14. This time? With Darnold in the fold, Bell was pointed to by Belichick as one of the second-year passer's favorite bail-out options. He only saw one target last week against the Cowboys, but against the Patriots and their hard-charging pass-rush, Bell could be used much more as an outlet receiver. Plus, one area where the Patriots defense is closer to the middle of the pack than the top of the league is their rushing defense. They allow 4.2 yards per carry (12th in football), and if the Jets can keep the game close enough to keep their rush attack relevant then Bell could have himself a nice little fantasy day. He's a fringe top-10 option for me this week. 

TOM BRADY: Despite working with lesser talent and an offensive line that's been defined by its moving parts through the early part of the season, Brady is the No. 8 quarterback in football when it comes to fantasy scoring. Can you depend on quarterback sneaks week after week? Probably not. One would think the Patriots would figure something out on the goal line — Sony Michel found himself on the sidelines in favor of Brandon Bolden during goal-line work last week — so that they don't have their 42-year-old quarterback plunging into a mass of humanity multiple times a week. But Brady is still a solid top-10 option against the Jets this week, primarily because it looks like it'll be much more efficient for the Patriots to try to move the ball with their passing game as opposed to continuing to ram their heads into a proverbial wall with the run. 

JAMISON CROWDER: Sam Darnold's return means good things for Jamison Crowder fantasy owners. In Darnold's two games this season, Crowder has averaged 12 targets per game and 98.5 yards. That's almost three times the targets he was seeing with Darnold out (4.6 targets in Weeks 2, 3 and 5) and over 70 more yards per game. Even against the Patriots, Crowder isn't a bad option this week based on volume alone. They'll have to throw to someone. He's that someone.

REX BURKHEAD: This suggestion comes with obvious caveat: You're going to have to make sure the guy is active. Dealing with a foot injury that's kept him out of action the last two weeks, Burkhead was at practice Thursday and could be available Monday. If he is, the Patriots would likely use him to help make up for any lack of depth at the receiver spot. Patriots two-back "Pony" sets were largely unsuccessful through the first month of the season, but it might be wise to run White and Burkhead out onto the field together against the Jets. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Jets are 27th in the league in terms of success rate allowed to pass-catching running backs. They're also 22nd in yards per target to backs in the passing game. Burkhead shouldn't have to play a full workload to have some fantasy relevance. I like him as a buy-low daily option this week, again, if he's active. 

SEE 'EM DROPPING

SONY MICHEL: Michel had a nice 26-yard run to help end the game for the Patriots last week, but prior to that play he'd picked up 60 yards on 21 attempts. Not ideal. Even with that long run added in, he couldn't crack 4.0 yards per carry for the fourth time this year. The way the blocking has worked for Michel this season simply hasn't lent itself to big days for the 2018 first-rounder. Additionally, he found himself no longer the goal-line back of choice for the Patriots last week. That has to give fantasy owners some hesitation when it comes to putting him in their starting lineups. I'd say — if you can avoid it this week — don't.

The Jets are a sneaky good run defense, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry this season, putting them fifth in the league in that category. I wouldn't predict that this is going to be the week the Patriots rediscover their running-game form from the second half of Week 5, which has been the lone half of football this year that the Patriots have been able to sustain much in the way of rush success.

SAM DARNOLD: Darnold did enough against the Cowboys to end up the 10th-best fantasy quarterback for Week 6. He can't be starting for you this week against the Patriots defense, but we'll mention him here as someone you should think about acquiring soon. After the Patriots, he sees the Jaguars (17th most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this season), Dolphins (most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks), Giants (fifth), Redskins (eighth), Raiders (12th) and Dolphins again. 

ROBBY ANDERSON: Here's what we wrote back in Week 3 about Anderson's fantasy prospects against the Patriots: "Simple answer here for why you shouldn't be relying on Anderson this week: Stephon Gilmore. Yes, the Jets are going to have to throw. Yes, Anderson is their top target. And yes, Anderson could end up with fantasy points late in the game with the Patriots playing prevent. Even so, the fantasy dent he makes while working against the league's best corner -- apologies to Jalen Ramsey -- won't be worth a spot in your starting lineup." Same will hold true for Week 7. Even with Darnold back in the lineup. Anderson caught three passes for 11 yards against Gilmore and the Patriots a month ago. 

JOSH GORDON: This goes without saying, but until he's on the practice field and is participating, you can't consider Gordon for your starting lineup. 

Belichick's candid response to Demaryius Thomas' critical comments>>>>>

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Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

The New England Patriots made the signing of quarterback Cam Newton official on Wednesday, and while it might be weird for some NFL fans to see the former MVP in a red, white and blue jersey this coming season, there is one part of his gameday look that will remain the same.

Newton will again wear the No. 1 jersey, according to the team's official roster page. This is the same number he wore during the first nine seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers. 

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You might be surprised to learn that Newton will be just the fourth player in Patriots history to wear the No. 1 jersey and the first to do it since 1987, per Pro Football Reference's data. The other three players to wear No. 1 for the Patriots are former kickers Tony Franklin, Eric Schubert and John Smith. And, of course, the Pat Patriot mascot also wears No. 1.

Whether Newton ends up being the Patriots' No. 1 quarterback for Week 1 of the 2020 regular season remains to be seen. He's the favorite to win the starting job following Tom Brady's departure in March, but 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer also are on the depth chart and should provide competition for Newton. 

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

N'Keal Harry had his rookie season derailed by injuries, but that has done little to lessen expectations ahead of his second NFL campaign.

The New England Patriots wide receiver has obvious talent. The team selected him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2018 draft after a successful college career at Arizona State, and when Harry did get onto the field with the Patriots, he showed flashes of his impressive skills.

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One of the challenges for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this coming season is finding ways to get Harry more involved in the offense and maximizing his abilities. 

How can the Patriots accomplish that goal? Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo joined the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to break down his expectations for Harry and ways the Patriots can use him.

"I think he'll get better as the years go on. I think what has to happen is people need to change their expectations sometimes for receivers, especially first-round wide receivers," Palazzolo told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "We're talking about a position where there's three starters, and not every receiver is going to be Julio Jones, and not every starter is going to be as good as Julian Edelman -- a guy you can depend on to get open in crunch time and third down.

"When we evaluated Harry coming out (of college), his skill set reminded us a lot of Demaryius Thomas, who, when you look at his best work, he was catching the ball and running well after the catch, as well as making contested catches. Harry did struggle separating, which is kind of an important point for receivers. He struggled getting open. I think if the expectations are, right or wrong, here's a guy we can scheme some stuff up for -- that back-shoulder touchdown he had from Tom Brady, that's the type of stuff, the vertical route tree, contested catches, using his big body. That's the type of stuff you can expect from him, but you probably don't want to feed him 150 targets and say go be the No. 1 wide receiver. I think Harry is more of a complimentary piece."

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

One way to put pressure on defenses and use Harry's strength and athleticism is giving him the ball on running plays. We've seen plenty of wideouts run gadget plays to take advantage of mismatches, and Harry could be used in a similar role for New England.

"If the Patriots do get creative with N'Keal Harry to get the ball in his hands, you could hand it off to him, you could put him out there, he'll have a cornerback matched up with him. And then the defense will have to figure out its run fits -- how do I get enough guys in the box to stop this guy?" Palazzolo said. "So whether it's the jet sweep game, whether it's just legitimately putting him in the backfield as a running back, I think there is a world where N'Keal Harry could be maximized and give you that advantage over defenses."

For the entire Harry conversation between Perry and Palazzolo, check out the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: