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Fantasy Football Week 7: Thursday Night Preview

Adam Pfeifer examines the Thursday Night Football game between the Jets and Patriots to extract some fantasy football gold.

Tom Brady



I’m back.

Apologies for not doing some of the last few Thursday Night contests. Been a tad busy with basketball stuff, but for fantasy football only fans, the B-word probably just made them cringe. Anyway, it was a nice change of pace to get an actual competitive NFL game last week, no? Most of the games have maintained viewers because of the magic of fantasy football, and not the actual game itself.

Tonight may be one of those nights.

New England Patriots vs New York Jets

Five straight losses for the Jets, countless boos from the home crowd, injuries and, once again, shaky quarterback play. They’ll more than likely drop their 6th-straight contest as they travel to face a rejuvenated and dialed-in Patriots football club, who are coming off a big road victory against the Buffalo Bills, and have now one two straight of their own. History is on New England’s side, as they have won 32 straight home games against AFC East opponents. I think the combination of Tom Brady heating up and the Jets secondary being not only terrible, but also banged up, will help the Patriots win their third-straight tilt.

Prediction: 30- 17, Patriots.

Patriots

Depth Chart

NE Roster

Quarterback

It was a trap.

Tom Brady wanted us all to think he was finished. He wanted us all to think he was no longer one of the better signal callers in the NFL. He now wants us all to eat crow. After combining for less than 40 fantasy points during his first four games, Brady has now exploded for about 60 fantasy points over his last two weeks combined. His offensive line was brutal early on, but has improved as of late, which has been a large aspect of Brady’s recent turnaround. Compliments of Pro Football Focus, just look at how he’s looked when under pressure and how the line has improved since Week 1.

Brady

The line is clicking, and when Brady has time to throw the football (like most quarterbacks), he’ll thrive. Last week, New England did a solid job against the Bills, who have arguably the best defensive front in the NFL. Brady was only under pressure 22.5 percent of the time, and only two passers saw a lower percentage in Week 6. He also wasn’t hit while throwing once all game, and only sacked twice. Over the last two weeks, he’s been under pressure just 20.4 percent of the time, so the Jets defensive front, though stout, doesn’t scare me as much as it once would. And you know what else doesn’t scare me?

Their secondary.

Through six weeks, the Jets are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers (21.66), surrendering a league-high 2.5 passing scores per game. A weak secondary just got even worse, too, as Dee Milliner has been ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles. And expect Brady to throw the ball quite a bit, too, as the Patriots lost Stevan Ridley for the year, and won’t be able to run the ball in this game against one of the best run defenses in football. That means New England will look to the passing game quite often in this one. And, for what it’s worth, for his career, Brady is 6-0 with 1,700 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 108.0 passer rating on Thursday nights. Look for Brady to keep it going this week and exploit a brutal New York secondary.

Running Back

It is a trap.

With Ridley sidelined for the rest of the season, many may assume that Shane Vereen will step in and see an insane amount of work. That assumption would be incorrect. For his career, Vereen only has two games with 10 or more carries. And last week, after Ridley left the game, it was Brandon Bolden who immediately stepped in and served as the early-downs back. In fact, Bolden’s six carries all came in the fourth quarter, but were still more than Vereen’s at the end of the day. I wrote up Vereen as a sell in my stock report column, and I think he’s nothing more than a flex option, especially this week against a Jets run defense allowing just over 13 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, despite giving up strong games back-to-back to Branden Oliver and Ronnie Hillman. I wouldn’t expect Vereen to score, either, as Bolden will probably get the goal line work. And in all honesty, Bolden may actually be the better play than Vereen, at least in standard formats. Remember, LeGarrette Blount was awesome down the stretch in this similar role last year, scoring four touchdowns in the final two games of the year.

Wide Receiver

Owners of Julian Edelman have probably been wanting more, as he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 2. However, he recorded his fourth 80-yard contest of the season on Sunday, and is still fifth in the league in receptions (40). I like him as at least a top-20 guy this week against a New York secondary that (wait for it) is bad, coughing up over 60 fantasy points to wide receivers in their two road games this year. And last season, Edelman posted a career-high 13 receptions against Gang Green. He’s a strong play.

But don’t sleep on Brandon LaFell, whose stock continues to rise. On Sunday, he caught four balls for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and continues to build a rapport with Brady. He’s still pretty volatile, and is only recommended in deeper formats. LaFell is asked to block quite a bit, and has two zero-catch games and a one-catcher, too. However, the matchup is elite, as the Jets have been torched by opposing number two receivers this year. Take a look:

Week 1, Rod Streater: 5 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD.

Week 2, Randall Cobb: 5 catches, 39 yards, 2 TD.

Week 3, Alshon Jeffery: 8 catches, 105 yards.

Week 4, Golden Tate: 8 catches, 116 yards.

Week 5, Malcom Floyd: 3 catches, 72 yards.

Week 6, Emmanuel Sanders: 3 catches, 38 yards. (Boo)

Tight End

Start Robert Gronkowski.

He’s looking like he’s 100 percent, totaling nearly 200 receiving yards over his last two games and playing 128 snaps during that span. Over his last three meetings with the Jets, he’s hauled in 22 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Fire him up and wait for the inevitable Gronk Smash.

Jets

Depth Chart

Jets

Quarterback

Yeah, let’s not start Geno Smith in fantasy football.

Nine turnovers are bad enough, but according to ESPN, Geno is the only qualified quarterback with fewer than six yards per pass attempt this season. He’s also the only signal-caller with a sub-70.0 passer rating, coming in at a poor 69.7). He’s been bad, the receivers are bad, the running game has disappeared, and in two games against New England last year, he tossed one touchdown, four interceptions and completed less than 48 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, only the Lions are allowing less fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks through six weeks. Only Alex Smith has posted a top-12 fantasy finish against the Pats thus far.

Running Back

The Jets had no running game to speak of last week, as Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson combined for just 11 carries for 16 yards against the Broncos. It was absolutely brutal, and I’m not sure if I want to start either of these guys this week, but especially not Johnson. At least Ivory is getting the necessary playing time, as he’s out-snapped Johnson 170-144 for the season. If you had to pick one, it would clearly be Ivory, but after a bad start, the Patriots have now held four of their last five opponents to less than 80 rushing yards. The Jets should be behind though, which means (ugly) passes from Geno Smith, and less carries for the backs. As for CJ, you can go ahead and cut him.

Wide Receiver

Why are you making me do this?

There really isn’t anyone you can comfortably start on the Jets. Eric Decker has played well for his new team this season, catching 20 balls for 258 yards and three scores. However, don’t expect a great game from him this week, as he’s still not 100 percent, dealing with a nagging hamstring issue. Not to mention he’ll draw the attention of one Darrelle Revis, who has allowed just 16 catches and one touchdown all season long while in coverage.

Tight End

Jace Amaro does actually intrigue me a bit, though. He caught 10-of-12 targets on Sunday for 68 yards and a touchdown, and figures to be Geno’s number two option in the passing game behind Decker. At 6’5″, 265 pounds, Amaro has freakish ability and upside, but is tied to a brutal offense. He’s an interesting guy to stash and play during the right matchup, but I wouldn’t trust him in my lineup just yet, as his playing time still isn’t locked in. Through six weeks, he still only ranks 50th among all tight ends in snaps played.

 

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