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Prior to the Patriots and Steelers game, I highlighted a few players that would be relevant from a fantasy perspective. I nailed the receiving game. I decided to punt on the rushing game, and that came back to bite me. Here's what we learned.
Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman are good
While Gronk and Edelman didn't play in the preseason, Brady picked up the relationship from where the Super Bowl champions left it. These were the three highest scoring players on the Patriots and Brady and Gronk were the top scoring quarterback and tight end for week 1. Edelman ranked 12th.
If I had the option, I'd play all three players every week. Gronk is the undisputed #1 tight end in fantasy football, while Brady is a QB1. Edelman can and will fluctuate between WR1 and WR2 production, but he's also been one of the most productive receivers over the past ten games, so he's not a fluke.
Dion Lewis joins Patriots running back carousel
Running back LeGarrette Blount returns from suspension and will resume his position atop the depth chart, but that won't make him the team's leading back on a week-to-week basis. The Patriots use Blount against weaker defensive lines, but players of Shane Vereen's make-up become the top option against good defensive lines. Lewis showed enough against the Steelers to warrant attention on a match-up basis.
Like, for example, against the Bills. Don't be surprised if Lewis (or James White) sees the lion's share of the opportunities against Buffalo's fantastic defensive line.
Antonio Brown signals Patriots defense against #1 receivers
Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Butler was asked to play in single coverage against the 2014 league leader in yardage. Safety Devin McCourty called Brown the best receiver in the league during the offseason. The Patriots still entrusted Butler to cover Brown one-on-one. Brown posted the 4th most points by a receiver so if opposing teams have a #1 receiver, they'll get a real chance to produce against New England.
Patriots have question marks defending tight ends
Steelers tight end Heath Miller picked up 8 receptions for 84 yards on 11 targets, the 10th most yardage in Miller's career. The only two defenses that allowed Miller more yardage in 2014 were the abysmal Colts defense and the terrible Buccaneers defense. While safety Pat Chung is typically called to cover tight ends, maybe the Patriots need to rethink their defensive strategy, or think about including rookie Jordan Richards into the mix.
The Patriots face a tough schedule of tight ends, starting with Charles Clay next week. The Jaguars Julius Thomas won't be available in week 3, but with Dez Bryant sidelines for an extended time, Jason Witten will be a main focus of the Cowboys attack in week 5.