If you’ve got even one Patriots running back on your team this week, congratulations, you’re now part of the club that’s 10+ years strong trying to figure out “Which Patriots back is actually going to get the work this week?”
And that’s especially true this week, with more than a few of you likely being boned like I am by injuries to Melvin Gordon and Kerryon Johnson and a suspension for Leonard Fournette for the timeless classic of “punching a large man wearing a football helmet”. So suddenly, the Patriots now-three-headed monster of James White, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead may not look so bad!
It’s been this way forever with the Patriots and their running backs, too. Pick a year, and there’s at least 3 guys that may get 20 carries and 5 throws in any given game, and they’re ALL one carry away from a one-way-ticket to Fumble Island, from which many a Pats back never returned. Backtrack a few years, you’re starting Stevan Ridley for sure, until you’re not. You’re playing The Law Firm Benjarvus Green-Ellis, but would Danny Woodhead get enough catches to be worth a flex? Ever play Kevin Faulk and just hit “Submit” on your lineup like “When I get home from the bar and check my score I’m either coming back to 15 points, or 2 points”?
This week, the Minnesota Vikings and their defense that’s absolutely loaded with big scary names comes to town, and don’t let their shellacking in the NFC Championship game last year fool you. The only reason this defense isn’t even more of a household name than they already are is because Jon Gruden was nice enough to give the Bears a *lightly* used, prime Khalil Mack to pair up with...no fewer than 4 OTHER first-round picks on the defense.
(for those keeping score at home, those 5 first-round draft picks on the Bears defense are the aforementioned Mack, CB Prince Amukamara, OLB Leonard Floyd, MLB Roquan Smith, and CB Kyle Fuller)
Anyway, as we do, let’s start with the running backs.
(FYI, for positional rankings, I’m going off Fantasy Pros, which aggregates a whole bunch of expert rankings. You probably knew that already, and if you didn’t, congrats, Pats Pulpit just made you smarter. You’re welcome.)
James White, RB
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 24th in running backs
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 17th in running backs
Now that we know the Patriots are serious about making Sony Michel put up Saquon-Barkley-type-effectiveness numbers, Sweet Feet’s value takes a bit of a hit, but when you’re still the 9th-ranked back in all of standard-scoring fantasy, White isn’t going anywhere. And hey, our working theory is that the Pats are going to have to spread out the offense and sling the ball around the yard to counter Minnesota’s aforementioned hellacious defense, and guess who’s just the back for that job? That’s what I thought. The one with the stickiest hands in the Commonwealth that didn’t just finish a Fluffernutter.
Sony Michel, RB
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 19th in running backs
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 19th in running backs
ESPN’s little tidbit regarding Sony this week is this: the Vikes defense, who I swear I’m not getting paid to hype, has allowed 3.67 yards per rush to running backs since Week 8. That’s good for 6th-fewest yards allowed per rush in the entire NFL, and even though Michel hung a cool 20.5 points on the LOLJETS last week by himself, just make sure your expectations aren’t at prime Adrian Peterson levels for the kid.
Then again, I’d love to be wrong there, Sony, if you’re reading.
Rex Burkhead, RB
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 58th in running backs
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 57th in running backs
You know who’s ranked right below Rex in PPR rankings this week? Kyle Juszczyk. The fullback. A rather rich fullback, to be sure, but still. You may not have any better options, but that’s hard to believe. T’s & P’s if that’s the case.
Julian Edelman, WR
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 19th in wide receivers
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 17th in wide receivers
Last week we said Edelman is bulletproof, both in fantasy and quite possibly in real life as well. And against the Jets, Jules hit double-digits again like it ain’t no thang, because for him, that’s another day at the office when he’s actually healthy. The man known as the Squirrel is currently riding a 4-game streak of 10 points or more, and the only reason it’s not a 6-game streak is cause he scored 9.6 against Da Bearssss.
Josh Gordon, WR
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 22nd in wide receivers
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 25th in wide receivers
Let us not wait until next Thanksgiving to give thanks that Josh Gordon is now wearing the helmet of the Flying Elvis and catching bombs from Tom Brady. Keep it in your heart like the spirit of Christmas all year long. Hell, I’m giving thanks right now.
Also, you can’t double-team Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon at the same time, nor can you give all 3 of them safety help. Just a thought.
Gordon’s averaging 9 points a game now over his last 7 games, too. Granted, those averages are a tad skewed by his 19-pointer against the Packers.
Counter-argument: Josh Gordon is on the Patriots. Oh, and he’s playing football that matters, in December. Big first for him and Jason McCourty!
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (sort of?)
Standard Scoring Ranking this week: 99th in wide receivers
PPR Scoring Ranking this week: 99th in wide receivers
The only newsworthy development with Patterson lately is that Tom Brady has gifted him a nickname that is at the same time Peak Dad Mode and also just oddball enough that Weird Celtics Twitter may even like it:
As far as we’re concerned. Cordarelle is great to have around in real life, but his fantasy value is about the same as trying to pay your bar tab with your Starbucks card.
Chris Hogan, WR
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 74th in wide receivers
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 77th in wide receivers
Chris Hogan is BACK, BABY!!!*
*which, for him last week, in fantasy terms, meant catching 2 passes for 47 yards, which means 4 points. Also, ESPN notes he’s being targeted on 12 percent of his routes, which, when you’re not playing every snap anyways...yeah, still just don’t do this.
Phillip Dorsett, WR
Standard Scoring Rank this week: still below 100
PPR Scoring Rank this week: still below 100 and I’m still too lazy to check how far below
Read what I wrote for Chris Hogan above, and then remember that Dorsett played 1⁄3 as many snaps in the Jets game (9) as Chris Hogan did (28).
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Standard Scoring Rank this week: 3rd in tight ends
PPR Scoring Rank this week: 5th in tight ends
Do I even need to bother doing this tight end section anymore? Gronk could be photographed on a cruise ship in the south Caribbean at 11:45am on Sunday with an upside down handle of Tito’s vodka in his mouth and a Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap in one hand, and if you don’t start him anyway, that’s a you problem, not a Gronk problem.
Everyone else that reportedly plays tight end for the New England Patriots
Dwayne Allen is ruled out already, and while Jacob Hollister’s cleats for My Cause My Cleats are some of the coolest I’ve seen, design-wise, he’s scored 4 fantasy points all year, so...yeah.
Tom Brady, QB
Standard Scoring Ranking this week: 14th in quarterbacks
Would you guys like another TOM BRADY IS FALLING OFF THE CLIFF article? Specifically about his fantasy football production? Of course you would!
A significant part, a metric-sh*t-ton of Brady’s lost fantasy production has to do with the Patriots’ newfound enthusiasm for actually running the ball on the goal line, and while he’s not going to hang 40 fantasy points on your enemies, most of your leagues are probably full of people that keep 2 quarterbacks anyway, so Brady’s more likely your ride-or-die anyway.
Plus, realistically, there’s usually only two months where Brady plays better football than December, statistically speaking:
wait for it
Enjoy the games, everybody.