The Patriots open their season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football, and there are fantasy stars aplenty in the game. It's time to break them all down and evaluate their potential for game day tomorrow.
The Cards will trot out Carson Palmer, while the Patriots are rolling with Jimmy Garoppolo due to Tom Brady's suspension. Neither one is a top fantasy option considering that both New England and Arizona have outstanding defenses, but out of the two, Palmer edges Garoppolo. Primarily, he's not making his first-ever NFL start, and secondly, the Pats defense, while a top-10 unit, isn't as good as the Cardinals' D. Furthermore, Bruce Arians and Arizona will most likely try to throw the ball downfield, whereas Jimmy G will be tasked with managing the game, instead of winning it. However, Garoppolo has some serious weapons, and Bill Belichick is known for his cunning game plans. In season-long leagues, Palmer is the better option, but if you're scrambling for a QB streamer, Garoppolo could help you out. He's not the best, but he could merit a start if the game is managed right. In DFS, I would stay away from both--the third-year QB is cheap, but he's still going up against a premier defense, and Palmer will gamble on some deep throws, which could lead to a couple picks for the Patriots.
Arizona has the clear edge here as well, with David Johnson getting the start. For New England, it's Legarrette Blount's show with Dion Lewis out, but it remains to be seen how effective he'll be. Johnson's rare blend of speed, power, and receiving ability makes him a focal point of the Cards' offense in both facets of the game. While the Pats have some great linebackers and a solid D-line, expect Johnson to gain at least 80 total yards and find the end zone--he's just that good. Blount, however, is not startable. The Cardinals have a very solid front seven as well, (bolstered by former Patriot Chandler Jones), and if Blount can't make solid gains early Belichick could move away from the run and turn to the air. While the bruiser does get most of the goal-line touches, it's just too tough to predict what will happen. As it stands now, Blount's dependency on TDs relegates him to the bench in most leagues. For DFS, the same advice stands--Johnson may be overpriced, but he merits consideration nonetheless. Blount, once again, should not be rostered.
This field is a bit more crowded, as both sides have deep WR groups. For the Patriots, Julian Edelman figures to have a big day. As Garoppolo's safety blanket, he'll rack up the catches and yards, especially in PPR formats. Aside from him, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan could play a role, but don't count on anything--either one could explode, or they could melt into the background. On the Arizona side, Larry Fitzgerald is the #1 receiver. He's in the midst of a career renaissance in the slot, and figures to be a big part of the game plan for the Cards. Michael Floyd is another big deep threat, but he will be in a secondary role for much of the game. Speedster John Brown could reel in a couple bombs, but at third on the totem pole, it's hard to trust him as anything more than a flex.
The Cardinals don't use tight ends in their offense the way the Pats do, which means that Jermaine Gresham shouldn't be rostered in all formats. On the other hand, without Rob Gronkowski playing, Martellus Bennett is going to be a focal point of the Patriots offense--he could very well finish as a top-5 tight end for the week. Even better? He's criminally underrated, and a great DFS play. Look for him to use his 6'6" frame to snag a TD against much shorter Cards linebackers.
Defenses and Kickers
This matchup features two marquee defenses, both of which are startable. The Arizona D will most likely perform better, considering that they'll be playing against Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Patriots are among the best in the league at forcing turnovers--and Carson Palmer has been known to turn the ball over in big games. Don't be afraid to start either side, but recognize that they will both have to create turnovers to be profitable. For the kickers, Chandler Catanzaro is a solid play. He'll get a few extra points at the minimum, and probably one or two field goals to boot. On the New England side, Stephen Gostowski is the top kicker in fantasy, plain and simple. If you have him, you should start him--with Garoppolo at the helm, the chances are high that the Patriots will settle for a few long field goals.
Chandler Catanzaro: 10 points
3 XP (3 points), 47-yard field goal (4 points), 38-yard field goal (3 points)
Stephen Gostowski: 11 points
3 XP (3 points), 52-yard field goal (5 points), 36-yard field goal (3 points)
Photos courtesy ESPN, WEEI, Patriots.com, Boston Globe