Well that was unexpected. The Pats offense came out frighteningly flat last Thursday night and dropped the season opener to Kansas City 42-27. After underwhelming performances from almost everybody--save for running back Mike Gillislee, who scored all of the New England TDs--the team will be looking to rebound on the road in New Orleans. Thankfully, the Saints defense has been historically awful for the past few years. With any luck, the New England's fantasy contributors should be in line for better performances in the Superdome.
Patriots star and future hall-of-gamer Tom Brady had more misses than hits against the Chiefs, posting only 267 yards and an abysmal 44.4% completion rate. The dud dropped him out of the top spot in the MVP race at Bovada, and left many fantasy owners high and dry as well. But with that being said, Brady is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks for a reason: he rarely strings together bad performances. With the added boost from going against one of the NFL's worst defenses, he should bounce back rather nicely in Week 2. On the other side of the equation, Drew Brees is another top-flight quarterback coming off a down game. While his stats were far better--he connected on over 70% of his passes and racked up just shy of 300 yards--he only managed to throw one TD (in garbage time) and couldn't keep the Saints within single digits of the Vikings. Yet while he might seem to be in line for a big performance against a Pats secondary that was just gashed by Alex Smith, that same defense allowed only 15.6 points per game last year and added another high-caliber cornerback in Stephon Gilmore. With New Orleans' weak running game, that secondary will be on full display Sunday. While they most likely won't set the world on fire, I think they might do a better job of containing Brees than many people think. Both QBs are startable, but I'm projecting Brady to have a slightly better effort.
Mike Gillislee was the clear favorite in the Pats' backfield last week, far outsnapping his four counterparts and hogging all the goal-line carries to finish with 3 TDs and 25 points. He won't do it again this week, but his goal-line work should guarantee him relevancy once again. Aside from that, I would expect Rex Burkhead to get more involved in the offense--he played only 10 snaps last week, a number that is sure to rise without Danny Amendola in the offense. For the Saints, rookie Alvin Kamara out-snapped both Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. While Ingram will still get more carries, look for Kamara to be potentially involved in the passing game. In very deep leagues, he's an interesting flier.
Without Danny Amendola, the Patriots offense looks to be even more vertical than initially planned. Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan figure to be the primary targets--with only three healthy wideouts (Cooks, Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett), all of whom are outside specialists, the team is going to be running a lot of deep routes. It's unclear who will step up to replace Amendola, who accounted for double-digit receptions and over 100 yards in last week's loss. But with all the extra targets to go around, somebody could be in for a big day. For New Orleans, Michael Thomas remains the undisputed top wideout. Expect New England to play a lot of double coverage, or at least shade safety coverage to his side of the field to contain him. With that in mind, Willie Snead will have to win one-on-one matchups for the Saints attack to succeed. There will be opportunities, but against a top-notch secondary it will be up to Brees to make them count.
Gronk will be one of the Patriots' offensive focal points once again. The big tight end almost caught a score early against the Chiefs but couldn't haul it in--expect him to cash in against New Orleans. With a vertically-oriented New England O, he should have plenty of room to work over the middle and along shorter routes where he can break tackles and humiliate defenders in space. The Saints, on the other hand, don't feature the tight end in their attack like the Pats do. Coby Fleener is hit-or-miss, and hasn't consistently demonstrated the ability to win as a receiver after coming over from the Colts. He may be an option in deeper leagues, but I wouldn't trust him against the Pats.
Coby Fleener: points
4 receptions, 48 receiving yards (4 points)
Derrick E Hingle / USA Today Sports
D/STs and Kickers
The Patriots are coming off their worst performance with Matt Patricia at the helm. While there's definitely the potential for this game to turn into a track meet, I think the Saints offense is too one-dimensional, and that the Pats will be able to key in and flash their 2016 form. As long as they can limit the miscommunications, which produced plays like Tyreek Hill's 75-yard score, they should be alright. On the other hand, the Saints D has been abysmal for years; there's no reason to trust them now against Tom Brady. Kicker-wise, both Stephen Gostkowski and Will Lutz are solid options as usual.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday, and Go Pats!