The Patriots are off their bye week and in Mile High to take on the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. With the way Denver's offense has been performing recently, this shouldn't be a very productive fantasy game, at least on one side. But if there's been one lesson we've learned so far this NFL season, it's that anything can happen. Especially on Sunday Night.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady has turned in 21, 21, and 19 points over his last three appearances. While it's been a while since he's had a spectacular game (and assuming he'll turn one in against this Broncos defense is a bit much), he's still one of the top QBs in fantasy. Start him. On the other hand, USA Today reported that Denver will start Brock Osweiler against the Pats. Don't play him in any fantasy league of any sort. I mean, come on. He's Brock Osweiler.
Tom Brady: 17 points
279 passing yards (11 points), 2 passing TDs (8 points), 1 INT (-2 points)
Dion Lewis saw a season-high 15 carries two weeks ago, but was only able to turn them into 44 yards. Like the Chargers, he Broncos have had one of the league's best rush defenses this year. While the tiny dynamo has been able to rip off surprising successes before (he carved up Denver for 95 yards on 18 carries last year), I wouldn't bet on a big performance this week. He's a solid flex play, or possibly a low-end RB2 in deeper leagues or PPR formats. James White has caught 31 passes the past five games, all but guaranteeing some value here as well. He's another flex in standard scoring, but he retains solid RB2 value in PPR leagues. Behind those two, Mike Gillislee is almost completely touchdown-dependent at this point and Rex Burkhead simply doesn't get enough touches to matter on a weekly basis. Leave them on the bench. Denver has employed a committee backfield for a lot of the season, but that doesn't matter much when no runner in the committee is effective. CJ Anderson managed a paltry 13 yards on 9 carries last week, and Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker weren't much better: Booker scored 21 yards on six totes, and Charles gained only one yard on four carries but kicked in four receptions. Going up against an improved Patriots defense, it's tough to trust any of these guys as anything more than a TD flier. If they score, they'll be productive. If not? I wouldn't bet on anything special.
With Chris Hogan out thanks to an arm injury, the majority of the receiving workload will fall to Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks this week. Unfortunately for New England, both players are coming off down weeks (especially Cooks). Going up against this Broncos secondary, it's time to temper expectations for these players in particular, and for the passing game as a whole. For Denver, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are both high-quality wideouts. But their skills don't matter if the guy throwing to them is awful. Unforuntately, that pretty much describes Brock Osweiler. While Thomas is still startable based on his performance from last week, Sanders is a borderline WR2 at this point and shouldn't be trusted in high-leverage games.
The Broncos have a great cornerback tandem. It's a good thing for the Pats that their linebackers aren't as outstanding. Rob Gronkowski is always a must-start, for obvious reasons, and that won't change this week. However, new pickup Martellus Bennett may also be viable in standard formats behind Gronk. If he's still available in your league, I would pick him up to see how he does (if you already snagged him, nice work). He might not contribute instantly because of his torn rotator cuff, but he should be a nice option down the stretch--especially if Gronk (knock on wood) gets injured. The Broncos don't feature tight ends much in their offense, so AJ Derby shouldn't be started unless you're really desperate and out of other options.
For perhaps the first time all season, the Pats defense is a quality streaming option. Going up against an inept Broncos O and coming off a string of four performances where they haven't let their opponents top 17 points, they should be an attractive unit this week. And while Denver's D/ST is firmly positioned in the league's upper echelon, starting a unit going against Tom Brady is always a risk. I think the Broncos recoup points on sacks and a turnover or two, but it could become hard to withhold yards and points from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels' squad. As kickers go, Stephon Gostkowski gets the job done, as does Brandon McManus. No worries there.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday, and Go Pats!