After a shocking loss to the Dolphins in primetime, the Patriots will try to get back on track this week in Pittsburgh. A win will almost guarantee them home-field advantage through the playoffs, while a loss will ensure the Pats would have to travel back to face the Steelers in the playoffs if they meet again.
Tom Brady hasn't performed up to par in back-to-back weeks now--and he's got a history of underperforming during the fantasy playoffs (usually because the Pats have locked up the AFC's top seed). However, he also has a history of absolutely shredding the Steelers and he's getting his favorite weapon back in Rob Gronkowski. I still think he's a viable fantasy option, even if he's on the lower end of the QB1 tier this week. Ben Roethlisberger is in a similar situation--he's got top-level potential, but against a stout Patriots defense (and with Le'Veon Bell in the backfield) you should temper expectations.
Tom Brady: 20 points
351 (14 points), 2 passing TDs (8 points), 1 INT (-2 points)
Jay Cutler: 18 points
314 passing yards (12 points), 2 passing TDs (8 points), 1 INT (-2 points)
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Dion Lewis has continued to tear it up recently. While he rushed for only 17 yards last week, he salvaged the day for fantasy owners with 5 catches and 50 yards. However, Rex Burkhead is looking like the back to own--he's getting nearly an equal amount of touches and he's scored five times over the past three weeks (while Lewis hasn't scored once). Both are RB2s, but Burkhead carries far more upside as it stands right now. James White is catching a couple balls a game, but he's not an option outside of the deepest PPR leagues. For the Steelers, it's Le'Veon Bell all the way. He's an RB1, as usual.
The Patriots' passing game wasn't able to get anything going against Miami. Hopefully things turn around this week against the Steelers' man coverage-heavy defense. Look for Brandin Cooks to score deep (he's startable in most circumstances), and for Chris Hogan to pick up some catches on man-beating pick routes underneath. Danny Amendola should get into the mix as well, but he's still not a fantasy consideration. The Steelers' Antonio Brown is a fantasy god, and should be started everywhere. Beyond him, however, the Steelers have inconsistent depth. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster and veteran Martavis Bryant have flashed star talent, but neither has produced big numbers in recent weeks. They're not real options against this Pats defense.
Gronk is back this week, and he should be featured heavily in the attack. Start him in all leagues. For Pittsburgh, Jesse James exploded last week for 97 yards on 10 catches. While I don't think he'll reach that level of success again against the Pats, he's an intriguing last-minute streamer in deep leagues.
The Patriots allowed 27 points to the lowly Jay Cutler last week, and they're on the road in a hostile environment this time. While Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia are some of the best defensive minds in the NFL, Pittsburgh's Killer Bs are an insane challenge even for them. I'd look elsewhere for a streaming option. Similarly, I would never bet against Tom Brady coming off a loss and playing the Steelers. As far as kickers, both Stephen Gostkowski and Chris Boswell are both top-tier options.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday, and Go Pats!