The Pats offense played well enough to get the W against the Dolphins, but the "Miami Miracle" dropped them to 9-4 and upped the pressure on the team to win out. This week's matchup in Pittsburgh should have plenty of fantasy opportunity.
This Patriots defense continues to flip between dominant and doormat. The defensive stats overall might have suffered after that final 69-yard touchdown, but throughout the game they still failed to shut down the Dolphins the way they neutralized the Vikings' weapons the week before. The Steelers still have some of the NFL's best offensive talent, so Ben Roethlisberger is a starting option. Likewise, Tom Brady played one of his best games of the year last week, and has consistently owned Pittsburgh throughout his career. Start him if you have him this week.
Ben Roethlisberger: 19 points
332 passing yards (13 points), 2 passing TDs (8 points), 1 INT (-2 points)
It was a surprise down week for Sony Michel--he took 20 carries yet didn't even manage 60 yards. Against this Steeler rushing defense (allowing just 96.9 ground yards per game), he's got flex/RB2 status. James White was an afterthought in Miami, and while I think he retains flex PPR potential, it's hard to see him getting much substance in the running game. With Gronk and the wideouts playing so well, it's also hard to see him getting much more than 5 passing targets. If he can't find the end zone, he probably won't be very relevant. Pittsburgh's James Conner is most likely out, meaning Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley will have to carry the load. Samuels should see more of the carries and has RB2 potential, but it's always hard to forecast how handcuffs will fare with one week in the spotlight. In Conner's stead last week Samuels recorded only 28 yards on 11 carries, but managed 7 catches for 64 yards.
This should be a big game for pass-catchers. Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon both posted banner games against the Dolphins. Expect them to do well against a mediocre Pittsburgh secondary. Both are strong starters, with Gordon's floor-to-ceiling range wider. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are one of the best duos in the business. One tends to outshine the other each week (against the Raiders it was Smith-Schuster, against the Chargers it was Brown) but their talent makes each one a tantalizing option.
Gronk finally made a return to the spotlight last week--just when many (myself included) began to give up on him. This week will be crucial to see whether or not that game was just an aberration. But given Gronk's history against Pittsburgh, the odds are in his favor. Jesse James and Vance McDonald have passing fantasy potential, but neither one gets enough consistent targets to start week-to-week. I don't see much of a streaming opportunity in this matchup.
The Miami Miracle was a colossal embarrassment for the Patriots as a team. It's incidents like those that can completely derail a team down the stretch. I think Bill Belichick keeps the players focused, but I wouldn't bet on much of a rebound performance this week. Tom Brady always shreds the Steelers defense; they're not starters this week. Stephen Gostkowski and Chris Boswell are both coming off abysmal weeks. They'll have plenty of opportunities to rebound here, so don't bench them just yet.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday, and Go Pats!