With two games to go, the Patriots find themselves at 9-5: more losses than they’ve had any other season in a decade. The good news is that these last two weeks (divisional matchups with mediocre teams) are both games the Patriots typically cruise through. The bad news is that this Patriots team has been more inconsistent, especially on the road, than any team in recent memory. What might normally be an easy W has to be taken a lot more seriously this time around—especially in the fantasy championships.
Tom Brady looked mentally slow on Sunday, just a week after one of his better performances of the year. The Bills don’t have much offensive firepower to speak of (Josh Allen is definitely not starter-caliber for the championships) but their defense is in the league’s upper echelon. In fact they’re allowing the fewest QB fantasy points against at 12.5 per game. I would think long and hard about starting TB12; he doesn’t have a high enough ceiling to risk a repeat of last week.
The Pats gave Sony Michel just 13 carries last week, and he managed to turn them into 59 yards—he would have had 25 more if a big run of his wasn’t called back on a holding penalty. Buffalo’s is a top-10 rushing defense, allowing under 105 yards per game, but Michel still has flex/RB2 potential for his usage and red zone ability (if James Develin doesn’t vulture it). James White held steady with another five catches last week, but at this point his value lies nearly totally in PPR. He might get a slightly bigger cut of the passing action with Josh Gordon gone, but recently he hasn’t had many opportunities to rack up yardage of score touchdowns. Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy is slated to come back from injury this week, and the Patriots run D has been awful the past few weeks. But with that being said, Shady has also been pretty ineffective the past few weeks he played. He’s a mediocre flex at best.
The Pats just lost their most dynamic offensive player. Without Josh Gordon, this passing attack looks nowhere near as formidable, especially deep. The problem with forecasting their production this week is that there’s little way to predict how Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and staff will adapt. Normally I would expect them to lean more heavily on the run and quick game, but Buffalo’s defense has been so stout on the ground they’ll most likely have to take to the air at some point. And aside from Julian Edelman, whose target share should remain steady (even after a shaky performance in Pittsburgh, he’s still dropping fewer passes than usual overall), it’s hard to forecast how Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett will step up to the spotlight. If you’re playing for a championship, Edelman is certainly the only bankable commodity as a WR2 this week. The Bills’ wide receivers are unimpressive outside of undrafted rookie sensation Robert Foster. Since being promoted off the practice squad in Week 10 (after being cut by the Bills and re-signed earlier in the year), Foster has racked up 17 catches for 438 yards and two touchdowns. With Josh Allen as his QB, and facing off against either Stephon Gilmore or Justin Jackson this week, nothing is certain. But his upside alone gives him some flex appeal.
Gronk was disappointingly quiet against Pittsburgh. The Bills are surrendering fewer than 10 fantasy points per game to tight ends on the season, so it’s hard to expect much from Gronk, though he does have a good history in Buffalo. Keep him in your lineup unless you have another high-tier option. Charles Clay simply has neither the target share nor the explosiveness to factor in at all.
Stephen Gostkowski was perfect last week, but there are certainly going to be better options considering that this game shouldn’t be super high-scoring. He’s fine, not elite and not terrible. Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka says he’s still dealing with a hip contusion after a hit two weeks ago, but he went 2-for-2 on extra points last week. At the end of the day though, it’s hard for any kicker tied to this offense to generate premium performances. I like the Patriots defense this week (gasp!) playing against an inaccurate passer and a generally ineffective offensive attack (headed by a former Patriots coach, Brain Daboll). Starting a defense against Tom Brady is always a hard choice, but I see Buffalo as a middle-of-the-road option this week with their talent and the way New England has been playing.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday, and Go Pats!