The 2-0 Patriots have been seemingly looking to put their stamp on the league this year — continuing to attack deep into games with a lead, and committing to a more aggressive approach on defense than we have seen from them in ages. This week, the Patriots will be playing a home game against Luke Falk and the nemesis New York Jets, in a game in which the Patriots have climbed from 21.5 point favorites to 23.0 (a sentence I never thought I would have opportunity to write). While a typical team could be expected to take the foot off the gas by the fourth quarter of a blowout, the Patriots have still had Tom Brady on the field, passing the ball, deep into each of their blowout wins so far, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that happen once again if the Pats are able to produce in this game the way Vegas is expecting.
The Patriots are extremely banged up on the offensive line — and while Dante Scarnecchia is perhaps the best offensive line coach in the league, the strength of the Jets’ defense is their front seven, to a point where this can be marked down as a mismatch for the Patriots this week. With the Patriots as adaptable as any team in the league (and with this matchup setting up better for the pass than for the run, but setting up better for short passes than for deep balls), we can expect the Patriots to focus primarily on a ball-out-quick approach that protects Brady while getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
Obvious beneficiaries of this approach include Julian Edelman and James White — though the Patriots also went out of their way last week to force looks to Antonio Brown, giving him eight targets and one carry on only 24 snaps. Once again, the Patriots should use this spot as something akin to “live practice reps,” which should enable you to bank on another eight or more schemed looks going his way in a matchup that sets up well. It’s not crazy to think that Brown could double his snap count from last week; and if he does, double-digit targets wouldn’t be out of the range of possibilities.
The player least likely to benefit from the Pats’ setup in this game is Josh Gordon — and perpetual Josh Gordon FOMO leads to his ownership being higher than his production in this offense has warranted to date. With that said: the FOMO is there because Gordon does have the ability to pop for a big game — creating at least some defense for those who want to chase.
The Patriots’ backfield sets up “less well” in this spot — as you have the always-DFS-hyped “large home favorite” for Sony Michel as the lead running back, but you also have the smallest pass game role of any lead back in the league, and you have a matchup that doesn’t quite tilt in his favor. Michel will get his 20ish touches and provide upside if he scores (which he absolutely can do, more than once), but you’re banking on the touchdown(s) if you want to scoop him up, as the floor outside of those scores remains low.
The Jets, meanwhile, carry a Vegas-implied team total of 10.5, which is absolutely absurd. While touchdowns are the “least predictable element” in NFL DFS, they are also typically required in order to reach slate-breaking upside. A spot like this is obviously poor for cash games, and a team that might score only one touchdown (or no touchdowns) is tough to mine for slate-winning upside in tourneys.
If you want to take your chances on the Jets, Le’Veon Bell is going to play all the snaps, and the Jets are going to lean on him heavily once again. With Stephon Gilmore on Robby Anderson and Falk under center, Bell and Jamison Crowder both have elevated target projections — and Bell is the best bet for a big play or a touchdown, while also carrying legitimate paths to another 30-touch game.
JM’s Interpretation ::
While the Patriots are going to score points in this game, they have a tendency to spread the ball thinly enough that — at their price tags — you end up diluting your opportunities for upside by trying to guess right. This generally leaves me light on the Pats in spite of their scoring potential, but Edelman and White are both solid floor plays this week, while Brown and Brady both might genuinely have enough of a floor/ceiling combo to be considered viable in all formats (i.e., Tier 1). Michel is a ceiling play with a low floor. Gordon is the same, and all Jets are technically the same, though their paths to ceiling are thin at the “Bell level” and even thinner below that. If we played out this slate a hundred times, there might honestly be 10 times in which the Patriots defense outscores everyone on the Jets.