Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Sunday wraps up with yet another Patriots showdown (it feels like they are on island games just about every week and ugggghhhh I hate it). New England visits the Texans in a game with a decent total of 46.5 with the visiting Patriots installed as 3 point favorites. This is something like a stoppable force against a movable object, as the Texans pass defense is abysmal (especially since losing J.J. Watt), but the Patriots offense is also truly bad and has largely been covered for this season by their defense giving them short fields.
We’ll start with New England and the running game. Rex Burkhead’s return has turned this backfield into the kind of timeshare we’ve dreaded from the Patriots for years. Sony Michel plays about half the snaps, gets a decent chunk of carries, but no pass game work and thus he’ll almost certainly need a touchdown to be relevant (that said, he’s 4th in the NFL in carries inside the 10, so he has a lot of touchdown opportunity). James White disappeared last week with just 2 carries and 3 targets, while Burkhead saw 2 carries and 5 targets. Previously when Burkhead was active he seemed to impact Michel more than White, and that seemed to be the case in Week 11, but last week he seemed to eat into White’s workload. While it’s awfully hard to pick this backfield apart, it’s worth noting that the Texans are this year’s Falcons: that is, they have allowed more running back receptions than any other team, so there’s a good chance that at least one if not both of White and Burkhead pick up enough catches to pay off their exceedingly modest salaries.
In the pass game the Patriots are likely to have their wideout corps back as both Sanu and Dorsett are trending in the right direction to play. Julian Edelman is, of course, the highest floor option in this offense by far as he hasn’t seen fewer than 10 targets in a game since all the way back in Week 5 and he has a wonderful cornerback matchup against ex-Buccaneers whipping boy Vernon Hargreaves. Philip Dorsett is likely the second option here, at least to me, as he should be coming back at 100% while it’s possible that Sanu is playing, but not fully healthy. Ben Watson played 70% of the snaps last week and put up a goose egg but saw a reasonable 4 targets the week before. Of the backup/rotational guys, Jakobi Meyers saw 9 targets last week against just 4 for N’Keal Harry and seems to still be ahead of his fellow rookie on the depth chart. Meyers should fill in for Sanu if the latter isn’t up for a full complement of snaps and should otherwise be the 4th wideout, with Harry likely to only pick up a couple of snaps here and there.
Houston faces a murderous matchup against a New England team that is strong against the run but absolutely lights-out against the pass. As always the Texans are happy to run when the game script allows them, as once again they’re a bottom-quartile team is passing play percentage. The problem for us DFS players is that the lead runner is Carlos Hyde, who has become an incredibly one-dimensional player on this team. Much like Michel for the Patriots, if Hyde doesn’t score a touchdown he’s likely to bust, and the New England defense has not exactly been in the habit of giving up offensive touchdowns this season. Going up against the Patriots, I want to prioritize guys who can get there via volume/yards, as touchdowns are likely going to be hard to find. A guy who could get there via yards if only the team would give him some volume is Duke Johnson, who at $3,200 represents a very interesting option. Duke’s pass game volume has swung from 1 to 5 targets per game. If you get one of the 5 target games, he can certainly pay off his extremely low salary without scoring. He’s a reasonable punt play down in the kicker range.
In the pass game, this is the worst possible matchup. That doesn’t mean a guy can’t hit in a bad matchup, but it does significantly lower the floors of every receiver on the team (and, of course, of Watson). The reason I hate writing up Patriots showdowns is that it all just feels like a giant dart throw. The odds are that no receiver will have a good game, and if one does, it’s whoever falls into the end zone. The “safest” play, for some very broad definition of the term, is DeAndre Hopkins, because I’ll always bet on talent and Nuk can overcome any matchup on a good day. Will Fuller is also somewhat appealing because, even though the Patriots defense just doesn’t give up big plays (3rd fewest 20+ yard completions allowed), speed is something else I like to bet on. When going up against a really good defense, a guy who can pay off on one big play is valuable, because betting on a guy consistently beating the elite defense over and over is harder to envision than someone failing just once and allowing a long score. Kenny Stills barely played last week as the Texans ran a lot of two tight end sets, something they are likely to continue to do against the Patriots’ ferocious pass rush. Fells and Akins see very similar volume with the only real difference being Fells’ dominance in the red zone. Both would need a touchdown to matter, so I’ll take Fells over Akins, especially as the gap in their prices has closed in the last couple of weeks.
The way this game is most likely to play out is for the New England defense to clamp down on Houston, resulting in turnovers and short fields that should mask the inadequacies of the Patriots offense as has been the case all year. If the Texans can manage to sustain drives, even if they don’t score on every one, that will force the Patriots to march down longer fields, which is something they have been unable to do consistently this season. The most likely outcome here is the Patriots winning in a game without a lot of offensive fireworks, but of course single game samples can have odd results.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- The Texans could be successful in moving the ball, much like the Ravens were in Week 10. This would not only make the Patriots defense a less relevant play, but it would also force New England to open things up as they would have to attempt to march down longer fields in order to strike back. This increases the value of the core receivers: the wideouts and James White (and possibly Burkhead), as well as meaning Houston is playing from a lead, which means Carlos Hyde would get a full workload.
Overall my favorite captain here is Edelman, because he’s the one with the most consistent workload and a great matchup. I’ll take a few shots with Houston skill player captains in the hopes that they can find a way to score, as well as some White and Michel exposure.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB (consider waiving this rule for Edelman as he can get there purely on volume, a la last year’s Super Bowl).
- Pair captain Brady with at least 2 receivers and captain Watson with at least 1 receiver.
- At most 2 of Michel, White, and Burkhead
- At most 2 of the Patriots wideouts and tight ends
- At most 2 Texans skill players unless building for a higher-scoring game script
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- Outside of their game against the Ravens (in which Baltimore stomped them 20-37), six of the last seven Patriots games have produced 40 or fewer points — with the exception in that stretch a 35-14 Patriots win against the weak defense of the Giants. Those two games (Pats // Giants || Pats // Ravens) have been the only Patriots games that have topped 44 points, making this early-week Over/Under of 45.0 ultra aggressive. The Texans have scored 0 // 16 // 20 in three matchups against the Patriots over the last two years, with this year’s Patriots defense a far better unit than the ones they boasted in 2017 and 2018. The Texans offense is better as well, of course, but the Pats have allowed one opponent (Baltimore) to top 14 points this year. If we played out this slate a hundred times, this game would finish below 45.0 a good 65 or 70 times.
- The Patriots have also been fairly ineffective on offense, with one of the worst rushing attacks in the league, and with Brady failing to hit 300+ passing yards in five straight. Brady has thrown multiple touchdown passes (two) in only one of his last six games.
- This is likely to be a lower-scoring affair with several disappointing scores emerging in DFS, a few solid price-considered scores emerging as well, and no “have to have it” scores. On a 14-game slate, this game is fairly unattractive, as the Pats spread the ball around and the Texans have one of the most challenging matchups in football. If this game were on the Main Slate, I wouldn’t be going here myself.
- If wanting to play this differently, you could bet on the Pats passing attack breaking through against the Texans with enough action centering on one player for that guy to smash at his price. Edelman and White would be the best bets here, while the remaining two wide receivers (whoever that happens to be) would be deeper-down options. (Meyers and Harry would actually be attractive salary savers if we knew they’d be getting the work, but it’s likely that one of Dorsett/Sanu returns, and that will leave Meyers and Harry more back-burner than potential focal point.) Michel is also, always, a threat for multiple scores, while the Texans would be a “bet on talent over ultra tough matchup” play. (Since I have written this up, Dorsett has cleared concussion protocol. If Sanu misses, Harry and Meyers will likely rotate to some extent, making all these guys somewhat thin beyond just guessing and hoping.)