XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 13 begins with the Bills visiting the Patriots for a 43.5 total game with Buffalo favored by 5. The total here initially felt low to me as these teams are combining for 49.8 points per game on offense this season, but they are also only allowing 36.5 opposing points per game, so the total sits right in the middle of those numbers, creating an interesting game environment in which two good offenses meet up with two good defenses and we could see this game go several different directions. Let’s explore.
On the Patriots side, Damien Harris is injured once again and looks likely to miss, leaving Rhamondre Stevenson in an extremely strong role. In games that Harris has either missed or barely played (25% or fewer of the snaps), Rhamondre is averaging over 80% of the snaps to go along with 15.3 carries and a whopping 6.3 targets. The matchup here is not a friendly one as Buffalo ranks 3rd in run defense DVOA, but frankly nobody’s matchup in this game is going to be a good one: the Bills are also 7th in pass defense DVOA, while the Patriots are 9th in run defense and 3rd in pass defense. On the whole, these are the number two and number three defenses by DVOA on the season (Dallas is number one). When we talk about matchups, the reason is that we’re looking for the easiest paths of attack, but in this game there really aren’t any easy paths of attack, and so I’m looking for players who have a combination of role and talent that can get them there despite the difficult matchup. Rhamondre is one of those, with his pass game role being one of the best of any running back in the NFL – importantly, he is being schemed targets to get him the ball in space, he isn’t just getting dump-offs when Mac Jones is under pressure. He’s one of the strongest options on the slate and is probably the strongest overall on-paper play on the Patriots. Behind him, we can expect to see Kevin Harris and/or Pierre Strong in a small backup role that will likely not be relevant unless Rhamondre gets injured. Watch J.J. Taylor’s status, though – if he’s elevated from the practice squad, he might be the next guy in line as neither Harris nor Strong seems to have established themselves in the minds of the New England coaching staff.
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, Jakobi Meyers and DeVante Parker are both listed as questionable (as of Tuesday morning) but seeing as how they both played in Week 12, both finished the game, and both got in limited practices on Monday, I’m assuming they’re playing. This should give the Patriots their normal wide receiver group of Meyers, Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton. When healthy, Meyers has been the clear alpha here, leading the team in snaps, targets, and receptions. Meyers primarily runs out of the slot on high-completion routes and so can be viewed as having the safest floor amongst the Patriots pass catchers, and his price of $7,200 is very reasonable. Past him, we get into murkier territory, though there is a fairly wide gulf between Parker and the rest in terms of snaps; the gap gets wider when you look at production. Parker also likely sees the toughest coverage with Tre’Davious White back. Nelson Agholor seems to have the next most secure role, then Bourne (who has only exceeded 50% of the snaps when one of the other wide receivers missed time), then Thornton. At the risk of seeming boring and obvious, this is how I would rank them: Meyers, Parker, Agholor, Bourne, Thornton, with the latter two being relegated to “MME punt option” as low-volume receivers in an extremely challenging matchup. At tight end, Jonnu Smith’s role had appeared to be heading upward until last week when he played just 29% of the snaps (matching his lowest total on the season) to Hunter Henry’s 71%. Of note here is that Week 12 represented the lowest combined total of tight end snaps the Patriots have played in any game on the season (i.e. no heavy personnel sets), but I expect that to rebound here to get Mac Jones some extra blocking support against a really tough Buffalo pass rush. While Jonnu has some risk of being used mainly as a blocker, he’s athletic with the ball in his hands, people may shy away after he didn’t see a target last week, and he’s only $1,400, making him a solid tournament option in my mind. Henry fits in around the wide receiver cluster, and while I would personally rank him behind Parker and Agholor, it’s only slightly; his receiving role is very similar in terms of volume, he just lacks the same kind of per-catch upside as the two wideouts.
(WEEK PASS ONLY $19)
You must be logged in to add notes about a game.