Patriots vs. Titans
On Sunday, at 1 o’clock, we have the immense pleasure of watching the Patriots travel down to Tennessee and face the southern Patriots (also known as the Titans), as they face a team coached by Mike Vrabel, a former Patriots linebacker, and a squad of players including last year stars Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis . It should be an interesting game to watch, as the 4-4 Titans attempt to make a name for themselves, hoping to place a stick of dynamite on the track of the six-game winning streak New England Patriots. Let’s dive in and see what this game may have in store for us.
Brady faces the mind of a former Patriot great, how will he fare?
Tom Brady has performed admirably so far in the 2018 season, showcasing immense fortitude at 41 years old, as he is now both the oldest and also the only healthy starting quarterback named the starter for the season in the AFC East. However, the numbers so far for this season are not nearly comparative to the seasons of Brady “Hall of Fame”, as he mostly has been a respectable top eight quarterback, not showcasing multitudes of 400+ yard games and large amounts of touchdowns, faring better with some trick plays, consistency on reaching his targets, and avoiding being hit in the pocket. In just three games this year has he completed over 300 yards worth of passes. In 4 games so far, three touchdowns has been reached, in no other games has he passed three touchdowns. So you definitely may have better options at quarterback this year. His prime games may be done. Players like Jared Goff and Mitch Trubisky could be claimed in the bottom half of your draft, and may outperform Brady for the rest of the season, but don’t dig that grave for Brady yet. There’s always upside, and Brady is the definition of a competitor. Playing against former Patriots alumni in Coach Vrabel, Lewis, and Butler, I would not be shocked to have this be one of the best games of Brady’s season. He and Josh Gordon have found a budding friendship, and while rumors of Sony Michel return this Sunday are apparent, I would expect Brady will attempt a large portion of passes to showcase he still has it in front of former buddies.
Backfield hazy, Sony could return
The Patriots come into Week 10 becoming masters of weathering the running back wear and tear of the season. Jeremy Hill gone, Rex Burkhead gone, and a couple former running backs that could be used to fill in when injury or fatigue occurred well on their way to other teams, the Patriots are hopeful that this Sunday, Sony Michel will return to action just two weeks removed from a ghastly injury attempting to break the plain for a touchdown. A slightly mediocre rushing defense (16th in rush ranking per footballoutsiders.com), the Titans are looking to gel among themselves in the first year in Vrabel’s tutelage. Michel could end up questionable all the way up to the 1 o’clock whistle, where I’d expect at best, he’s going to receive a third of the carries, split amongst himself, James White, and Cordarelle Patterson. While James White is mostly an accomplished pass catcher and a reliable blocker for Brady, Patterson showcased burst and an ability to cut when White limped off the field in the second half of the game last week against Green Bay, finishing with less than a half of workload, and sixty plus yards. The current backfield would project out as Michel as the number one back when healthy, and a split of the remaining touches between White and Patterson. Since Belichick enjoys the path less traveled by when it comes to play calling, expect the Patriots to rush in roughly sixty percent of the plays, attempting to keep Brady fresh for the playoff run.
Gordon and White replace lost Gronkowski production (on field and when off field)
The pass game has found it’s best footing in the last couple weeks time, seeing the entry of Julian Edelman back into the play calling for the last month of games, and Josh Gordon arriving after wearing out his welcome in Cleveland. Averaging the 11th highest passing yards per game, this team is by no means blowing anyone out, but has a few reliable treats if you’re looking for passing options with bye weeks. Edelman is the pure passing threat for wide receivers, as he saw ninety percent of the snap count in Week 9, and has become instantly the apple of Brady’s eye again, picking right up where he left off. A points per reception wizard, Edelman saw 10 targets last week and converted on six of those for 71 yards. While Edelman is the constant, Gordon has become the flashbulb playmaker, connecting with Brady on 5 receptions for 131 yards last week. Tennessee cannot matchup against number one wide receivers, and Gordon thus should be in line for a large feast weeks before Thanksgiving (Per footballoutsiders, they rank 31st against the number one wide receiver). Rob Gronkowski, fresh off two weeks not being fresh, and sitting, could potentially sit for one more week, resting himself for a month, with the bye week coming up, therefore giving us a mixture of remaining targets between White, Phillip Dorsett, and the ghost of Chris Hogan who has spooked us for the last two weeks, and seems to thrive only with Edelman back and around. With confidence, start Gordon, Edelman, and White for wide receivers, and potentially look at Hogan as a possible wide receiver three or flex if he once again garners targets.
Boom: James White
Bust: Sony Michel, if he plays
Sleeper: Chris Hogan
Needless to say, it’s been a good week in Nashville, TN as Titans fans have rejoiced over their primetime drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, the Titans cannot enjoy their recent victory over the ‘Boys for long, as this Sunday the squad will host Bill Belichick’s Evil Empire at LP Field. Can we expect a resurgent Dion Lewis to continue being a fantasy stud, or for an embattled WR corps to yield fruit in this one? Let’s find out…
Will We See MariGOATa, or MariOH,Nota?
Well there’s no way he can play as poor as that paragraph header! Yea, yea, I tried, ok? Anyway, we’ve certainly become accustomed to the ups-and-downs of Marcus Mariota’s performances, but to me it seemed like Mariota really turned a corner in this past game. Rather than running for his life, or chucking the ball into tight coverage, or just throwing the ball away, Mariota seemed to face pressure, actually keep his eyes downfield, and hit his open man or run SAFELY for limited yardage. Of course, this could be another anomalous performance for face of the Titans franchise, but I really believe this was a watershed performance. How then, will he perform against a New England defense that sneakily ranks 6th in passing yards per attempt? Well, we can’t expect hug numbers, but given the added element of his timed runs, Mariota could conceivably cobble together a high end QB2 or low end QB1 performance in this one. If you’re in a bind, and some of the more popular streamers aren’t available, I’d take a chance on Mariota putting up some numbers at home.
Corey Davis and Some Loose Change
That paragraph header about sums it up for the Titans this season. While Corey Davis hasn’t lit up the world as some predicted, his inflated target share means big games are a TD or two away, and this week could be the week for him. Despite a strong passing defense, the Pats D has given up solid games, and of course TDs, to leading WR’s in past games as they’ve ceded shorter underneath passes. Look for Davis to convert 10+ targets in this one to at least 70 yards and hopefully a TD. As for his fellow pass catchers, both Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor are truly questionable in this one with ankle and foot injuries respectively. They weren’t all that intriguing before and they’re certainly not intriguing now. As for the team’s TE’s, none has replaced Delanie Walker’s role and I’d bet the farm that neither Jonnu Smith or Luke Stocker choose today as the game to do so.
I don’t know about you guys, but watching Derrick Henry bang his large body into the back of the Titans’ offensive line for a 2-3 yard gain on half of the Titans run plays became a painful regularity for me through the first 6-7 weeks of the season. But finally, FINALLY, Mike Vrabel has seen the light and begun featuring Dion Lewis in this offense, and whatdya know: the offense came alive. Given their recent success, Lewis should remain the feature back in this offense for the forseeable future, seeing somewhere between 15-25 touches per game, and this week looks like a game he should score big in. New England ranks 20th in yards per attempt allowed, and Lewis’ dynamic running style should serve him well against a relatively weak linebacker corps. Yes, the threat of Henry vulturing a TD looms large at all times, but Lewis’ potential for high end production, regardless of TDs, makes him a premier option in this one.
Better Days Ahead
No, you’re not starting ANY defense against the Patriots. That’s a golden rule to live by, however with a juicy 5 game schedule coming up after this one (IND, HOU, NYJ, JAX, NYG, and WAS) the Titans defense could be the final piece to a strong championship roster. I’d stash if possible.