Patriots vs. Jaguars
It’s the beginning of week 2, and we’re mining for waiver wire gold, looking all over for the players untouched and ready to lead our teams to the promised land. In my week 2 focus, I have a matchup of two great AFC combatants, the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots have arguably the best quarterback of all time ready to face off against a rising AFC powerhouse, and springy defense, in the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is one of the prime matchups this weekend, so let’s dive into the 4:25 game and see what awaits us at the end of this one!
Can the Patriots running game uncover it’s identity against a premier defense?
Week one was a solid showing in end result alone for the Patriots in week one
Jacksonville Jaguars. They left that game metaphorically “in the middle of the night”, sneaking out of Gillette once again by pure cunning and tactic. The running game didn’t seem to solve any questions or worries we came into the season with, in regards to this facet of the team, in fact, it left us with more. As of today (Thursday), Rex Burkhead has a concussion and is an unsure entry in to the running game for Sunday, and while Sony Michel is listed as Questionable, even if he did play, the game will only showcase him for a bit if anything, as they attempt to ease their 1st round pick in to their offense. Oh, and Jeremy Hill tore his ACL, and is out for the season. As of writing this, the Patriots have signed Kenjon Barner to the team, hoping to stitch together some semblance of a running game together until Michel is deemed recovered. We should see some mish-mash of Michel, James White (their swiss army knife of sorts), and Barner, hopefully with a bit of Burkhead if he can muster it. It’s unfortunate this happened at this point of the season, as the Jaguars defense is almost polar opposites from ground to air, as per FootballOutsiders.com, Jacksonville had an elite defense, even while their rushing defense finished 27th overall in weighted rush defense. There’s opportunity on the ground, but I’m not sure if anyone can dash and dance around this defensive lane. Also, don’t be surprised if Burkhead gets placed on the inactive list, that Ralph Webb gets added to the backfield pile.
James White: 10 carries, 42 yards, 8 catches for 52 yards
Sony Michel: 6 carries, 28 yards, 2 catches for 15 yards
Kenjon Barner: 8 carries, 18 yards
Patriots receivers attempt to scheme around elite Jaguars defense
The Patriots have the game’s most respected quarterback behind center when they face off against Jacksonville on Sunday, but the Jaguars are not in sweating this in the least. Jalen Ramsey, the new star and mouthpiece in Jacksonville had some quote-worthy comments in relation to the Patriots offense in his column with Mena Kimes. One large centerpiece to the Patriots offensive juggernaut, Rob Gronkowski, well he doesn’t hold much favor in Ramsey’s eyes, “I don’t think Gronk’s good.” Registering my involuntary blinking, he course-corrects. “Let me say — I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is.”
So, we shall see. The Jaguars will get the Patriots at a pretty weakened structure offensively, as they humor two camp castaways who were highly regarded out of the draft, but have no current home, signing Bennie Fowler and Corey Coleman off the street to attempt to stop the bleeding. Where the Jaguars defense really makes its mark is on the passing side of their defensive coverage, headlined by Ramsey, and rounded out by coveted free agent AJ Bouye, Barry Church, and Tashaun Gipson. Expect a lot of underneath passes, swing plays, and spread out passing in an attempt to keep the ball away from both Bouye and Ramsey. The current Patriots core of wide receivers will be looking to build some rapport with Brady, headlined by Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarelle Patterson. Rob Gronkowski will try his best to showcase his talent level in Ramsey’s presence, coming off a consistent and reliable week one for him. Expect one of the three wideouts above to have a solid game, more than likely the slot receiver, and Gronkowski to possibly come out with a handful of catches, and passes to go the way of James White and whichever other back comes into the game healthy and with all limbs attached. If you have reliable or upside plays at wideout for this week, this is one of the better weeks to rest your Patriots wide receiver starters on the bench.
Phillip Dorsett: 10 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD
Chris Hogan: 3 receptions, 26 yards
Cordarelle Patterson: 3 receptions, 52 yards, 1 td
Rob Gronkowski: 8 receptions, 78 yards
Will Tom Brady be able to make anything out of a mess of a matchup?
There’s not many pluses to what the Patriots have to encounter for the first month without Edelman. In week 1, he attempted to find some possible fill ins on offense while Edelman and most of their backfield healed, targeting Hogan five times and only connecting on one of them. There was a few takeaways I’d find as positives that we should continue on capitalizing on until we’re impacted negatively. Gronkowski will continue to be the choice receiver not out of the backfield, capitalizing with his size and speed for said size. Early and often, we should expect to see Gronk attempting to break past some matchups and try to take the top off the Jaguars defense, pivoting coverage and double teams to him, and looking for one of his new targets, Dorsett. Dorsett converted all seven of his targets last week, and also looked to be on the beat in the preseason, so there could be some fantasy gold here. Expecting Brady to succeed and eek out a win is my thought process here, but hedge your fantasy bets on Brady. If you have him,start him, but if you somehow see a Patrick Mahomes or Philip Rivers on your waiver wire, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to start them for the week and potential hold for backup for the year.
Tom Brady: 30-41, 282 Yards, 2 Td’s, 2 Int’s
Patriots Defense attempts to mimic their first half, not second half of Week 1
In week 1, the Patriots defense looked like we all had hoped they would look when coming out of the tunnel in the first half, yet walked off the field in the second half looking more like defenses of old, having us collectively pulling our hair out. Matt Patricia, 2017 defensive coordinator, ended up in Detroit, garnering a bunch of opportunities in the offseason before eventually settling on the coaching role there, and not many knew what the Patriots would do to recover any form of defensive mojo. After a preseason and one week, while the defensive hasn’t yet made immense strides, it’s looking as if the defense while without a “coordinator”, may have found it’s new mastermind in Brian Flores. The 37 year old linebackers coach will attempt to bring his high charged defense into Jacksonville and quiet the up and coming offense, led by Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette. The Patriots, known to quell the bright spots and advantages of team offenses, will pressure Fournette if he plays, coming off an injury that took him out of the game early in week one, opening up some carries to TJ Yeldon, one of the better handcuff backs in the league. Expect the defense to be up on the line, stuffing the run, and forcing the ball out of Bortles hand to their young,inexperienced wide receiver crew of Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark. This doesn’t seem to be much more than a glorious, amped up defensive battle between two of the best AFC teams, and we can expect a close game, with either team potentially winning this one by a late field goal. I’ll take the Pats, 24-21. Thanks for taking the dive with me. See you the beginning of the week!
Pats D- allows 21 points, 4 sacks, 2 INT’s
How will Blake Bortles fair against an improved Patriots defense?
Against a pretty decent Giants defense, QB Blake Bortles went 18/33 but only for 176 yards. That’s a less than six yards per attempt. That simply will not cut it against this here defense. Bortles’ job doesn’t get easier with RB Leonard Fournette projected to be limited due to a leg issue. Bortles simply has to be smarter and better than last week if the Jaguars want to have a chance. His assignment or main focus has to be to limit the time the Jaguars’ defense is on the field, which means prolonged drives. This is asking a lot of him, but it’s the only way to keep Patriots QB Tom Brady from trying to duplicate what happened in 2015 (a 51-17 drubbing). This is a different Jaguars team and a different Bortles. Time to add more proof to that statement.
Can TJ Yeldon fill some large Fournette shoes (potentially)?
With RB Leonard Fournette battling a leg injury, RB TJ Yeldon will probably get around 20 carries. He has struggled in the past with this kind of workload – basically the main reason they drafted Fournette. I would be hesitant to lean on him as a starter in fantasy, but if you’ve got no other choice, go for it. The Patriots did allow 98 yards to Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller last week, so not all is lost if you have to go with Yeldon.
Can the Jags’ defense contain Brady?
If QB Blake Bortles struggles to keep the offense on the field much, it will be a tall task for CB Jalen Ramsey and Co. to keep QB Tom Brady in check. The Patriots don’t really have a running back that will burn you. Rather, they hope to gain four to five yard chunks with Rex Burkhead and James White, mostly. Through the air, TE Rob Gronkowski is always the number one option and is a weekly headache for defenses, no matter how good they are. The challenge for Jacksonville will be on how they will cover him because WR Chris Hogan is no slouch and WR Phillip Dorsett showed he is capable, too. I suspect Ramsey will switch off between Gronk and Hogan, but look for Brady to exploit the matchup plenty. The key will be up front with Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus and Yannick Ngakue. They have to have consistent pressure, forcing Brady into quick throws or holding the ball too long. If they can break through for a sack or two, things could swing in the Jaguars favor with a possible turnover or simply great field position, going the other way. In fantasy, it’s a tough call, but I assume there might not be much better on the waiver wire for this week. They’re a keeper in any case.