Kickoff: Sunday, January 8th, 2022, 1:00 PM ET
Location: Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
Betting Odds: BUF -7.5, 42 O/U total via oddshark.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
New England Patriots
Mac Jones (Start, QB2)
The good news is that the Patriots are playing for their playoff chances. This means that Mac Jones is one of the few quarterbacks that we know will be playing the whole game. Jones has been decent the past two weeks having two touchdowns in each of the last two games and no interceptions. Even with that, he hasn’t cracked into the QB1 range due to a lack of yards.
The bad news is that he is facing the Bills. The Bills are giving up the LEAST amount of points to quarterbacks at 12.74. In the previous matchup, which was only five weeks ago, Jones had 36 attempts and while completing 22, they only had 195 yards and one touchdown. It’s a tough matchup for Jones. He should be in the QB2 range this week but has almost no upside.
Rhamondre Stevenson (Start, Flex), Damien Harris (Sit, Flex)
Damien Harris returned last week after missing four games. He ended up playing on 48% of the team’s snaps. it was a pretty 50/50 split with him and Rhamondre Stevenson who played on 57% of the team’s snaps. Harris ended up having one more carry than Stevenson with the split being nine to eight. It wasn’t a huge rushing day for either and the volume was very low. Now they face the Bills who are giving up the seventh fewest points to running backs at 19.68. the hope is that the total rushing attempts go up and that one if not both of the backs can be useful in the last week of the season. Based on the snap share I think Stevenson can be started as a Flex. He did see four targets which helps give him enough points to get into that range. He hasn’t had many monster games this season so needs a touchdown to catapult him to the RB2 or RB1 range. Harris should be benched. He is still not 100% and getting the lower end of the snap share inst what I want. He did get three targets so he will probably get to the Flex range but I see less of a path for him to get to the higher side of that range or beyond.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jakobi Meyers (Start, WR3), Tyquan Thornton (Start, Flex), DeVante Parker (Start, Flex), Nelson Agholor (Sit), Kendrick Bourne (Sit), Hunter Henry (Start, TE2)
The Patriots receiving group is just filled with middling talent and no real breakout star. Rookie Tyquan Thornton has been playing on over 90% of the team’s snaps over the past three weeks. H hasn’t seen a ton of targets over that span only having 14 targets over that span. He will probably see tough coverage. His game is built on speed and the Bills have some of the best safeties who can help over the top. You can still throw Thornton into your lineup as a boom-or-bust flex-range player.
Jakobi Meyers is the receiver on the other side of the field playing most of the snaps. He has been a consistent performer all year for your fantasy team. He only has two games below the flex range. He is coming off two games with touchdowns so if you go with the hot-hand approach then Meyers should be in your lineup. He has a tough matchup. He will probably be covered by Tre’Davious White who only rates at 57.7 in coverage but has played in the past five games. He is still getting back into football shape after missing the early part of the season. I’m still willing to put Meyers in as a low-end WR3. He hasn’t seen under five targets since Week 12. There is enough volume to make his fantasy relevant.
I’m not starting Devante Parker, Nelson Agholor, or Kendrick Bourne. None of them are playing over 50% of the snaps and Parker is dealing with a concussion. With the Bills giving up the 16th most points to wide receivers at 33.12 I don’t think it provides enough room for any of them to be more than just a random touchdown play.
Hunter Henry has been decent lately. He caught five of his six targets last week for 52 yards. He is playing on over 75% of the team’s snaps most weeks. The Bills are giving up the second-fewest points to tight ends at 8.64. It’s a very tough matchup for Henry but he did lead the team in routes run last week at 36. He could sneak into the TE2 range if the Patriots can get him some better coverage matchups. I’m willing to start him only because of the question marks around the league at who might be playing. You are getting a guy playing on a ton of snaps and running a lot of routes and getting targets.
Josh Allen (Start, QB1)
The Bills are playing with a heavy heart but still have the one seed within reach and a win against the Patriots is needed to have a shot at it. Josh Allen has 32 passing touchdowns on the year and seven rushing touchdowns. The Patriots are giving up the sixteenth most points to quarterbacks at 15.89. In their previous matchup, Allen threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He only had 2o rushing yards. He should still be started. Even with everything that is going on, he is a QB1
Devin Singletary (Start, Flex), James Cook (Start, Flex)
The Bills have worked James Cook into the offense. In Week 12 he had eleven carries which was one less than the starter Devin Singletary. The Patriots are giving up the fourth fewest points to running backs at 18.97 but in the last meeting, the Duo rushed a combined 27 times and 115 yards. I think both can be put in as flex plays this week. They both will probably see around 12 carries and three targets. It’s plenty of opportunities for them to reach that range.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Stefon Diggs (Start, WR1), Gabe Davis (Start, WR3), Isaiah McKenzie (Sit, Flex), Dawson Knox (Start, TE2)
Stefon Diggs had been vocal about wanting the ball more a few weeks ago and looked like he was headed that way before the game was suspended. He was one of the more emotional players on the field and was seen heading to the hospital to see Damar Hamlin later that night. Diggs has always been the type to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He will probably come into this game wanting to be the focal point and he should be. He is one of the best receivers in the game. He will be more emotional and amped up for this game. Trust him as a WR1
Gabe Davis has become more of a possession receiver and less boom-bust. That means his receptions and targets have gone up but his yardage and touchdowns have come down. The Patriots are giving up 33.02 points to wide receivers which is seventeenth in the league. Davis will probably see coverage from Jalen Mills who rates at 42.7 which puts him at 117 out of 188 corners. It’s a phenomenal matchup for Davis. In the last meeting, he had seven targets. He only caught two of them for 15 yards but added a touchdown. You can trust him to get into the WR3 range this week.
Isaiah Mckenzie has become more of an afterthought in this offense. His snap share has decreased the past few weeks and in Week 16 played on only 36% of the team’s snaps. It’s not enough volume to make him a good fantasy option. Even in the previous matchup, he caught all five of his targets but only had 44 yards. sit him this week even if he does get into the flex range.
Dawson Knox has had a great run in the past few games. he has seen over five targets and has scored in each of the last three games. He now faces the Patriots who are giving up the fourteenth-most points to tight ends at 12.39. In the previous matchup, Knox had only one target because he stayed in to block. It’s a toss-up on how things go this week. Will he continue his success in the pass-catching game or have to block like he did last time against the Pats? I suspect he will have to block more. I’m still okay starting him but my expectation is he will be in the lower-end TE2 range.