Kickoff: Sunday, November 6th, 1:00 PM ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro Massachusetts
Betting Odds: NE -6, 39.5 total via oddshark.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Sam Ehlinger (Sit)
The Colts turned to second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger in Week 8, and it was the first start of his career after serving as a backup for Carson Wentz in 2021 and Matt Ryan this season. But it wasn’t a great day for him on the field. Despite having a decent matchup against the Commanders, Ehlinger only managed to throw for 201 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, completing 17 of 23 passes. There were hopes that Ehlinger might provide some rushing upside since he rushed over 100 times each year in college, but he only left the pocket six times for a total of 15 yards — not the type of rushing production that will win you weeks. He gets his second start in Week 9 against the Patriots. The Patriots are ranked 13th, giving up 17 points to the quarterback position. It’s a similar tier of matchup compared to last week. The bigger difference is the running game for the Colts may be without star rusher Jonathan Taylor. Without Taylor, Ehlinger is a Sit. With Taylor, he is probably still a sit. He just hasn’t produced anything, and there isn’t much expectation that he will.
Jonathan Taylor (Start, FLEX), Nyheim Hines (Traded), Deon Jackson (Sit, Flex), Phillip Lindsay (Sit)
This backfield changes a lot if Jonathan Taylor can’t play. Given that Taylor was able to go back into the game after suffering the ankle injury, I expect him to play but I also don’t expect much from him. The Patriots are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs at 17.98. When you combine that with Taylor not being 100%, he should probably be benched, but I will still start him as a FLEX play. When he plays, he gets the bulk of the carries as this year he has 60% of the team’s total carries, despite missing two games.
With Nyheim Hines traded to Buffalo on Tuesday, it opens the door for Phillip Lindsay and Deon Jackson. While Taylor is good in the passing game, he may see less work there this week while dealing with the ankle. Jackson is poised to take a big step forward. In the two weeks that Taylor missed, Jackson caught all of his 14 passes. He played in over 50% of the snaps those weeks compared to Lindsay who saw under 40%. If Taylor plays, I think Jackson isn’t worth starting. Hines has been nothing more than a FLEX play while Taylor plays and that is the role that Jackson now has. If Taylor misses the game, you can start Deon Jackson as a safe RB2. Phillip Lindsay can’t be trusted unless he starts gaining a role in the offense.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Pittman (Start, WR2), Alec Pierce (Start, FLEX), Parris Campbell (Sit, FLEX), Mo Alie-Cox (Sit), Kylen Granson (Sit), Jelani Woods (Sit)
It seems that Michael Pittman might be quarterback-proof. He had a good start to the season with Matt Ryan, and in Week 8 he got Sam Ehlinger as his quarterback and still saw nine targets hauling in seven of them for 53 yards. He is playing on 95% or more of the team’s snaps and in Week 8 ran a team-high 27 routes. He is someone you want to start every week. This week he gets the Patriots, who are giving up the tenth fewest points to wide receivers due to their very good group of corners. If Pittman gets covered by Jonathan Jones who PFF.com grades at 80 in coverage it could be a long day. The Patriots are known for taking away a team-best player, and this week with JT banged up at running back, their sights could be set on Pittman. I still think you start him as a WR2.
Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell will be the benefactor if Pittman is keyed in on by the secondary. Opposite Jones is cornerback Jalen Mills who rates at 36.1 in coverage. The metrics for both Campbell and Pierce are very close. Snap wise it leans Campbell 46 to 33, but routes run it gets a lot close coming in at 21 to 19. Where Pierce takes over is in targets, seeing five compared to two for Campbell. Both will be in the FLEX range this week. You are hoping that Campbell can score to push him into that range or higher. He has not been there except for the weeks he scored a touchdown. I would sit him this week. Pierce is a little safer having reached a FLEX or higher every week from Week 3 on.
The tight ends for the Colts continue to be split pretty evenly between Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson. Both played 50% or more snaps in Week 8. They ran 12 and 10 routes respectively. Until one can separate themselves you cant start either despite the fact that the Patriots are giving up the seventh most points to the tight end position at 15.12. Jelani Woods is still there but didn’t see any targets in Week 8.
New England Patriots
Mac Jones (Sit, QB2)
Not much has gone right for Mac Jones this year. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 and missed three and a half games. He was less than impressive in his return in Week 8. On the season he has more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (3). He now faces the Colts who are 18th in giving up points to quarterback at 15.74; it’s not a stellar matchup so Jones may continue to struggle. There have been rumors and rumblings that he has lost favor with the coaching staff, and after the way Bailey Zappe played, it could mean a very short leash for Jones. I don’t think you can start him until we start seeing some of the things that made him good in 2021.
Rhamondre Stevenson (Start, RB2) Damien Harris (Start,Flex)
It’s been a great few weeks for Rhamondre Stevenson managers and believers. Over the past three weeks, he has averaged 15.3 rushing attempts per game, and he has double-digit carries in every game except Weeks 1 and 2. He took over when Damien Harris missed time with an injury and hasn’t given the lead role back. Harris is still playing on 41% of snaps compared to 63% for Stevenson in Week 8. Harris saw 11 rushing attempts compared to Stevenson’s 16. What has separated Rhamondre is his work in the pass-catching game. In five out of the eight games, he has five or more targets. That’s a threshold that Harris has never reached in his career. Facing the Colts who are giving up 24.05 fantasy points to running backs which puts them at the 10th most. You can start Stevenson as a solid RB2. He has solid rushing and pass-catching work. That level of opportunity is something that can’t be ignored. He is creeping into an every-week starter territory. Harris can be started as a FLEX play. He got double-digit carries in Week 8 and is averaging 4.25 yards per carry.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jakobi Meyers (Start, WR3), Tyquan Thornton (Sit, FLEX), DeVante Parker (OUT), Nelson Agholor (Sit), Kendrick Bourne (Sit), Hunter Henry (Sit), Jonnu Smith (Sit)
There seems to be a youth movement in New England. They have gotten younger at QB and RB and now wide receiver. DeVante Parker is out with a knee injury and Nelson Agholor has been all but phased out of the offense. He only played on 24% of the team’s Week 8 snaps. Even six-year veteran Kendrick Bourne who played on 69% of the Week 8 snaps matched Agholor with one target. All are to be avoided for now.
Who you want to start is Jakobi Meyers. He is playing on at least 80% of the team’s snaps every week, and this past game he saw 12 targets. He led the team again in running 40 routes on his 41 passing snaps. The Colts are giving up the second-fewest points to wide receivers at 24.52. It’s not the best matchup for Meyers. He will probably see coverage from former Patriot Stephon Gilmore who rates at 71.3 in coverage. Despite being 32 years old, Gilmore is still playing at a high level. I think you can start Meyers as a solid WR3 with upside.
Tyquan Thornton hasn’t played well the past two weeks after having a breakout game in Week 6. Despite playing on over 75% of the team’s snaps the past two weeks, he has only seen seven targets over that span. He has only hauled in one each week for under 20 yards. He will see softer coverage than Meyers but still not the best matchup. I would only start him if you need a boom-bust type player and considering he has only boomed once it’s very risky.
With the Patriots not having a high-volume passing game, the tight ends have suffered. Only twice this season have either Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith seen 5 or more targets and both of those belong to Henry. The lack of volume means Smith is a definite sit. Henry isn’t getting great volume and his big weeks came with Zappe under center. He is a Sit right now.