Patriots @ Dolphins
The New England Patriots find themselves in an awkward situation that they haven’t been in for quite some time. They’re without a star quarterback, not much talent to speak of, and looking to play spoiler to a Miami Dolphins team that may be heading in a completely different direction. Brian Flores has turned the Dolphins into a strong, smart defensive team, and the quarterback battle between Tua Tagaviloa and Cam Newton left a lot to be desired, but in the end, the Dolphins overshadowed a spoiler event and took the Patriots out 22-12.
New England Patriots
Cam Newton: 17/27, 209 yards, 3 sacks | 9 carries, 38 yards
I really wanted Cam Newton to be a thing. I really, really did. But we’re through Week 15, and Cam has just lost a step. Metaphorically and literally. This is only the fourth time Cam has passed the two hundred yard passing threshold this season. His completion percentage has only passed 70% twice all season, and he hasn’t averaged over ten yards per pass in a single game this year. Cam has been figured out, and teams have started to gameplan for his rushing attack over passing game scenarios (and who can blame them, there’s not much talent to throw to in the first place). Cam attempted to rush out early on in the game/late in the first half and attempted to reach for a first down, but he had the ball punted out of his hand, as Xavien Howard was aggressive to the ball, and the Patriots lucked out the ball ended up hitting off a Miami Dolphins’ defensive player whose foot was out of bounds.
The Dolphins returned a Cam Newton fumble 86 yards for a TD, but it got overturned after review because the ball grazed a Miami player who had his foot out of bounds. Ouch. #Dolphins #Patriots pic.twitter.com/CP460MrScC
— John Breech (@johnbreech) December 20, 2020
Even with a few lucky bounces, and some solid passing at times to players like Jakobi Meyers, this team has often ended their drives with field goals over touchdowns. The finishing touch has been lost. They have no deep threat options. Most drives have been finished by Nick Folk, and no other squad player. Cam not only has no value for the next game ahead of us (likely your fantasy playoff championship), we may have seen the last of elite Cam. It was fun while it lasted.
Sony Michel: 10 carries, 74 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards
James White: 2 carries, 3 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 52 yards
J.J. Taylor: 1 carry, 2 yards
Jakob Johnson: 1 target, 0 receptions
The ghost of Sony Michel has heard all the Christmas stories, and he decided to come back from the dead to explain to the Patriots the scariness of the “ghost of running backs past”. While Damien Harris has all but sealed himself in as the starting running back for 2021, an ankle injury suffered in last week’s game put him on the sideline for this week, and Sony Michel performed admirably in his place. Michel averaged over seven yards per carry, and he once again highlighted that, with a good offensive line, most running backs can at least secure solid yards per carry regardless of talent. Michel has been in and out of the lineup either by injury or by performance struggles for the better half of the season, but this was absolutely his best showing. He didn’t eclipse 100 yards and was ultimately outrushed by the Miami squad across the field, but it was good to see he still had a bit of life in him. Ultimately, any rusher not named Harris will continue to rush with hopes of being his backup, but with Michel’s aggressive attempts to hit the hole and his 7.4 yards per carry average in a much-needed showcase game, this could be the game that keeps him on the squad for next season. If Harris sits one more week next week with the Patriots having nothing to play for but a higher draft pick, Michel could be a sneaky flex play, but anything more than that is pushing your luck.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jakobi Meyers: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 111 yards, 1 fumble
N’Keal Harry: 2 targets, 1 reception, 12 yards
Damiere Byrd: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards
Dalton Keene: 2 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards
Devin Asiasi: 1 target, 0 receptions
On the return to the Jakobi Meyers “coming out” tour, this fellow continues to showcase he may have been the best-hidden treasure for this squad in 2020. His stat line was stellar, even in spite of a fumble jarred out of his hands by Xavien Howard, which cut short a much needed Patriots drive as they attempted to gain some momentum and extend a small lead at the time. Meyers had a great game against arguably the best cornerback in the AFC and showcased that he deserves the chance to be a wide receiver they build around in the offseason. He continues to be a sneaky flex play, especially in PPR leagues, as he’s averaging a little under 8 targets per game for the past month.
On the opposite side of the coin news, N’Keal Harry is continuing his descent into wide receiver obscurity a la Josh Boyce or Reche Caldwell. He cannot get open, he cannot create separation, and even in games where he’s not covered by lockdown corners, he’s hardly getting any target share, and this is season three of opportunity. Harry has little to no value in dynasty leagues and likely has been vaulted over by Meyers on most dynasty receiver lists.
Cam, as seen for the majority of this season, cannot get his footing for long enough and doesn’t seemingly have the arm strength to take chances on deep passes, so Jakobi Meyers will be the receiver in the midfield/short route plays to watch, and has only continued to make the case he will get the receiver one slot as long as Julian Edelman is injured.
See the Meyers fumble recovery below!
All Xavien Howard does is force turnovers 😤😤
— PFF (@PFF) December 20, 2020
Tua Tagovailoa: 20/26, 145 yards, 1 INT, 2 sacks | 3 carries, 9 yards, 2 TDs
Tua had a slightly better game than Cam Newton, despite having fewer passing yards, as he continues to settle in with an offense he’s only played as a starter with for around a month. While the Patriots do some of their best work against rookie quarterbacks, Tua was dicey on some plays, looking to air it out in favor of making the safe play. In an early first-half drive, Tua was close to the red zone and likely pushing on the verge of at the very least a field goal before he threw a pick in the midst of getting hit.
Former Terp J.C. Jackson gets his eighth interception of the season.
He is second in the NFL behind Miami’s Xavien Howard (9).pic.twitter.com/pfBGAoKAyO
— Matt Levine (@MattLevine__) December 20, 2020
Tua will continue to make rookie mistakes and adjust on a game to game basis, but Miami has the makings of a team on the rise. Tua is a tinier quarterback than many in the league, but he’s headstrong when he needs to be, has weapons both to hand off to, and to pass to, and finally has the coach’s approval. He also will continue to be given the opportunity to rush in short-yardage and goal-line situations as with today’s game, so while he isn’t much value for a late in season fantasy matchup, he absolutely has some dynasty appeal (a top 15 placement, maybe top 12 awaits him).
Salvon Ahmed: 23 carries, 122 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
Matt Breida: 12 carries, 86 yards
Patrick Laird: 2 carries, 20 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards
Lynn Bowden Jr: 1 carry, 9 yards | 7 targets, 6 receptions, 37 yards
Malcolm Perry: 1 carry, 4 yards
From undrafted rookie to starting rusher for an NFL team. It seems like this year, it’s not really that unusual a story (see: James Robinson and now Salvon Ahmed). That said, Ahmed is pushing out the worries and capitalizing on his opportunity, and may just be running his way into Dolphins’ fans’ hearts and fantasy manager’s hearts alike. He had to take the backseat to two Tua rushing touchdowns, but the Dolphins’ coaching squad has quickly giving Ahmed their trust. He’s only played in four games in his career, but he’s only averaged under 4 YPC once, and watching him on the field, there is both electricity and consistency to what he does in all his rushes. Taking in a touchdown, he also capped his game line off with 122 ground yards. Most of this season is likely showing that Myles Gaskin will continue to be a PPR asset, but Ahmed is going to likely earn himself a contract for next season/maybe beyond from Miami and is quietly showing that he has the upside of a starting rusher in the NFL. Ahmed will earn himself a low-end RB2/high-end flex play for next week in your fantasy matchups, and if you get a chance, watch some of his game tapes. He’s got an aggressive, no-nonsense rushing style, and doesn’t waste time attacking for his yards. Ahmed’s legit, folks.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Durham Smythe: 5 targets, 5 receptions, 40 yards
Mack Hollins: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards
Isaiah Ford: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 18 yards
Adam Shaheen: 2 targets, 1 reception, 15 yards
The Dolphins basically have no receiving corps to speak of at this point (Preston Williams is on IR with a foot injury, Devante Parker was called an active player for this week but saw zero targets…and I never saw him). So we were treated to the amazing squad of Durham Smythe, the return tour of Isaiah Ford who has been on Miami twice this season and New England once, and the glorious fro of Mack Hollins. Oh, and add on the shutdown corner play (one of the few bright spots) of J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore to cover the cobbled together Dolphins defense. And that’s why the targets for receivers were so low this week, but also, Tua took the ball and ran with it today…literally and figuratively. There weren’t many passing options so they didn’t pass much, and frankly, they didn’t need to. Ahmed took the lion’s share of the ball on the ground, and Tua spelled those rushes within the red zone, but even so, the receivers are by no means the highlight of the current Dolphin’s squad. You could look at Parker for next week’s game and follow closely to see if he plays, but this squad has very few bright spots for receivers, and at best you may be able to get some small value from Lynn Bowden Jr., and his ability to balloon animal something out of LITERALLY nothing! (See Below!)
Lynn Bowden Jr. with the longest 9-yard run in NFL history 😂
— PFF (@PFF) December 20, 2020
-Matthew Bevins (Reddit:TheLongSpring/Twitter:MattQBList)