The New England Patriots charged out of the gate in their third preseason game, taking a 24-0 lead on their first four possessions. But when asked how he felt about the way his offense began the night, coach Bill Belichick harped on a missed 3rd-and-15 conversion, a couple of running plays that were stopped, and Tom Brady’s one interception.
New England still has a lot of room for improvement, according to Belichick. That is scary.
He’s right, of course. No doubt his coaching staff will thoroughly analyze the second and third quarter when Detroit outscored the Pats 21-0 and outgained them 289 yards to 80. The Patriots actually managed to lose their big lead before Jimmy Garoppolo righted the ship with two late field goal drives and secured a 30-28 victory.
New England’s first preseason win was tainted by the loss of Julius Edelman to a possible ACL injury. (MRI Saturday). Edelman came out on fire with three catches covering 53 yards before his knee gave out on a sharp cutting move.
What did we learn?
New England’s offense is very, very good. Brady came out like he was playing a Tecmo Bowl game, calmly hitting receivers at will, covered or not. Chris Hogan picked up where Edelman left off, grabbing four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. He ended his night on a down note by cutting off a route as Tom Brady’s pass sailed over him for an interception.
Brandin Cooks had a quiet night, but he has been fine all preseason. Danny Amendola will slide into the WR3 slot. Malcolm Mitchell is the fourth receiver, but he is dealing with a non-specific knee injury of his own.
Mike Gillislee had a good stat line of eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown, but take away a 27-yard rumble and he is left with a 1.5 YPC effort. It appears his role will be the power back. He got the carries on a goal-line run, a 3rd-and-one, and a two-point conversion.
Dion Lewis started the contest, with James White and rookie D. J. Foster also contributing to the running game. Noticeably absent was Rex Burkhead. Prominently discussed as a fantasy sleeper candidate at running back, Burkhead disappeared from the Patriot’s practice field during the week. He was listed as out with an undisclosed injury against Detroit. This will bear some watching.
Detroit apparently decided the best way to defend Rob Gronkowski is to jump on him before the ball gets there. It mostly worked, except for the resulting penalties.
Tom Brady might be human after all. He seemed greatly affected by the injury to his good friend and long-time teammate Julius Edelman. It didn’t matter much on the field however, as he continued to pick apart the Lions’ defense. His interception was the result of receiver Hogan not realizing the ball was heading his way when he broke off his route. Brady’s opening few drives were almost surgical.
We will have to watch the running back situation closely. Rex Burkhead’s status is a big mystery in New England where he gave extensive interviews one day and disappeared the next. Whether that means James White or Dion Lewis becomes the first and second down back will keep fantasy boards unsettled for a while.
Gillislee will be a short-yardage touchdown hound. Whether he tops the 18 scores tallied by LeGarrette Blount last year is the gamble fantasy owners take if they select him. The bulk of the rushing yardage appears destined for other New England runners.
If the worst-case scenario on Julius Edelman bears out, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola’s ADP will probably jump. Don’t go crazy! Cooks’ role will not change much and Amendola will still be shielded from a bigger role due to injury concerns. New England will plug in Chris Hogan, whose stock should jump directly into the WR25 slot previously occupied by Edelman.
Malcolm Mitchell enters the discussion as a sleeper WR. Last year, Mitchell became a trusted target for Brady when his other receivers started getting dinged up. But be careful because Mitchell has some kind of knee injury of his own which New England’s coaching staff has not disclosed.
Belichick and company say they have faith in a couple of their younger receivers, but look for Dion Lewis and James White to help the receiving game, especially if Mitchell is on the shelf.
Those other fantasy guys
Rob Gronkowski is allegedly taking training camp seriously and following advice from Tom Brady’s health advisor. But if every team defends him the way Detroit did, his injury risk remains as high as ever. Detroit was hanging off the big man all game. For now, though, he remains a top-three tight end option.
Dwayne Allen mentioned how difficult the Patriots’ playbook is to master. Just a hunch, but he might not be as solid a handcuff as Martellus Bennett was last season.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is currently sporting an ADP of PK2. He hit on three field goals (46, 25, and 45 yards) but missed one of three extra point attempts. With the volume of touchdowns expected from New England, he can miss one of three and still be among the league leaders in extra points. I have him at PK6 on my board.
New England’s defense gave up 28 points in a game. This will give the coaches something to complain about all week. It looks like Stephon Gilmore is the top cornerback. Malcolm Butler played better with a forced fumble and deflected a pass that resulted in an interception. But he was flat-out beat by Marvin Jones late in the first half.
New England’s schedule includes six of the top seven scoring wideouts from last season. But I’m not worried. New England will finish in their perennial DST 6-9 range.
So, that’s that.
The unquestioned kings of the hill in both real-life and fantasy, New England offers a lot of points and promise. Unfortunately, they offer a lot of questions, too. Their coaching staff remains difficult to read as far as who will play what role and who is injured.
If you have trouble translating their coach-speak, check back here at RealSport where regular fantasy updates will be flowing all season.
What do you make of the Patriots in fantasy football? Comment below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?