With the 49ers winning their eighth game on Thursday, only the Patriots have a shot at putting a higher number in the win column while looking to beat the Ravens on Sunday night for their ninth win. That won’t be an easy task, though, as New England enters the game as a three-point favorite, but Baltimore is probably the toughest team they’ll have faced to date and are currently on a three-game winning streak.
There is not a lot we don’t know already about this infinite Patriots team. They pass the ball more than they run, they are so good at it that they almost never reach the fourth down, and they kill opposing teams with a suffocating — and historical — defense. All of those signs point to a heavy run-the-clock approach, and indeed Sony Michel has rushed the ball 140 times already this season (he ranks sixth in rushing attempts), yet for only 466 yards on the ground (14th most). Other than Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead are the ones taking on receiving duties: White has completed 42-of-52 receptions for 358 yards and Burkhead 15-of-19 for 126 yards (neither of them has reached 30 rushing attempts).
Although having a massive volume, Michel is disappointing this season. He’s averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per carry and has yet to top 91 in a single game, with his fantasy production being a little touchdown-driven. White, while not rushing so often, provides much better value (mostly on PPR-format leagues) just because of his receiving prowess: he’s averaging 12.9 fantasy points per game to Michel’s 11.7, and even better than that, all of White’s performances have ended between a score of 11.9 to 13.8 points. Not league-winning, but constant as anyone.
Rex Burkhead is more of an afterthought and can be faded every week unless you play in a super deep league. He started the season with a bang but from Week 4 on he has only played 25 combined snaps ceding time to Brandon Bolden.
Fantasy football analysis, Patriots RBs Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead
The Patriots have been running a backfield-by-committee for years now, so the current situation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Duties are clearly split between Michel and White in terms of rushing and receiving and the numbers clearly show it.
Baltimore is the toughest defense New England will have faced so far, both against the pass and against the run. Although the Ravens are ranked eighth in points per game allowed to opposing running backs, if we only take the past three weeks into account they move to the top of the leaderboard with a minuscule mark of 22.4 fantasy points allowed. They enter this game having limited James Conner, Joe Mixon and Chris Carson to 55, 10 and 65 rushing yards, respectively. On the passing side, none of those three reached 30 receiving yards and the most yardage the Ravens have allowed to a receiving running back were 47 yards to Darrel Williams in Week 3.
The Ravens’ stuff rushers and limit their upside through the air, so I’d keep Michel clearly out of the equation and give White a chance just because of his abilities receiving and the chance Tom Brady looks for him at some point, including in the red zone with the chance to score—but don’t expect too much and just play him as a Flex if you have the need. Burkhead, as already said, is unplayable this weekend and most of the season.
Sony Michel: Sit
James White: Start (RB3/Flex)
Rex Burkhead: Sit