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What to do with James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead in playoff fantasy football

The Patriots backfield is always difficult to decipher. Steve Buchanan breaks down some potential ways to do so for Wild Card Weekend.

Figuring out the Patriots backfield is like doing a 1000 piece puzzle. If you take the time to sit down and rifle through all the pieces, eventually, you’ll put it together. Unfortunately, the man with the picture of the puzzle we’re putting together is held by Bill Bill Belichick. Sony Michel ($4,600), James White ($5,700) and Rex Burkhead ($4,500) are always all in the mix but the lead back for that game is not always a given.

Michel usually takes the bulk of the carries but for the most part, has been extremely inefficient with them. He’d go on to average 3.7 YPC and never took a carry more than 26 yards. White never saw more than nine carries in a game with the exception of Week 13 when he logged 14. White is the passing down back who averaged just under five targets per game from Tom Brady. Burkhead is in the mix but doesn’t see much on a game-to-game basis, averaging five carries and three targets per game with a 10% red zone rushing share as well.

Fantasy Football Analysis: New England Patriots RBs James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead

The Titans run defense hovered around league average all season long. After the final game was played, the Titans allowed an average of 19.3 DKFP, 86 rushing and 47 receiving yards. The Patriots are favored in this game so naturally, this feels like a spot where Michel and Burkhead would see some healthy usage. The spread on the Patriots has been quite active, opening a -4.5, moving to -6 and then coming back to -4.5 as of Tuesday morning. Michel can be counted on for double-digit carries, he simply isn’t all that effective. To be fair, one could argue that Burkhead is the more explosive back of the two but his opportunities would be limited.

Of the three, White is likely the one to target as Brady continues to use him in the passing game. With a lack of offensive weapons at Brady’s disposal, White has seen eight games with seven or more targets. This is an area the Titans have struggled with, as they allowed the 10th most receiving yards to opposing backs and an average of 7.5 YPR. Finally, if you’re trying to figure out who to play based on their red zone usage, they break down like this:

Rushing:

Michel 52%
White 15%
Burkhead 10%

Receiving:

White 22%
Michael 5%
Burkhead 4%

Fantasy Start/Sit Recommendation

White start in cash/start in tournaments

Michel sit in cash/start in tournaments

Burkhead sit in cash/fringe start in tournaments