It feels strange to say that the New England Patriots haven’t won a football game in over a month, but such is the current state of the NFL’s most recent dynastic team. Certainly, the vast majority of the focus has fallen on the absence of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and the recent struggles of his replacement, Cam Newton. Head coach Bill Belichick’s recent excuse tour has only amplified the angst in Foxborough.
However, the Patriots draw the perfect opponent Sunday to silence their critics for at least one week: the winless New York Jets. That matchup offers more than just an easy path to an elusive victory, it also gives fantasy managers ample opportunities for low-hanging fruit.
Fantasy Football analysis: Patriots RBs Damien Harris, James White, Rex Burkhead
Damien Harris began the season on injured reserve but has already surpassed his fellow running backs in rushing yards (298, 99 more than the next highest total on the team). Harris garners next to zero opportunities in the passing game, but he will serve as the lead ball carrier so long as he remains healthy. That alone should garner him consideration for fantasy lineups, but his appeal could further grow if the Patriots begin to feed him more at the goal line to help protect Newton. He’s questionable, so keep an eye on his pre-game status.
James White’s value arises almost exclusively from the passing game, but his per-game production this year hasn’t matched past seasons. Perhaps that changes with the Jets’ struggles against virtually all positions, but it seems more likely that the Patriots would use White less if/when they establish a sizeable lead.
As in past years, Red Burkhead serves in a hybrid role. He usually doesn’t see as many carries as the lead back nor will his quarterback target him as often as White. But with Harris still dealing with an ankle injury and the Patriots expected to carve out an early lead this week, someone else will have to handle the excess carries. Burkhead might end up receiving those touches.
At least one member of the Patriots’ backfield should do well this week as the Jets simply have not shown they can slow down opposing running backs. The defense yields an average of roughly 98 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 45 yards through the air to the position group.
Fantasy Start/Sit Recommendation
Start Harris as a low-end RB2.
Start White and/or Burkhead as low-end flex options.