We were all expecting the Patriot offense to return to fantasy prominence, but not many expected the explosion that occurred in Buffalo in Week 4. You expected Tom Brady and the passing game to have success against the Bills as they have throughout his entire career, but what was most surprising were the historic numbers put up by the running game led by Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden. The Pats punished Buffalo with 247 yards rushing, leading an offensive onslaught that saw New England score 45 second-half points. While the Patriots won’t have two 100-yard receivers and two 100-yard rushers each week, their presence as a force in fantasy has been restored.
Week 4 Flashback:
The annual homecoming of Rob Gronkowski had an inauspicious beginning last Sunday when the Buffalo native lost a fumble and dropped a few balls in the first half. The Gronk of old returned in the second half, finishing with 104 yards on five catches and a score…With Julian Edelman inactive and Aaron Hernandez still hurt, Wes Welker starred again with nine grabs for 129 yards. After a disappointing Week 1, Welker is now averaging seven catches and 122 yards in the last three games and is once again a definite start each week…Brandon Lloyd caught his first touchdown of the season and hauled in three passes for 50 yards. We warned you in the preseason that with all of Brady’s weapons, Lloyd would have his really big days and his quieter days: Sunday was something in between, with the touchdown salvaging his fantasy numbers for the week…Stevan Ridley re-emerged as the go-to back on Sunday with 22 carries for 106 yards and two scores. The more you see of Ridley, the more he clearly looks like an every-week starting running back in fantasy. You will of course have to curb your enthusiasm given the history of Patriots’ running backs in fantasy, but it’s almost more of a risk NOT to start him each week…Another country was heard from in the New England backfield with Brandon Bolden blasting Buffalo to the tune of 137 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. Despite his performance, Bolden won’t be taking over the majority of the carries anytime soon, but one result of his epic day might be him supplanting Shane Vereen (who played in his first game of the season on Sunday) on the Patriots’ depth chart. If you’re in a deeper league, Bolden is a great speculative add should Ridley break down as the year goes on….Even the New England defense got the memo to show up in Buffalo last week, picking off four Ryan Fitzpatrick passes and recovering two fumble recoveries. The rookie duo of Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower each recorded a sack with Rob Ninkovich adding a third. Fantasy owners still need to take a wait-and-see approach with this young and inconsistent offense, but they certainly appear to be a matchup-based start at the very least so far in the season.
Week 4 Fantasy Stud:
Leading up to the game, much was made of Buffalo’s improved defensive line and how it might cause Tom Brady significant problems. Even heading into the third quarter, fantasy owners were worried as it looked like the Bills had found a way to slightly disrupt Brady and cause the offense to stutter. Then everything changed. Brady threw three second-half touchdowns and galloped in the end zone for another to go along with 340 passing yards, earning himself AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and making good as last week’s Musket Fire Fantasy Patriot Start of the Week.
Week 5 Patriot Start of the Week:
With the exception of last week’s blowout against the Raiders, the Broncos have been prone to allowing touchdowns and above-average games to tight ends. In Week 1 against Pittsburgh, Heath Miller caught four balls for 50 yards and a touchdown; in Week 2 against Atlanta, Tony Gonzalez caught seven balls for 70 yards and a touchdown; in Week 3 against Houston, Owen Daniels caught three balls for 26 yards and a touchdown.
This week, Denver squares up against Rob Gronkowski, a nightmare for any defense. After a shaky start to last week in Buffalo, Gronk put a big game together. With the pressure of a hometown start behind him, look for Gronkowski to go off at home this week for the first vintage Gronk game of the year, against a Bronco defense that has given up serious points so far in 2012. Projection: 8 catches, 130 yards, 1 touchdown