Typically, my fantasy preview involves three players to sit and three players to start. However, the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots possess two high-powered offenses and two poor defenses making it hard to find three players that should be sitting.
As such, this week will be slightly different as there will be four players to start and just two to sit.
Start: QB Tom Brady
Jay Cutler threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns versus the Oakland defense. Against the Panthers, a respectable defense, he had just 213 yards, two touchdowns (one garbage-time touchdown) and a costly interception at the end of the half.
Brady, against the no-fly zone in Denver, threw for over 260 yards and three touchdown passes.
So if Cutler looked like an all-pro against the Raiders, what is the GOAT going to look like this Sunday?
Even better, there could be a gassed Oakland secondary chasing New England’s receivers all game considering the altitude in Mexico City.
Start: QB Derek Carr
Derek Carr has thrown for 300 yards in each of the last three games and is facing the No. 32 ranked pass defense in the NFL.
The Patriots gave up over 300 yards passing in each of the first six games of the season. Since, they have been better, but nothing Carr and the offense can’t exploit.
Oakland’s defense is bound to get gashed at times in the game meaning Carr and co. will have to be slinging the ball around the field early and often. If he isn’t successful, it will be a blow out and Carr will be able to find points late in a garbage-time situation.
Start: TE Jared Cook
The Patriots’ defense started the season giving up big numbers to tight ends, 62.6 yards per game in the first six weeks, but have only given up 48 yards to the position in the last three games combined.
Obviously, the improvement on the defensive side of the ball for New England comes from Bill Belichick’s incredible coaching ability.
However, the last three games New England has not faced any tight ends as good as Cook. They faced the struggling Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers who possess a lack of talent at the position aside from Chargers TE Hunter Henry. But even he has been poor recently.
The Patriots also have suspect linebackers in their nickel package with Kyle Van Noy (46.6 Pro Football Focus coverage grade) and Elandon Roberts (49.1 coverage grade). Consequently, Cook should be able to get open anytime one of the linebackers are matched up on him leading to a big day once again for the tight end.
Start: TE Rob Gronkowski
The Raiders’ defense has not faired well against the tight end position. And unlike New England, there has not been a noticeable improvement over the season.
The defense has been giving up close to 55 yards per game to the position and gave up 84 yards and one touchdown to Julius Thomas in Miami.
With the best quarterback tight end duo in the NFL up next, Rob Gronkowski should be able to feast on the slow linebackers like NaVorro Bowman and the smaller safeties like Karl Joseph.
Raider Nation will have to hope that rookie Obi Melifonwu bursts on to the scene by playing a copious number of flawless snaps, but that seems far fetched for even the most optimistic fan.
And yes, there are probably many more players that are worth starting in this game, but we don’t have unlimited time to get through every player on the Patriots’ roster.
Sit: WR Amari Cooper
Getting a read on Amari Cooper is tough. Part of me thinks he could have a jaw-dropping outing like he did against the Chiefs as Sunday’s game is a must-win on a huge international stage.
However, Belichick knows that he can’t let Cooper get any confidence as he is talented enough to single handedly win some games. If Cooper or Michael Crabtree don’t go off with a monster day, it is hard to imagine a victory for Oakland.
Therefore, it’d be logical to think that Belichick will always have safety help over the top on Cooper to make sure he doesn’t make any game changing plays.
If Cooper isn’t catching the ball 20+ yards down the field, he isn’t going to be a top fantasy option.
Sit: Any defense
Based on everything that was said above, Sunday’s game will be a shootout. So don’t play either defense.
If anyone is starting the Raiders defense at any point this season, they must not take fantasy seriously. Same with New England after their historically poor start to the 2017 NFL season.
Marshawn Lynch was also not mentioned, but he is a sit for the rest of the season.