New England heads to Kansas City for the first half of a Monday Night Football doubleheader without their starting quarterback, Cam Newton, after Newton tested positive for COVID-19. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are hot off of handily dismantling the vaunted Baltimore Ravens in Week 3.
New England Patriots
Brian Hoyer “is expected to start” — although no one should put it past Bill Belichick to pull a last minute stunt and insert Jarrett Stidham into the starting lineup. Hoyer, the longtime veteran has shown well from time to time, making spot starts for seven different teams through his 12-year career. The Chiefs’ run defense has continued its perennial water treading this year, allowing the 7th-most rushing yards through three contests. With New England’s backfield suddenly at full health, it’s likely Hoyer’s attempts are less frequent than one might expect in a projected shootout. He’s a back-end QB2.
When Hoyer does let it fly, slot receiver Julian Edelman is likely to be the heavy favorite for targets. In fact, it’s possible he’s the only receiver to see meaningful work. Bank on Edelman as a flex option with back-end WR2 upside as Hoyer’s go-to. Outside of Edelman, it’s tough to bet on receivers like N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd, who have shown little chemistry with non-Cam Newton passers. Consider the two as just boom/bust flex options with Harry a little more likely to succeed. His big-bodied frame offers tight end-like usage as a secondary, tough-to-miss pass catcher.
There are no fantasy-relevant tight ends on the roster.
Update 10/5/20: Sony Michel has been ruled out and placed on IR. Rex Burkhead is now flex-relevant as the best bet to lead the team in carries. Damein Harris could sap some of his value though.
The Patriots’ backfield is a fantasy minefield—someone is going to blow up, but deciphering who is the trick. The team’s typical alpha is pass catching specialist James White, who missed the last two games (personal reasons) but resumed practicing this week and is expected back in action in this AFC battle. Savvy veteran running back, Rex Burkhead, showed he’s still got “it”, dismantling the Raiders defense last week by leading the team in targets and scoring three touchdowns. His fantasy viability has been thrown into disarray with White’s return though. The best bet is that White resumes his 1A backfield role, but Burkhead may have earned high single-digit touches after last week’s showing. Treat White as a high-end flex option with serious upside in PPR formats. Burkhead is a boom/bust flex option with an albeit solid match-up.
Rushing-only backs Sony Michel and rookie J.J. Taylor should handle the bulk of the backfield’s run game work with Michel the sound favorite for carries. Taylor has looked great in his brief action with the Patriots but he hasn’t beaten out Michel yet. A 12-15-touch day for Michel and a 5-7-touch day for Taylor is a reasonable expectation. Flex Michel.
Kansas City Chiefs
In Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 and 2019 games against the Patriots, Mahomes produced both sterling and lackluster results, making this a tough game to predict. The Patriots’ defensive performance is as much due to coaching as it is to personnel, and although they did lose a number of defenders to COVID opt-outs, they’re still a top notch unit. Mahomes has a scheme-boost of his own though, as evidenced by his performance against the Ravens’ frightful defense last week. He remains fantasy’s overall QB1.
The means by which the young gunslinger makes his mark though may vary as his top target, Travis Kelce, is in for a very tough outing. In the two aforementioned dates against New England, the best line the tight end was able to put together was just seven catches for 66 yards. Given that both Mike Gesicki (Week 1) and Darren Waller (Week 3) were almost completely shut down, there’s little question as to what Bill Belichick aims to do on Monday night. Kelce is still a TE1 due to his team and usage, but we can’t expect a ceiling game in this one.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill will be moved around the formation but will no doubt see a healthy dose of coverage from lock-down cornerback Stephon Gilmore but .5PPR’s WR5 can’t be dropped outside of the Top 12. Stick with Hill as a WR1.
Expect Sammy Watkins to keep running cardio this week, sporadically getting involved, but not enough to warrant a start.
Mecole Hardman quenched some thirst last week, smashing Baltimore on a beautifully designed deep ball. Unfortunately, he was still out-snapped by No. 3 WR Demarcus Robinson. Hardman is a fine bench stash in most situations and if in dire straits, an understandable Hail Mary flex start. Robinson is not a viable fantasy asset at the moment.
Rookie running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, has ended all of the backfield controversy that he entered the year with, producing .5PPR RB13 results through three weeks by putting a snap-gulf between him and No. 2 back, Darrel Williams. His high-end usage coupled with the Pats’ zeroing in on TE Travis Kelce sets the table for CEH to possibly see a season-high target share. He’s the overall RB9 this week.