By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
An AFC showdown! The winner of this game could very well go on to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Or the loser could. Hell, they could both end up in the AFC Championship game against each other. Who knows?
The Houston Texans have one of the best defense in the conference. J.J. Watt is playing well but he’s not even the best player on his own defense at the moment. Guys like Jadeveon Clowney (finally, right?), John Simon (team-leading 2.5 sacks) and Whitney Mercilus (2 sacks) are providing lots of help and giving the offense a chance to put up some points.
By now, you’ve heard wide receiver Will Fuller’s name a few times. The Texans’ first round pick this year has burst onto the scene with 2 straight 100-yard receiving games. His strong start is just making it harder for defenses to double team DeAndre Hopkins. This duo is putting themselves square into the debate of best 1-2 punches in the NFL.
Free agent signee Lamar Miller has been productive, although not the kind of productive fantasy owners would prefer. He’s done damage via volume, rushing for 189 yards through 2 games, but averaging only 3.6 yards a carry. If Hopkins and Fuller keep putting up the stats they are putting up, running lanes will only get bigger for Miller. I don’t know if that happens this week, but you’re starting him because you know the volume will be there. Message to Bill O’Brien: will you please get Miller the ball in space? He does his best work outside the tackles where he can use his speed and agility to make people miss. Just a suggestion.
On the opposite sideline, Patriots head coach Bill Bellichick is likely to be starting his third string quarterback against the Texans. Rookie Jacoby Brissett came in to finish their game versus the Dolphins when Jimmy Garoppolo sprained the AC Joint in his right shoulder. Brissett kept it simple with a lot of check downs and dump offs, and with a short week to prepare for the Texans, I’m thinking there will be a lot of the same. Clearly you’re not throwing Brissett into your starting lineups unless you’re in a 2-QB league, and even then, I’m saying a few prayers. I would expect a lot of short throws to WR Julian Edelman and TE Martellus Bennett, and we may even get a legitimate game from RB James White, a popular fantasy pickup after Dion Lewis suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery. But my favorite Patriot this week? LeGarrette Blount. Two things help out young quarterbacks: a solid running game (Blount) and tight ends (Bennett).
I think what most fantasy owners want to know though is whether or not star TE Rob Gronkowski will finally suit up in Week 3. As of this writing, he’s listed as questionable for this game but if he plays, I think he’s a top 10 option (ranked 9th), albeit not one I’m overly confident on. If he doesn’t play, Martellus Bennett, who I currently have ranked 15th, jumps up to 7. If I’m Bellichick, I keep Gronk out, as you have 10 days to prep and rest Gronk for week 4, and hamstring issues tend to linger. Fantasy owners everywhere want him healthy when Brady is back in, not doing average work with a rookie QB.