Of course, there are a couple players you may have to play as a flex just because of where they were drafted. New England doesn’t end up being much better based on how well they spread their production around though. Not the best game to bet your fantasy livelihood on this week.
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: Edelman may be the safest bet among any fantasy players in this game. He is questionable going into the game, but he has been active the past few weeks with the same injuries. He has had double digit targets in his past eight games. He currently has 90 catches and just over 1,000 yards on the season, and the next player on the list is James White with 62 catches and 539 yards.
I don’t think he ends up having the day many fantasy experts are talking about him having based on Cooper Kupp’s huge game in Week 8. That was before Darqueze Dennard was back in the lineup and this defense got its coverage figured out. He should still have a very nice day though.
Patriots defense: New England’s defense has been one of the best in the NFL this season when they aren’t facing offenses like the Ravens, Texans or Chiefs. The Bengals obviously aren’t in that same tier. Andy Dalton looked more like his 0-8 self at times last week against the Browns rather than his 1-0 form against the Jets. It will only take one or two inaccurate throws for the Patriots’ defense to pay off for fantasy players.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: The other receiving threats outside of Edelman are a bit too risky to consider. Why? Because Brady does such a good job at spread the rest of the targets around. Why isn’t Brady considered a must start? Well he hasn’t had one of his more dominant seasons in the stat department. He only has six games with two or more touchdowns, and only three of those games he actually reached three touchdowns.
Brady should be in line for a solid game with at least 250 passing yards, but his day will be decided by if he can get a multi touchdown game.
Good but not great
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: Mixon has been finishing the year strong after being unplayable early in the season, and his is coming off the best rushing performance of his career. The reason he drops so far after that is because the Patriots allow the fewest points per game to opposing running backs in fantasy, according to Fantasy Pros. New England is smart enough to realize their best bet at winning is taking Mixon out of the game and forcing Dalton to beat them. By volume alone, you can probably talk yourself into Mixon being a flex, but if you have a better option, do not hesitate to bench Mixon.
Patriots RBs: You are looking at two quality running backs in Sony Michel and James White. The only problem is each is used in a very one-dimensional way. Michel is more of the ground and pound back while White is second on the team in catches. It seems to depend on the flow of the game who will be the guy to play, but even if this game goes one dimensional in either direction Michel only has two games with over 100 total yards and White only has one. You’re throwing a dart at the board and even if you hit you’re looking at an RB2 worthy game (realistically).
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: Boyd is a really good player, but between being attached to Dalton and not having many players around him to take the attention away from him, he is going to have a rough time against this secondary. This defense only allows 14.2 points to opposing wide receivers per game. If it wasn’t for the possible volume of targets Boyd could see, he would be bench worthy in fantasy. Right now he is a flex option.
John Ross and Alex Erickson, WRs, Bengals: Piggy backing off the logic of New England trying to take Boyd and Mixon out of the game, that leaves room for one of these two to have a flex worthy game. Ross has that homerun threat that has more of a chance when so much attention will be payed to those other guys, but he still has the chance of being a bust like last week in his return. It also doesn’t help that he showed up on the injury report this week. Erickson has a chemistry with Dalton that people just don’t like to talk about for some reason. He had five catches for 45 yards last week, and he could be a nice flex option in deeper PPR leagues.
Just sit them
Patriots WRs: We are talking about Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and rookie N’Keal Harry. Again, you are throwing a dart at the board for a who will produce. Except this time you’re getting a WR3 or flex value play if you’re right. This is the fatasy playoffs, and trying to trust one of these guys seems silly considering they probably don’t even know who is more likely to end up having a bigger day.
Bengals defense: It has been fun watching this defense really come together and put together performances that are capable of leading to winning football. They just have not been great in fantasy that much over that time, and you especially can’t trust them against the Patriots who are usually very good about picking apart defenses.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: It was fun getting excited about Dalton’s return and getting the win, but that magic is gone. The loss of wide receiver Auden Tate for the season will hurt more than people think. Dalton loves tossing up passes for receivers with a large catch radius. Now Boyd is the closest thing he hast to that (since Tyler Eifert just isn’t used nearly enough). It is just hard to recommend Dalton this week.