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Ravens vs. Patriots: Fantasy Football Preview

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In-depth breakdown of all the viable fantasy football options for this week’s matchup

The Baltimore Ravens welcome the New England Patriots in a marquee match up of AFC contenders. The Patriots are playing lights out on the back of their league leading defense, but they will face their stiffest test of the season with the Ravens number two ranked offense. It will be a hostile environment under the lights in a game that is shaping up to be the best of the NFL season thus far. Below is a breakdown of all fantasy football viable options in this Sunday Night Football showdown.

Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson

The last time we saw Jackson he was knifing through the Seattle Seahawks defense on his way to delivering a pivotal road victory. It was the signature moment in Jackson's young career as he put to bed the narrative that he was only able to beat up on inferior teams. He was electric all afternoon, but really turned it on in the second half when he put the team on his back and took a 4th and 2 quarterback sneak to the end zone, giving them a lead that would not be relinquished. This is the type of rushing upside that has made Jackson a fantasy football cheat-code and the number one overall scorer at the quarterback position. This week he will get his first taste of a home prime time game as the undefeated Patriots bring their number one ranked defense to M&T Bank Stadium. The Patriots defense has been suffocating for opposing quarterbacks, but the list of them is underwhelming to say the least. Jackson will pose the biggest threat thus far and could exploit one of the few weak spots of their defense – speed. The Patriots defense isn’t built to counter the speed of Jackson and Bill Belichick defenses have historically struggled with mobile quarterbacks. On the other hand, Belichick has never lost to a first- or second-year quarterback, so what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Let’s just say it’s going to make for some must watch television. Jackson remains locked in as a QB1 with every week upside to finish as the top scorer at the position.

Tom Brady

Brady, or the “GOAT of all GOATs” as Jackson referred to him in his weekly presser, finds himself in the familiar prime time spotlight. The Patriots offense has been less than spectacular, and Brady is working with his least talented position groups in recent memory. Although the Ravens defense struggled early, they have found their groove in recent weeks and look to be a much more formidable unit. There were a lot of moving parts in the off season and the group clearly needed some time to gel. In addition to Marcus Peters, the secondary will be welcoming back Jimmy Smith in what should only continue to strengthen this budding unit. Teams have not found success running the football on the Ravens, aside from the lone game in which Brandon Williams missed due to injury. The unit up front is a brick wall and will not make running it easy for New England. Brady will need to find success through the air and with question marks on the Ravens pass rush they will need to find ways to rattle Brady early. Getting the ball out early has been the kryptonite for the Ravens defense which has also translated to low sack numbers. With the additions to the secondary it will be key for the coverage to be tight off the line of scrimmage to give the pass rush a chance to get home. Brady should have enough volume in the passing game to justify him as a low-end QB1 in a hostile road environment.

Running backs

Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill

Over the past three weeks, Ingram has seen both his carries and yardage drop off as he has taken a backseat to the workhorse role in favor of… The quarterback. This is surely not how the Ravens want to operate their offense moving forward, with Ingram being the focal point of the run game with the threat of Jackson mixed in. Although he has seen over 16 carries in only two games this season, Ingram is still the clear lead back and will be relied on heavy down the stretch. As teams attempt to limit Jackson’s damage on the ground, it will open more opportunities for Ingram to impact the game. The Patriots have yet to allow a rushing touchdown on the season and in previous weeks where Ingram doesn’t find the end zone, he has finished with under 10 fantasy points. Although we have recently seen Jackson take over games with his legs, the Patriots defense will be game planning to take that away, which should mean a bigger role for Ingram. The Ravens will need long, sustained drives in order to walk away with a victory and Ingram’s grind it out style will play a big part in the offensive success on Sunday Night. He is a bit touchdown dependent to reach his ceiling but should see enough volume to have him safely in the RB2 conversation.

When you play the Patriots, it’s important to set the tone early by coming out and punching them in the mouth. When you can out-physical New England, they are a beatable team. Enter the Ravens sledgehammer, Gus Edwards. He is sure to get some opportunities to spell Ingram as a physical presence that can wear down a defense. Edwards has looked exceptional on very limited touches this year but unfortunately does not carry any fantasy upside in his current role. He remains one of the most valuable handcuffs to own.

Will this be the game the Ravens decide to unleash a game plan that favors Justice Hill? The Patriots lack in team speed and after two weeks of preparation, expect to see some new wrinkles in the offense. Utilizing Hill to counter the Patriots cover-zero blitz and get him in one on one situations with a linebacker would be good use of his dynamic speed and play-making ability. Hill is my sleeper of the week to post RB2 numbers primarily in the passing game. If he is available in your league, now could be your chance to pick him up before it’s too late.

Sony Michel, James White

In the fantasy world, no team has a more frustrating backfield than the Patriots. Loaded with talent, you simply don’t know who they plan on riding any given week. Michel has been the most frustrating as he has not been an efficient runner thus far in 2019. He has become rather touchdown dependent and has not found success running the ball north to south, too often bouncing it outside to make something out of nothing. The Patriots offensive line is banged up and will be going against the third ranked run defense in the league who allows a stingy 84.3 yards per game. Michel will be a risky play in this match up as a touchdown dependent, boom or bust RB3/FLEX option.

With the revamped secondary and stingy run defense, this could be a game where we see Tom Brady lean heavily on passes to James White out of the backfield. Averaging 8.2 targets per game over the last five games, White finds all his fantasy value through the passing game in an area the Patriots could look to expose the Ravens defense. If Michel struggles early and the Ravens secondary makes it tough to throw the ball, the game script can quickly flip into White’s favor, making him an intriguing RB2 option albeit a risky low floor.

Wide Receivers

Marquise Brown, Willie Snead

The Ravens will welcome back Hollywood Brown from a foot injury with open arms. In his absence, the offense has survived but clearly missed his big play threat on the field. The offense is clearly limited when he is not in the lineup as we have seen Jackson forced to do more with his legs without the threat of the pass. The last time we saw Hollywood, he rose up on Steelers corner Joe Haden for an impressive touchdown. That was on October 6th, so it’s been nearly a month since his last game action and he will surely need time to get back in the groove and find his rhythm in the passing game. To make matters worse, he will be going up against the number one ranked secondary in football and will likely see shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore. This makes him nothing more than a low-end WR3/FLEX option who posses the skill set to make his fantasy day with just one big play.

After signing a one-year, $6 million-dollar extension this past week, Snead is now firmly in the team’s future plans. So far in 2019, he’s the only receiver outside of Brown who’s averaging at least three targets per game at 3.1 per game. If there is an area the Patriots secondary has struggled this season it would be against slot receivers where Snead works primarily in the offense. Although he possesses low weekly upside, this is a match up that may be favorable for him if Brown is neutralized on the outside. He is nothing more than a streamer, but if you are desperate with receivers on bye-weeks, Snead is an intriguing option as a safety blanket for Lamar Jackson.

Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett

The Patriots have a lot of new faces in their receiving room, but one constant has remained and that is Julian Edelman. The chemistry between him and Brady is undeniable and the timing on their routes is second to none. He has seen 11 targets in the last three games and will need all that volume going against a revamped secondary in Baltimore. With the addition of Marcus Peters and the return of Jimmy Smith, this should allow for Marlon Humphrey to shadow Edelman, even when he goes into the slot. Humphrey has excelled in this role in recent weeks, holding both Tyler Boyd and Tyler Lockett to low fantasy outputs. Edelman will see his targets but what he does with them remains a big question mark in this less than ideal match up. Play him as you normally would as a WR2 but realize that this will be one of the tougher match ups he faces this season.

It’s tough to tell how Sanu will be deployed in the Patriots offense on a weekly basis and was eased into action in his first game with the team. Look for them to ramp up his workload as he’s had another week of practice under him but will be heading into a tough match up against the loaded Ravens secondary. If Edelman gets Humphrey, that doesn’t mean Sanu will be out of the doghouse as he will get a heavy dose of Peters and Smith. This is not the week to insert Sanu into your lineups, although the time may be coming soon. Remain in wait and see mode and let him prove it on the field before trusting him in fantasy lineups.

With the release of Josh Gordon, Dorsett is expected to take on a bigger role as the outside deep threat to Tom Brady. As previously discussed, he will get the balance of either Peters or Smith for most of the night, making it a less than ideal match up. Out of all the Patriots receivers, I believe Dorsett may hold the most upside as he is the most likely to be targeted over the top, an area where Peters has struggled in the past. Still, this could just as easily be a game where he only catches a couple balls and isn’t involved heavily, making him a risky WR4 or emergency FLEX option.

Tight Ends

Mark Andrews

Coming off the worst game of his professional career, Andrews will look to bounce back in a big way in front of the home crowd. Last week was an anomaly and shouldn’t be looked upon further than a down week for the second-year stud. He remains Jackson’s favorite target which was evident in Seattle despite the drop issues. With the Patriots secondary playing great, the tight ends will need to be featured heavily if they want to have success passing the football. Although the Patriots defense has not let up more than three catches to any tight ends this season, their competition has been very sub-par and they haven’t faced anyone to the caliber of Andrews. The Ravens desperately need to start finishing drives with touchdowns and this is an area where Andrews should be heavily featured. He is an every week TE1, even in a tough match up.

Ben Watson

The Ravens are familiar with Watson after his brief stint with the team and will now be charged with stopping him as Brady’s new top tight end target. With a bad match up to their wide receivers, this could be a game where Watson is more heavily utilized after coming off a one-target performance against the Browns. The Ravens aren’t particularly stout in stopping tight ends and if the other levels of the defense are producing, this will be the area Brady looks to expose. He is a decent streamer option in this match up and being tied to Tom Brady never brings any downside.