Last updated: December 10th at 9:25pm ET.

 

Team Totals: Patriots 25, Bengals 16

Losers of three of their last five with anemic point totals of 16 > 22 > 13 > 17 > 20 during that span, the Patriots will try to kickstart their bumbling offense in Week 15’s road trip to Cincy. The Bengals’ defense has been no pushover lately – allowing offensive points totals of 17 (Raiders), 16 (Steelers), 6 (Jets), and 20 (Browns) in their last four games – and Tom Brady has top-12 fantasy scores in just one of his last six starts. He’s still a fringe season-long starter at best. … Vanishing from even flex usability, Sony Michel enters Week 15 with 12 touches or fewer in four of his last five games and a total of 16 receiving yards since Week 6. He’s a touchdown-or-bust Hail Mary at this point. The Patriots have shown a consistent willingness to abandon Michel, even when he runs well early. … Comeback game script in losses to Houston and Kansas City played a big role, but James White operated as New England’s clear Weeks 13-14 lead back on touch counts of 22 and 11 with Michel and Rex Burkhead taking firm backseats. In a three-man backfield on what’s consistently been a low-scoring team struggling mightily for production in its pass-catcher corps, White’s receiving skills make him the Pats’ best bet for running back results.

Brady’s Weeks 13-14 target distribution: Julian Edelman 23; White 18; Jakobi Meyers 10; Phillip Dorsett 8; Mohamed Sanu and Matt LaCosse 6; Ben Watson 4; Burkhead and N’Keal Harry 2; Michel 1. … New England’s lone pass catcher with any real fantasy appeal at this stage, Edelman has drawn double-digit targets in eight straight games, banking 89-plus yards and/or a touchdown in seven of them. Matchups are irrelevant for Edelman on that kind of usage. He’s an every-week WR1. … No other Patriots wideout or tight end topped four targets in last week’s loss to Kansas City, nor did they deserve to. This is how routes run were distributed: Edelman 39; Meyers 27; Dorsett 23; LaCosse 22; Sanu 21; Watson 16; Harry 2. … Meyers continues to look like the Patriots’ second-best wideout bet and is popping in Week 15’s Buy Low Air Yards Model. … Nonetheless, this passing offense needs to continue to revolve around White and Edelman with New England’s ancillary pieces struggling for separation, dropping passes, and drawing Brady’s weekly sideline ire.

The Patriots’ fantasy D/ST scoring has unsurprisingly tailed off against better offenses lately, but this is a rebound opportunity. Eight of the last ten defenses to face Cincinnati tallied top-ten fantasy weeks, including six top-six scores. The Bengals have failed to top 23 points in a game all year. … Andy Dalton is a poor two-QB-league play without a fantasy finish over QB15 since Week 7, especially against a Patriots defense allowing the NFL’s fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Dalton has a 6:7 TD-to-INT ratio and is averaging a middling 252.3 passing yards over his last seven starts. … Although Joe Mixon’s playing time frustratingly fell from 80% in Week 13 to 59% in last Sunday’s loss to Cleveland, Mixon totaled 100-plus yards and/or scored a touchdown for the sixth time in his last seven games and is averaging 23 touches since Cincy’s Week 9 bye. Mixon is a bet-on-talent, bet-on-volume RB1 play against a Pats run defense that has stiffened lately, limiting enemy backs to 82/279/0 (3.40 YPC) rushing over its last four games.

Dalton’s Weeks 13-14 target distribution: Tyler Boyd 16; Auden Tate 11; Alex Erickson 9; C.J. Uzomah 8; Tyler Eifert 6; Giovani Bernard 5; Mixon 4; John Ross 3. … Boyd enters Week 15 with five-plus catches in six of his last seven games and 60-plus yards and/or a touchdown in seven of Dalton’s ten starts. Fellow slot WRs Golden Tate (6/102/1), Randall Cobb (4/86/0), JuJu Smith-Schuster (6/78/0), Cole Beasley (7/75/0), Jarvis Landry (5/65/0), and Kenny Stills (3/61/1) have exposed leaks in New England’s interior coverage, where Boyd runs 66% of his routes. … Erickson operated as Cincinnati’s No. 2 receiver in last week’s loss, leading the Bengals in targets (7) and running only four fewer routes (34) than Boyd (38). Yet Erickson has cleared 50 yards twice all year and is scoreless since November of 2017. Nevertheless, I’m leaving the light on for Erickson to outkick Week 15 box-score expectations based on his usage and appearance in Week 15’s Buy Low Air Yards Model. … In Ross’ return from his Week 4 collarbone injury, he shared time almost evenly with Tate before Tate suffered a year-ending MCL injury. Ross figures to ascend to No. 3 duties this week, and hopefully the Bengals’ No. 2 wideout role by Week 16 against the Dolphins. I’m just not buying into Ross yet with Stephon Gilmore’s coverage looming. … Eifert showed signs of Week 14 life with a 4/49/0 stat line on 23 routes – his most since Week 8 – but Eifert drew only those four targets against the Browns, and he continued to play under 50% of Cincy’s offensive snaps. He long ago settled in as a low-floor TE2.

Score Prediction: Patriots 20, Bengals 10