Last updated: January 2nd at 9:45am ET
Team Totals: Patriots 24.5, Titans 19.5
Back from his balky hamstring, Derrick Henry parlayed Week 16’s rest game into season highs in carries (32), rushing yards (211), and touchdowns (3) versus the Texans in last week’s playoffs-sealing win and emerged as the NFL’s rushing leader. The Big Dog now catches a Patriots team whose run defense has stiffened lately, permitting a combined 100/356/0 (3.56 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs over its last five games. Henry’s usage remains secure – he’s averaging 21.4 touches per game and hasn’t dipped below 19 since November 3 – while Tennessee’s odds of pulling off Saturday’s upset look real against the offensively-challenged Patriots. Mike Vrabel’s team destroyed New England 34-10 in Week 10 of 2018, likely enhancing confidence in an ordinarily imposing spot. Henry hit pay dirt twice in that game.
Ryan Tannehill is a tougher Week 18 fantasy sell with colossal difference-maker A.J. Brown likely to be draped in Stephon Gilmore’s coverage, Tennessee’s passing-game weapons limited beyond Brown, and Titans-Patriots projected as a relatively low-scoring affair. Tannehill hasn’t faced a single AFC East team during his ten-game hot run as Tennessee’s season savior. But Bill Belichick has taken on Tannehill eleven times, holding him to a combined 4-7 record, 15:11 TD-to-INT ratio, 60.1% completion rate, and 7.35 yards per attempt, marks all way below Tannehill’s Titans numbers (7-3, 22:6, 70.3%, 9.6 YPA).
Tannehill’s 2019 target distribution: A.J. Brown 62; Corey Davis 46; Jonnu Smith 37; Tajae Sharpe 25; Adam Humphries and Anthony Firkser 24; Dion Lewis 16; Henry 13; Kalif Raymond 12; MyCole Pruitt 7. … Even after DeVante Parker (8/137/0) revealed that Gilmore is human in Miami’s Week 17 upset of New England, there’s no doubt this is Brown’s toughest NFL matchup to date, rendering him a boom-bust selection in both playoffs-only fantasy leagues and Wild Card DFS formats. … Davis was a decidedly pedestrian 2019 producer with just two touchdowns and two games above 60 yards all season, yet Gilmore’s probable shadow coverage of Brown and Davis’ historical ownership of New England give him some sleeper life. Albeit in a miniscule sample, Davis has shredded the Pats for stat lines of 5/63/2 and 7/125/1 in two career meetings. … Sharpe is operating as Tennessee’s primary slot receiver, where Cole Beasley (7/108/0, 7/75/0), Golden Tate (6/102/1), Randall Cobb (4/86/0), JuJu Smith-Schuster (6/78/0), Jarvis Landry (5/65/0), Kenny Stills (3/61/1), and Albert Wilson (5/59/0) have given the Pats fits. Sharpe is a replacement-level talent with an unexciting role, but he’s worthy of deep punt-play mention on a four-game DFS slate. … Highly athletic but utilized inconsistently in Tennessee’s passing attack, Smith is always a high-variance investment. Smith ran only three more routes (13) than Firkser (10) in Week 17. Pruitt logged a 52% snap rate and vultured both on a one-yard second-quarter score against Houston.
Even beneath dyed-dark hair to make himself look younger, Tom Brady played his least-accurate game of the season in New England’s Week 17 loss to Miami. Trust factor low with his receivers while nursing his own throwing-elbow woes, Brady struggled to locate his delivery and is averaging an abysmal 6.01 yards per attempt over his last ten games. The good news is Tennessee struggles to create pressure – DC Dean Pees’ unit ranks 27th in QB Hit Rate (13.4%) and can be picked apart in the short passing game, yielding the NFL’s tenth-highest completion rate (64.5%), which is Brady’s bread and butter. Still short on upside and catching a hot stretch-run first-round opponent, Brady is a contrarian DFS- and playoffs-tournament pick whose fantasy appeal is tied to New England’s history rather than his own 2019 play. … Sony Michel enters Week 18 following consecutive touch counts of 20 > 22 > 18, albeit with just three receptions over his last six games. In theory, Tennessee’s allowance of the NFL’s third-most running back catches (101) should set up James White and Rex Burkhead for expanded matchup-based roles. Ultimately, the three-man nature of New England’s backfield renders each member a low-floor fantasy dart throw against the Titans and beyond. Each back does seem certain to go low owned across formats.
Brady’s Weeks 13-17 target distribution: Julian Edelman 41; White 30; Mohamed Sanu 24; N’Keal Harry 16; Jakobi Meyers 13; Phillip Dorsett 12; Matt LaCosse 10; Burkhead 9; Ben Watson 8; Michel 6. … Knee and shoulder injuries have seemed extremely debilitating to Edelman, who hasn’t hit pay dirt or cleared 75 yards since Week 14. In theory, Edelman’s quickness and option-route dominance give him an edge on physical Titans slot CB Logan Ryan. I’m just not sold Edelman will have those qualities at his Week 18 disposal. … Sanu’s box-score results have been abysmal, but he’s topped 80% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps in three straight games and drawn five-plus targets in all three. Last week was the best Sanu has looked physically since he arrived from Atlanta. With Edelman more hobbled at this stage, Sanu is a viable opportunity-based DFS-tournament gamble. … Harry has yet to clear 30 yards in an NFL game, but the Pats are continually trying to get him going with five rushing attempts over the past three weeks and a season-high seven targets in Week 17. Harry offers long-shot breakout appeal against Tennessee’s injury-depleted and limited-talent perimeter pass coverage. … Dorsett supplied a brief offensive spark on last week’s 50-yard bomb against the Dolphins, but it wound up as his lone catch of the game. He’s been demoted along with Meyers into No. 4 and 5 receiver roles behind Edelman, Sanu, and Harry.
Score Prediction: Titans 21, Patriots 20