Championship Round team fantasy preview: Patriots
What should never be forgotten about Julian Edelman is that he ended his college days at Kent State as a quarterback, not a sure-handed slot receiver. The fact that he's become Tom Brady's go-to target says lots about Edelman's development, but also the turnover in New England even since last season. Starting since New England's comeback win over Denver in Week 12, the 5-foot-10 receiver has caught at least six passes in each game. His most prolific outing in that span came against the Broncos with nine grabs for 110 yards and two scores.
Everything Edelman has become, essentially Wes Welker 2.0, is what the Patriots hoped they would be getting when they added Danny Amendola this offseason. Injuries derailed those hopes, but it's not as if Brady has many other options these days. Amendola hauled in a 53-yarder in last week's win over the Colts. That play alone far surpassed his 3-17 performance in Week 12 versus the Broncos. He'll have a chance for a potent fantasy outing if the Patriots are forced to throw lots in the second half.
Kenbrell Thompkins (concussion) and Aaron Dobson (foot) are both iffy to play this week. If that designation sounds familiar, that's because both rookies have been in-and-out of the lineup for weeks with various ailments. Thompkins went for 6-56 in the previous meeting with the Broncos, but hasn't caught a pass since Week 13 or scored since Week 6.
The real sneaky play in the Patriots passing game could be tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Granted, he only has 12 receptions on the season, but the Broncos rank 27th versus TEs during the regular season.
Predicting the Patriots running back from week-to-week is migraine inducing. That said, LeGarrette Blount has certainly proven lead back worthy in recent weeks, including last week's 166 yards and four scores on 24 carries against Indianapolis. That said, the ex-Buc only played on 26 of 73 snaps according to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, with Shane Vereen receiving 24 and Stevan Ridley 23. When he's on the field, Blount gets touches. In a game where a primary goal will be to keep Peyton Manning off the field, Blount is the Pats back to use this week.
Now, make me pick the second RB and this week I'd lean Vereen even though he had just 33 yards on five touches last week. He had eight receptions for 60 yards plus another 31 on the ground against the Broncos in the prior matchup. With the Patriots limited in their receiving targets, having the best pass-catching play pick up extra snaps seems logical.
Ridley is no mere third wheel and should spell, if not split the rushing attempts with Blount.