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Disaster Recovery Week 10: James White's Bad Flight

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds.

This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be covering one dud per week. There will be two major qualifiers: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player must be considered a must-start in most formats.

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Rankings System

I'll also be implementing a new panic meter ranking system this year. It goes as follows:

  1. This week was a fluke. Don't panic!
  2. I still have full faith in this player, but there are some red flags. Be cautiously optimistic moving forward.
  3. There are genuine concerns here. Consider selling on name value, but don't panic too much unless you receive an offer you can't refuse.
  4. This player will not be the player you expected him to be. Regardless, his value may be too low to trade, and his ceiling is going to be better than anything you can get in return. Panic, but hold tight.
  5. Absolutely abandon ship. We're not coming back from this.

Week 10 saw the Patriots struggle to do much of anything against the Titans. Running back James White was one of the most notable duds of the afternoon.


No Flight White

James White's Week 10 stat-line: one rush for a loss of five yards along with five receptions for 31 yards on eight targets.

Bad News Brady

The Patriots were absolutely destroyed by an uninspiring Titans squad on Sunday. Tom Brady struggled mightily. The Patriots were without Rob Gronkowski, but it's not like Gronk has been producing at a high-level this season.

New England has truly had an odd season. They're 7-3 with a win over Kansas City, and yet they've been decimated by the Lions, Jaguars, and now the Titans. A game like this doesn't bode well for anyone on the New England offense. The only Patriot to score on Sunday was fullback James Develin.

What's unfortunate for fantasy owners about these rough Patriot performances is that we can't really see them coming. Did anyone expect Tom Brady to struggle against the Lions defense? Of course not. The Patriots have an easy schedule coming up, but who knows what games they will show up and what games they won't. You can't judge this team based on strength of schedule. They've shown it doesn't matter.

It's Always Sony In New England

James White scored three rushing touchdowns in the two weeks Sony Michel was sidelined with an injury. Neither did much of anything this week. Michel takes the bulk of the goal line carries when he's healthy, but does that necessarily mean he has a negative impact on James White?

Let's examine Weeks 4-6, where Michel emerged as a true option in New England's offense. During that stretch, Michel tallied 16 total red zone carries and scored on three of them. White snagged 11 total red zone touches in this stretch, scoring two receiving touchdowns.

In the six games where Michel was either injured or not a major factor in the offense, White touched the ball 19 times in the red zone and scored seven touchdowns. This includes five total touchdowns against Chicago, Buffalo, and Green Bay, the three recent games where Michel was inactive.

So to answer the question: Michel's presence has a negative effect on White, but not a big one. White averaged 93 total yards and a touchdown in the same stretch where Michel averaged 109 total yards 1.3 touchdowns per game. They can co-exist together, even if it hurts White's touchdown ceiling slightly.

Tracking for Takeoff?

Tools in the Shed

It's no accident that White's best game of the year came in a game that Sony Michel and Rob Gronkowski sat. The Patriots have a ton of tools to play with on offense. When some of them are in the shop, the other ones get put to use more.

This week was a prime example of what happens when an offense with a ton of weapons breaks down. When the system is failing, not everyone is going to eat. White and Michel were the ones to suffer mightily this week, even without Gronk on the field. The Patriots will have to find a way to put the ball back in the end zone. Tom Brady has only thrown one touchdown pass in his last three games. With Michel back to take the goal line carries, White is going to have to get Brady to throw a few more touchdowns in the coming weeks.

Panic Meter: 2.5/5

Even with a regressing Tom Brady, this Patriots offense is too good to fall apart. Josh Gordon and Sony Michel are getting better and more comfortable with every game they play. Julian Edelman is smoothing himself back into the NFL flow. Gronk has struggled, but he's always a threat whenever he's on the field.

Then there's White, who's been a symbol of consistency and reliability this season. White has had at least seven targets and five receptions in each of his last seven games. He had over 70 total yards in his last six games before this week's dud. Brady is going to need his safety valve down the stretch this season.

The presumptive lack of touchdowns may start to be a concern. If Brady's not throwing touchdowns and Michel is healthy, White isn't going to score. He's not going to get many red zone carries when Michel is healthy. He needs these passing touchdowns. Betting on White for the rest of the season is partially a bet in Tom Brady. I don't feel great about betting on a 41-year-old Tom Brady, but I am certainly not betting against him. 2.5 sounds like the right level of panic.

What To Watch For

How the red zone possessions shake out for New England when they return from their bye. Look to see who's on the field between White and Michel. See who actually touches the ball when they're out there. And most importantly, watch to see if Tom Brady looks like his former self after a week of rest. White needs it.

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