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Week 8 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchup Analysis

Man, I was hoping this would be the season where someone would knock the (5-2) New England Patriots off the AFC East throne... It's not. They're on their way to their 10th-straight division title and when they defeat the (2-5) Buffalo Bills on Monday night, it'll be nothing more than an assertion of continued dominance over their sons.

New England has won 28 of the 31 regular season matchups against Buffalo with Tom Brady at the helm, and this 90.3% win rate is Brady's highest against any opponent he's faced more than five times. (In case you were wondering, he's faced the Falcons and Bears exactly five times with a 5-0 record against both.) Thing is, the 251.5 passing yards per game he's averaged against Buffalo are good for his eighth-fewest versus any team... Should we be concerned? I mean, he is on the road where he's averaged just 214.7 passing yards per game versus the 308 he's put up at Foxborough.

Let's take a few minutes to answer that question and break down the rest of the meaningful fantasy football matchups from this Week 8 Monday Night Football showdown.

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New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

Date and Start Time: Monday, October 29th at 8:15 p.m. EST
Game Spread: NE -14
Over/Under: 44
Notable Injuries and Status:

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (per game):

Patriots Bills
Passing Yards 14th 32nd
Rushing Yards 13th 19th
Pass Defense 25th 4th
Run Defense 21st 16th


Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

Tom Brady (QB, NE)

Let's go ahead and answer the question on whether we should be concerned with Brady this week right off the bat with a resounding, kiiinda.

Despite facing Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck -- all of which rank in the Top-15 in terms of passing yards per game -- at 210.1, Buffalo has held opposing quarterbacks to the fourth-fewest passing yards per game. (They also faced Deshaun Watson who sits at No. 16.) Buffalo has faced the QB gauntlet and has come out (almost) completely unscathed. I say almost because while the Bills have yet to allow a 300-yard passer, three of the seven starting QBs have tossed three or more touchdown passes against them - the 13 passing TDs they've allowed on the season are tied for the eighth-most. And, combining Brady sitting fourth having thrown 16 passing TDs this season with Sony Michel missing Wednesday's practice (he's questionable), you have to figure Brady has pretty solid odds at making it four of eight.

James White (RB, NE)

The fact that White gets just 5.71 carries per game on average yet is a Top-10 fantasy running back in standard scoring should tell you everything you need to know. His 24.4% target share not only leads the Patriots, but it also leads all backs and is good for 15th among all wide receivers - higher than Tyreek Hill, Juju Smith-Schuster, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Evans... You get the point. He's a must-start regardless, but if Michel can't go, oh boy.

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)

I know, I know... He hasn't found the end zone since Week 1 and appears to be a shadow of the Gronk we've come to know and revere. He's still a mutant, though, and quietly, his 67.5 receiving yards per game are good for the fourth-most among tight ends. Remember all that stuff about the Bills allowing a flock of passing TDs? Well, the three they've allowed to opposing TEs are tied for the seventh-most and Gronk has managed three Top-10 fantasy weeks even without any TD production. Given the dearth of options at the position this season, if he plays, start him.


Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Derek Anderson (QB, BUF)


Chris Ivory/LeSean McCoy (RB, BUF)

The Bills offensive line has been okay -- in terms of run blocking metrics -- but both of these backs have averaged less than four yards per carry, they've combined for just one touchdown (Ivory), they're both averaging less than 55 yards from scrimmage, they're splitting the touches almost equally, both are banged up and questionable to play, there's a good chance the Bills fall behind forcing them to abandon the run, they play in the least prolific scoring offense in the league... Do I really need to continue here?

Josh Gordon (WR, NE)

I imagine Gordon will draw Tre'Davious White in this one, and if that winds up being the case, no thanks. For one, Brady is not the type of QB who is going to force feed him the ball if it's not there. Secondly, it's not likely to be there. T.Y. Hilton caught just four passes for 25 yards in Week 7 (although he did add two TDs with one coming with White in coverage), DeAndre Hopkins went five for 63 in Week 6 (he also added a TD), it took 14 targets for Davante Adams to catch eight for 81 in Week 4, Stefon Diggs went four for 17 in Week 3... There's a rather long track record which suggests White should be avoided at all costs, if possible.


Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Kenjon Barner (RB, NE)

I type this under the premise of Michel not playing. Obviously, his status changes everything but Barner saw 10 carries after Michel went down on Sunday and while his 3.6 yards per carry left a lot to be desired, he'd be in line to see a gang of work by default.

Solid Option - Kelvin Benjamin (WR, BUF)

Four receptions, 71 yards. This was Benjamin's line in Week 7. Not only did his game against the Colts mark the first time he's gone over 50 yards receiving on the season, but both the four receptions and 71 yards are team-highs at the receiver position on the year. Wow. Yes, that's shameful, but looking at the positive side of things I can't help but notice his best game of the season came with Anderson under center. Now, I'm not one to overreact to one game, but Anderson will be handling the quarterbacking duties again this week and a matchup against the Patriots secondary doesn't differ much from the Colts they saw a week ago - logic suggests he may see similar production. Don't get too carried away here but there's definitely a case to be made for Benjamin receiving WR3 consideration this week.

Solid Option - Julian Edelman (WR, NE)

Edelman has averaged eight targets in his three games since returning to the lineup, and while he hasn't been overly productive with them, Josh Gordon will likely be dealing with Tre'Davious White all evening so I won't be surprised to see him surpass double-digit targets in this one. He's also found the end zone in two-straight games.

Solid Option - Chris Hogan (WR, NE)

Neither the return of Julian Edelman or addition of Josh Gordon has extinguished Hogan's fantasy value, and like Edelman, he figures to benefit should Gordon be shadowed by White.

Sleeper - Marcus Murphy (RB, BUF)

If McCoy and Ivory can't go, Murphy will be the starting running back for the Bills. Not that that means much, but I guess there's a chance he stumbles upon a touchdown.

Sleeper - Charles Clay (TE, BUF)

Clay has gone all Patrick Swayze on us this season, but he's received five targets in back-to-back games now and could benefit from the QB change should Anderson find a way to shake off the rust. This isn't as much about Clay as it is the Patriots inability to stop tight ends, though, so technically it could be Logan Thomas or even Jason Croom here. In any case, the five touchdowns New England has allowed to TEs are the most in the league and while Eric Ebron and Trey Burton are a different caliber weapon than Clay, Erik Swoope also managed to find the end zone against them; it does not appear that they discriminate.

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