Tom Brady is back, and you know what that means: Start your Patriots.
Granted, you would have needed a deep lineup to consider wide receiver Chris Hogan on Sunday. He was started in 12 percent of ESPN leagues. And any apprehension about starting tight end Martellus Bennett was understandable given the rapport between Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Bennett was started in 58 percent of leagues.
But those who didn’t start their Patriots were reminded of what Brady can do for his teammates’ fantasy prospects. Hogan, who broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Bills in 2012, caught four passes for 114 yards against the Browns. Bennett, who was viewed as the No. 2 tight end behind Gronkowski, appears to be No. 1A after catching six passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns.
Hogan should be viewed as a WR3, if only because of Brady’s ability to spread the ball around. But Hogan has upside as a deep threat. He had receptions of 43 and 63 yards Sunday. As for Bennett, it appears he’ll excel in two-tight-end sets as defenses try to account for him and Gronkowski. It’s rare for two tight ends from the same team to be start-worthy, but that’s the case here.
Brady didn’t forget about his regular contributors. Receiver Julian Edelman had a team-high 10 targets, though he caught only five for 35 yards. Gronkowski turned seven targets into five catches for 109 yards. And after Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman were second and third, respectively, in snaps among skill-position players. Gronkowski (65) had 10 more than Bennett and Edelman (59) had 10 more than Hogan.
The only player who figures to take a hit with Brady back is running back LaGarrett Blount. The Patriots leaned on him during Brady’s four-game suspension, but Brady passed 40 times in the 20-point victory Sunday. Still, Blount scored the first touchdown on a one-yard run, and though his carries and yardage won’t be as plentiful, he’ll get his share of scoring chances. Consider him an RB2.
James White is the running back whose stock rises with Brady, especially in PPR leagues. He had a season-high 63 receiving yards and saw more snaps than Blount, 38-31. He’s tied for 10th in catches among rushers with 17. He’s a flex play.
Brady’s return coincides with a soft part of the schedule. He saw the Browns’ 29th-ranked defense last week. Next week, he’ll face a Bengals defense that has allowed the sixth-most touchdown passes (11). Then he’ll see the Steelers, who rank 30th in pass defense. He might be the top quarterback play each week.
Which only enhances the value of his teammates.
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WEEK 6 OUTLOOK
Byes: Vikings, Buccaneers.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota: He’s coming off a 30-point outing, and three of his next four games are against teams with bottom-eight defenses (Browns, Colts, Chargers).
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles: His workload should increase, and he has a schedule to exploit. He gets the Raiders (No. 27 run defense) and Saints (No. 26) next.
Jets RB Matt Forte: That’s three consecutive games with single-digit scoring. Plus, backfield mate Bilal Powell is playing a bigger role in the passing game.
Giants QB Eli Manning: Through five games last season, he had a 10-2 TD-INT ratio. Through five games this season, it’s 5-4.
Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin: The Falcons rank 26th in pass defense and have the fifth-highest opposing completion percentage.
Texans RB Lamar Miller: I called him a dud last week, but he’ll be a stud this week against the Colts, who have allowed the third-most RB points per game.
Redskins RB Matt Jones: He followed up a 19-point game with a three-pointer, and now he gets the Eagles, who have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards to RBs.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers: The Broncos rank third in pass defense and lead the league in sacks. Rivers hasn’t thrown for 300 yards against them since the 2010 season.