The New England Patriots were hoping that at least Danny Amendola or Rob Gronkowski would play this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. There were conflicting reports all week long about each player’s availability, a daily back and forth that’s finally come to an end as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier that neither player traveled with the team to Atlanta. Their absence is a major blow to a Patriots team trying to jump ahead in their division, but more importantly for us, it carries significant fantasy implications.
The player obviously affected the most by this is Tom Brady, who will have to make do without his two most talented weapons for yet another week. Brady has been missing the two badly; he’s put up pedestrian numbers that have sent him plummeting from his usual grace, down near the bottom of the fantasy QB ranks. To add some perspective to that, he’s not even in the top 20 at the position. The Falcons’ secondary is beatable, but Brady’s success will hinge less on that and more on his ability to get on the same page with his receivers. He’s struggled to do that, evidenced by his 79.4 QB rating. He should still be serviceable Sunday night, but don’t expect any godly numbers from him.
Julian Edelman will be the primary beneficiary of Gronkowski and Amendola’s absence. Being the only active receiver Brady has more than three games of experience throwing to, and he’s been a target monster. He’s tied with Julio Jones for the league-lead in receptions with 27 and Brady’s looked for him a whopping 34 times. He’ll continue to rack up the catches on Sunday night, but the issue with him is that he doesn’t do all that much after the catch; he’s only managed to turn his 27 receptions into 201 yards. His value is certainly bolstered in PPR leagues, but even in standard leagues he’ll be a solid WR2 option this week.
The other two who will continue to see the field are rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. The duo struggled with routes and drops early on, but they started to show improvement last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who actually have a strong secondary. Thompkins had three receptions for 41 yards and two TDs and Dobson caught seven of his 10 targets for 52 yards. Granted, the numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they would have been better if the Patriots hadn’t been winning by such a large margin. There’s a strong chance they won’t be in the same position against the Falcons, meaning Brady should have to throw well into the late stages of the game.
Brady is really the only Patriot who stands to lose from the situation. The other three will all benefit from additional playing time and are viable plays in fantasy this week. The rookies certainly carry risk, but if you’re in a bye-week bind, don’t hesitate to send them to war.