Week 12 fantasy football: A method to Bill Belichick's madness
By BRYAN RUBIN
College Contributor Network
Week 12 will officially commence the Jonas Gray era in fantasy football after his breakout performance on Sunday Night Football against Indianapolis. His play warranted him the No. 1 waiver claim across the majority of leagues this week. But like an Insomnia Cookies box at 1 A.M., will it end up being worth it?
With the Patriots' backfield, you never know what you're going to get, similar to a teacher who has somehow remained incognito on Rate My Professor. They may be easy, or they may end up being your worst nightmare. It's a complete toss up.
In New England, one week it's Shane Vereen, the next it's Brandon Bolden out of nowhere and then when you're least expecting it, it's Gray, an undrafted third-year pro with three career games played, stealing the spotlight.
And then there is always Stevan Ridley, who you draft because this is the year he finally breaks out despite the fact he will always be average and injured. Something inevitable. Like graduating college. Which is why you party late on Tuesday nights and take advantage of your last years of freedom.
But before you hail Gray as your savior who will lead you to the promised land, what if I told you there was a method to Bill Belichick's madness even when he's not "on to Cincinnati"? (Disclaimer: Belichick press conferences are almost as interesting as Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, which are almost as interesting as finance homework, which probably is another reason behind those long Tuesday nights.)
In Week 8, Chicago fronted the 16th-best pass defense (which was a complete disgrace to anyone who has ever made a successful tackle before) and the fifth-worst rush defense. So, the Patriots gave Gray 17 carries for 86 yards and won the game 51-23.
In Week 9, Denver had the second-best run defense in the league and the 15th-rated pass defense. So, the Patriots let Brady throw 53 times for 333 yards and four touchdowns, beating the Broncos 43-21.
And coming into Week 11, Indianapolis owned the 11th-best pass defense, but also the ninth-worst run defense. So as you saw, the Patriots gave Gray 37 carries for 201 yards and four touchdowns. The Pats won 42-20.
As you can see, it's all about match-ups and Belichick is known for exploiting them. In every game except one this season, the starting Patriots running back has had 15-plus carries when they play a team with a much lower-rated run defense than pass defense.
So what does this mean for ya' boy Gray going forward with the fantasy football playoffs right around the corner?
Looking at the next five games for the Pats, which will take you up to the fantasy football Week 16 championship, there are only two solid match-ups that will stand out to Belichick.
The first is Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau. While you'd probably assume a shootout, you should also expect the Patriots to want to control the clock and keep Rodgers off the field. Ranked 12th against the pass, but just 23rd against the run, Green Bay should expect Gray to carry the workload for Belichick's ground attack.
Then in Week 16, the Patriots host the division-contending Miami Dolphins in Foxborough. Miami is ranked first in passing defense and 16th against the run. Expect Gray to rack up the carries in that game as well.
In New England's other three games against Detroit, San Diego and the New York Jets, each team possesses a more formidable rush defense than pass defense, labeling Gray a "proceed with caution" fantasy starter.
I'm not here to tell you that you shouldn't have added Jonas Gray, because if you had a high enough claim, of course he should have been deemed worthy of your cause. But I'm also here to tell you to keep an eye on his match-ups before you coin him a 'must start.'
Because if there is one thing that has become apparent about Bill Belichick, it's that he salivates at match-ups. And hopefully he's as hungry on game days the rest of the season as you are to win a fantasy football championship. Because if Jonas Gray is going to keep it up, he's needs to be fed the football.
Bryan Rubin is a senior at Syracuse University. He once ate Chipotle three times in one day and woke up at 3:46 a.m. on a Wednesday morning to make a roster move to his fantasy football team (while his friends were sleeping) to avoid wasting his No. 1 waiver claim. Follow him on Twitter: @bryan_rubin