Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

Prediction: DEN 23, NE 31 (Line: NE by 7)

Players to Watch: Willis McGahee

Player Updated: Rob Gronkowski

This is like hearing your favorite song played by the wrong band.

The old Brady vs. Manning takes on an entirely new look. The 2-2 Broncos head to New England to face the 2-2 Patriots. Both are disappointed with their current standing though more so for the Pats who naturally assume to dominate the AFC East.The Patriots beat the Broncos twice last year, winning 41-23 at home in week 15 and then 45-10 in New England during the playoffs. But this game has a completely different slant on it with Peyton Manning on the Broncos.

Denver Broncos
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT 31-19 10 @CAR -----
2 @ATL 21-27 11 SD -----
3 HOU 25-31 12 @KC -----
4 OAK 37-6 13 TB -----
5 @NE ----- 14 @OAK -----
6 @SD ----- 15 @BAL -----
7 BYE ----- 16 CLE -----
8 NO ----- 17 KC -----
9 @CIN ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
DEN @ NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 300,2
RB Ronnie Hillman 10 2-10
WR Emmanuel Sanders 2-30
WR Demaryius Thomas 6-80,1
WR Wes Welker 7-90
TE Jacob Tamme 4-40,1

Pregame Notes: If Manning does nothing else, at last he stomped on the Raiders in Denver and that alone justified his salary. Now comes a rough part of the schedule with two road games in New England and San Diego after the Broncos are only 0-1 away from Denver. Manning is getting more productive lately but then again he is generating more game tape on what Manning in Denver is all about. So far he has scored in every week and currently has eight touchdowns against three interceptions. All of those picks were in the one road game.

The rushing effort has been solid with Willis McGahee who fell short only against the Texans because they gave him just 12 carries. He gained over 100 yards and scored on both the Falcons and the Raiders. Notable too were the six catches he made last Sunday. McGahee can help maintain good fantasy numbers with that sort of reception work but it was only one game. Over his first three match-ups, McGahee only totaled three receptions for 17 yards. His stock goes up a tick with another game of being used out of the backfield.

Manning is making good use of his two main wideouts. Demaryius Thomas has just one off game but otherwise has been good for 100 yards and/or a touchdown. Thomas account4ed for eight receptions for 78 yards and one score in the only other road game. Eric Decker remains the possession play and he finally scored when the Raiders visited last week. Decker too has been a solid play with at least 50 yards per week. Impressive too was when the Broncos faced the Texans and Decker came through with eight receptions for 136 yards. Brandon Stokley tosses in two or three catches per week but is a fantasy nonfactor.

Jacob Tamme is the preferred tight end and gets the most targets and catches but the last two weeks have seen Joel Dreessen catch a score. That's mostly just Manning hitting the open guy.

This is only the second road game for the PMannings and the first one did not go so well. But Atlanta has a much better defense than the Patriots. Then again - the Pats are at home after their loss to the Cardinals in the only other game there. The Manning angle has to play at least a minor role here. Mostly - both teams are 2-2 and not liking it.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 13 11 7 11 16 20
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 26 17 21 30 8 2

QB Peyton Manning, DEN OAK 0000028020 ****
Manning's average outing against Oakland the past two seasons is 326 and 4--and he actually bettered those numbers with 340 and 5 in the earlier matchup this season. There may not be a reason for Manning to stick around for the full game to compile such numbers, but you can bet the Broncos want him back on track for the postseason so he'll get enough reps to fill your fantasy passion bucket.
RB C.J. Anderson, DEN OAK 12023100000 ***
Anderson blew up the Raiders by land and air in the previous meeting, amassing 163 combo yards and a touchdown on just 17 touches. He may cede a few looks to Ronnie Hillman to get the former starter some game action before the postseason, but not before doing more than enough to help your fantasy squad.
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN OAK 0081201000 ***
Thomas is averaging more than 100 yards per game in his last five meetings with the Raiders, including 11-108 earlier this year. He's only scored in one of those games, however, so he's no lock to help you in a TD-heavy league. That yardage, though, is more than enough of a performance-league cushion.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN OAK 005701000 ***
Sanders scored against Oakland in 2013 as a Steeler; he scored twice against them earlier this season as a Bronco. No reason to think he won't put up another fantasy helper here.
Update: Sanders was limited all week with a hip injury and is officially listed as questionable. He may make an early exit from this tilt should the Broncos take a commanding lead early on.
TE Julius Thomas, DEN OAK 004500000 ***
Thomas' 6-63-2 kicked off a stretch in which the Raiders allowed six TE TDs in a seven-game span. Julius hasn't scored or topped 35 yards since, but the favorable matchup and a need to shake off rust before the postseason starts suggest he'll be at least a viable fantasy option this week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Connor Barth, DEN OAK 1144 ***
Barth's at least good for six points; every kicker to face the Raiders has produced at least that number. And with Peyton Manning struggling, maybe he has another of those five field goal games, which he's done in half his outings as a Bronco.

New England Patriots
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TEN 34-13 10 BUF -----
2 ARI 18-20 11 IND -----
3 @BAL 30-31 12 @NYJ -----
4 @BUF 52-28 13 @MIA -----
5 DEN ----- 14 HOU -----
6 @SEA ----- 15 SF -----
7 NYJ ----- 16 @JAC -----
8 @STL ----- 17 MIA -----
9 BYE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NE vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 300,3
RB Brandon Bolden 20
RB Stevan Ridley 60,1 2-10
WR Danny Amendola 6-80,1
WR Brandon LaFell 3-40
TE Rob Gronkowski 8-80,1
PK Stephen Gostkowski 1 FG 4 XP

Pregame Notes: The Patriots come off a thrashing of the Bills after losing two games and falling to 1-2. The only problem with believing in that is that the Pats beat the Bills. That is like going down the street and beating up your younger cousin for the 20th time. Yeah, what does that prove? The Pats lost in Baltimore by one point and were held off at home by the Cards. That has to motivate the Patriots but a fair question is "how did that happen in the first place?" Sure, the loss in Baltimore was on the road and against a good team. But at home against the Cardinals. The Pats need to win big here if only to make themselves feel better.

Brady is still cranking out the 300 yard games but was light on touchdowns until posting three passing scores and one rushing touchdown on the Bills last week. That gives Brady eight scores against only one interception this year.He only threw one score against the Ravens and Cardinals but those are very good defenses. All is well in the house of Brady and his fantasy owners can come back in off the ledge.

Brady passed for an insane 363 yards and six touchdowns in the playoff meeting between these teams. He threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in the home meeting with the Broncos during week 15.

The pasting of the Bills included a second big game for Stevan Ridley (22-106, 2 TDs) and also for the rookie Brandon Bolden (16-137, TD). Bolden did have the bulk of his production later in the game including the fourth-quarter touchdown but was given four runs in the first half when it was still very much an even game. Danny Woodhead had no carries in that game and may be replaced now by Bolden as the relief runner but still figures in as a receiver. With the Pats, you know when you know. Otherwise you are just guessing.

Aside from the Ravens game, Rob Gronkowski is just as deadly with a score in three games and over 60 yards in each of those. Aaron Hernandez remains out with his ankle injury but may practice this week and possibly play in week six. The Kellen Winslow experiment only lasted for one catch before he was released.

Brandon Lloyd produced 108 yards on nine catches in the Ravens tilt but then has been right at 60 yards in every other game and has just one touchdown on the year and that came in the point fest at Buffalo. Wes Welker seemed almost phased out of the offense early on in the year but has roared back with 17 catches for 271 yards in just the last two weeks. The offense is hitting top speed again and that is without Hernandez who will rejoin the starters as early as next week.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 7 7 12 1 2 8
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 18 12 18 22 12 12

QB Tom Brady, NE BUF 0000020020 *
Brady's 361 and 4 in the earlier meeting with Buffalo was easily the biggest game they've allowed to an opposing QB--but, ho hum, the eight time Brady has topped 300 yards against Buffalo and the ninth time he's taken them for at least three TDs. In fact, Brady has multiple scoring strikes in 14 of his last 16 against Buffalo, with the only misses being late December games in 2013 (122 and 1 on 24 attempts) and 2009 (115 and 1 on 23 attempts). See what we're getting at here? Brady owns the Bills, but with nothing to play for don't be surprised if he doesn't take his full bite here.
RB Jonas Gray, NE BUF 301000000 *
Gray made it out of Bill Belichick's doghouse last week just long enough to score a touchdown. With LeGarrette Blount likely to sit this one out it's between Gray and Brandon Bolden for carries. You call the coin toss, then Bill Belichick decides to give carries to the back you didn't pick. Good luck with that.
Update: Gray has been ruled out of this week's tilt with an ankle injury. So much for his shot at redemption.
RB Shane Vereen, NE BUF 2002100000 ***
Running backs in general haven't done much against the Bills but especially pass-catching backs haven't done much--and that doesn't bode well for Vereen. Only three backs have topped 31 receiving yards all year against the Bills, only one of them since Week 4, and Buffalo has only allowed one flukey RB receiving score--last week to lightly-used Raider Jamize Olawale. There's also the chance of Bill Belichick turning to his JV for much of this game, so look elsewhere for running back help.
WR Brandon LaFell, NE BUF 004601000 *
It's already tough enough figuring out which defensive flaw Bill Belichick will exploit in any given week; now factor in the possibility of New England resting regulars after getting in a couple quarters of work, and any Patriot becomes a risky fantasy play in Week 17. At least LaFell tallied a couple TDs against the Bills the last time they met, so he has a track record of production against this secondary. Still...
WR Danny Amendola, NE BUF 004500000 ***
No reason for the Patriots to expose Julian Edelman to further injury, which might bean another 11 targets for Amendola. He did enough with that number against a bad Jets secondary last week to at least warrant fantasy consideration here.
WR Julian Edelman, NE BUF 001100000 *
Edelman sat out last week's game due to injury, and there's no need to rush him back to the lineup in this meaningless contest.
TE Rob Gronkowski, NE BUF 004501000 *
Gronk bash Bills. Gronk's 7-94 in earlier meeting first time Gronk no score vs. Bills... ever. Gronk score in three straight. Gronk stick around long enough to get TD vs. Bills D that's allowed only two TE TD all year? Gronk no block on extra points, though.
TE Timothy Wright, NE BUF 004500000 **
Wright scored in the earlier meeting with Buffalo, one of only two TE TDs they've allowed all year. His value here comes if (when?) the Pats pull Rob Gronkowski from the game, encase him in bubble wrap, and put him on the shelf until the playoffs start.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Stephen Gostkowski, NE BUF 1133 **
Gostkowski averages a cool dozen points per game at home and had 13 in Buffalo earlier this year. Assuming the starters put some points on the board in the first half and the backups get him close in the second, it should be another robust outing.

BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

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