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Sunday Night Football Takeaways

Patriots tame the Broncos

Bailey Zappe is trying to keep his job and the Patriots as far away from a quality quarterback pick in next year’s draft with their win over the Broncos. The game started out slow, which didn’t come as a huge surprise given how good both defenses have been, but the game did become quite the barn burner over the second half.

Quarterbacks (against Patriots: Unfavorable) | (against Broncos: Neutral):

It looked as if it was going to be a long night for Bailey Zappe, who started off the game with a fumble. Zappe made some big throws on the night, but also had a plethora of dinks and dunks to Demario Douglas and Ezekiel Elliott. Zappe wasn’t the only quarterback to put the ball on the ground. Russell Wilson also fumbled, but he did it twice, with the Broncos recovering both of them. He should have had an interception on the night as well when he threw a pick basically straight to the defender, who elevated for it, then landed hard on his back, losing possession of the interception. It was a long night for Russ though, as he was constantly under pressure from the Patriots, who sacked him five times. The last time he was sacked more than five times was in Week 8. Russ also made sure to throw touchdowns to players no one was starting in the semi-finals of the playoffs. Overall, they both did better than expected given their matchups.

Running Backs (against Patriots: Unfavorable) | (against Broncos: Neutral):

It helps that Rhamondre Stevenson has been out, but in his absences, which also lined up with Zappe taking over as the starter, Ezekiel Elliott has been getting targeted a ton. Through Weeks 13 to 15, when Zappe took over, Zeke already had the most targets of any running back in during that span. On Sunday night, he comes out against the Broncos and grabs another nine receptions on 11 targets. Extremely inefficient on the ground, but you get a decent return on your investment through the air. Zeke looked like old Zeke, hurdling a defender on his way to the end zone for a receiving touchdown. It’s worth noting that Kevin Harris got some early runs in the game, but he’s not worth a roster spot in redraft leagues.

Speaking of being inefficient, Javonte Williams still doesn’t look like his old self before the ACL/LCL surgery. On the Broncos’ opening drive after the Zappe turnover, Javonte got three cracks at the end zone but couldn’t pound it in. He was able to find the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the year later in the game. Javonte also coughed up a fumble. It’s been a tough matchup and an even tougher season for Javonte. Hopefully you’ve got better options to pivot to, but if not, his Week 17 matchup versus the Chargers is favorable. I’d much rather talk about Jaleel McLaughlin. Every time he touches the ball, it looks as if he’s getting shot out of a cannon. He certainly passes the eyeball test. He reminds me of a slightly slower version of Ravens’ running back Keaton Mitchell.

Wide Receivers (against Patriots: Neutral) | (against Broncos: Unfavorable):

I was excited by what I saw from Demario Douglas and DeVante Parker. Douglas was eating up the receptions close to the line of scrimmage, outside his massive 41 yard grab. Parker, who is a great at contested catches, had a nice one against one of the best corners in the league, Patrick Surtain, for 30 yards. It was nice seeing the receivers get used where this skill set is utilized. We also had Jalen Reagor and Tyquan Thornton sightings. Yes, they are still as fast as ever. No, you shouldn’t add either one. If you're starting one receiver from the Patriots, it should be Douglas.

Courtland Sutton laid a donut in the playoffs due to a concussion early in the game. Although it doesn’t make the sting of a zero feel any better, Sutton almost has a nice 40 yard grab on a 50-50 ball. Most of the time, he comes down with those, but this one narrowly missed him. Coming into the week, he had a touchdown in every game except four. If he clears concussion protocol, he’s got a better matchup in Week 17, and I’d feel comfortable starting him still. Sutton’s injury opened the door for Brandon Johnson, who showed some flashes early in the season and snagged a touchdown and two point conversion in Sutton’s absence. It could also mean an uptick in work for Jerry Jeudy and Marvin Mims. Mims showed flashes when he was actually used, however, he’s mainly been delegated to kick and punt return duties. He lost a costly scoop-and-score fumble, but most of his utilization was after that, which is a good sign from the coaching staff that they still wanted to get him involved and he wasn’t in the dog house. Mims rewarded them with an impressive diving catch for 47 yards later. Ideally, you’re avoiding all Denver receivers not named Sutton in championship week, but if you’re desperate and need upside, Mims and Johnson would be sneaky plays in very deep leagues and daily fantasy sports (DFS) as they play out wide like Sutton.

Tight Ends (against Patriots: Unfavorable) | (against Broncos: Favorable):

With Hunter Henry out, Mike Gesicki found the end zone, but him and Pharaoh Brown couldn’t replicate what Henry was doing. Wait for Henry to return before starting any Patriots’ tight ends.

Put a finger down if you’ve heard this name before, Lucas Krull. Didn’t think so. He looked okay, but he’s not someone you’re looking at starting or rostering in any type of league.

Risers: Brandon Johnson, Marvin Mims, Jaleel McLaughlin, Ezekiel Elliott

Fallers: Courtland Sutton

—Colt Williams

Williams is working towards a degree in economics and statistics at Sonoma State. A United States Air Force veteran, he’s been playing fantasy football since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @_ColtWilliams

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