Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.
Patriots 35 – Giants 14
Snap Notes: Sony Michel: 50% (+1% vs. last weeks’ season high), Jakobi Meyers: 70% (+7% vs. previous season high), Gunner Olszewski: 61% (+52% vs. previous season high), Josh Gordon: 32% (injured), Ryan Izzo: 98% (+30% vs. previous season high), Matt LaCosse: 18% (injured, -76% vs. last week’s his season high), Golden Tate: 98% (+32% vs. last week’s debut), Darius Slayton: 98% (+33% vs. last week’s season high)
Key Stat: Darius Slayton — 156 air yards
There wasn’t a ton of offense in a game that featured two defensive touchdowns as well as a blocked-punt score. And for what offense there was, it was a game of depth. The Giants came in without their three best offensive players plus their backup running back, while the Patriots came in without Rex Burkhead and Phillip Dorsett plus lost Josh Gordon and Matt LaCosse in the first half.
For the second game in a row, the Patriots utilized Sony Michel heavily in their first 15 plays, including motioning him out and throwing to him in the flat on the game’s second play. But whether it was related or not, Michel getting more work in the passing game coincided with no green-zone work. Coming into Week 6, Michel was tied with Mark Ingram for a league-leading 13 green-zone touches — an important part of his Fantasy value — but despite 24 touches and 113 yards on Thursday night, it was Brandon Bolden who got the two green zone rush attempts and a short touchdown.
Tom Brady also tried a whopping four quarterback sneaks from the goal line throughout the night, scoring on two. I mentioned in Signals something I’d talked about this offseason: “Because Brady sneaks a lot and the Patriots also incorporate players like James Develin — who had four touchdowns last year — in close, I’ve never really bought into Michel’s touchdown upside.” Develin’s hurt now, so it was Bolden, but the data behind this note is that while LeGarrette Blount’s 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 are the dream for Michel, the reality is that in the other four seasons over the past five years, no Patriot has rushed for more than six scores. Next it will be James White getting green zone looks after the Patriots complete a pass inside the 5 and hurry up to the line to prevent the defense from subbing, the type of situation that helped White to five rushing scores of his own last year.
Still, Michel’s been used in the green zone a bunch, and his receiving role is expanding, both of which are positive signs. It just feels like both of those roles are very tenuous.
Without Gordon, Brady predictably locked on to Julian Edelman and White. Edelman’s 15-9-113 line featured a few more downfield looks than usual but was otherwise very typical, while White’s 9-9-46 was all short dump-offs. Jakobi Meyers got in on the act, as did Gunner Olszewski. Olszewski’s punt return and deep receiving role reminds a lot of how Edelman started to emerge back when Wes Welker was still on the roster, and Olszewski’s probably worth consideration in deeper PPR dynasty leagues considering Edelman’s age and health history. Meyers is probably already owned in those types of leagues, but if Gordon’s injury is serious — and it unfortunately looked like it might be — he projects to get plenty of time on the outside while speculation about the Patriots trading for every disgruntled receiver in the league inevitably ramps up.
Ryan Izzo also saw four targets as the last tight end on the roster after LaCosse went down on the game’s seventh snap, but as I noted last week when he caught a touchdown, he ran just seven routes in that Week 5 game. LaCosse did return and play eight more snaps, and unless he was just gutting that out and will be out for an extended period, Izzo’s probably not worth chasing for Fantasy.
Also, the Patriots DST now has five return touchdowns for the season. I’ve both seen work and done my own that suggests return touchdowns are very random, and this is far from the first time we’ve seen a DST unit get off to this type of start and seem like a lock to score every week. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great unit for Fantasy, and the Patriots will likely lead and be in position to rack up sacks and turnovers in many future games. But you can’t expect this level of production the rest of the season, so if your team is reliant on the Patriots DST and has holes elsewhere, consider taking advantage of one of the rare times there’s probably legitimate trade value in a DST.
The Giants’ passing game flowed through Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and Rhett Ellison, which was essentially to be expected. Tate had the big play, a 64-yard touchdown that featured about 25 air yards and almost 40 after the catch. As exciting as it was, and though Tate did see a few more downfield shots, the rest of his 9-6-102-1 line was five catches for 38 receiving yards, meaning without that play he was mostly the same underneath PPR-only option.
Slayton is actually the more intriguing option to me, as he played a full set of snaps and racked up 156 air yards on his eight targets, continuing his role as a vertical threat despite lackluster efficiency that resulted in only a 3-36 receiving line.
Ellison saw seven targets — four on the final drive after the game was decided — and has no value when Evan Engram returns. Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny split the rushing work and also have no value as one or perhaps both of Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman should be back for Week 7.
Signal: Darius Slayton — looks locked into a deep role
Noise: Golden Tate — looked good, but was very reliant on the one big play even with Shepard and Engram out; Patriots DST — five return touchdowns to date; Patriots — green zone opportunity (the signal is that it’s difficult to predict)
Friday news and notes
- Davante Adams told reporters Thursday, “I can’t really tell you when I’m going to play,” and appears likely to miss Week 6 and perhaps more games beyond that with his injured toe.
- Ian Rapoport reported there is optimism Tyreek Hill will play Week 6. Sammy Watkins hasn’t practiced yet this week and is unlikely to suit up, but if Hill is active that would likely push Byron Pringle back to a reserve role. Depending how much time Watkins misses, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman have had their window of value extended, but eventually one or perhaps both will lose snaps when Hill and Watkins are both active. Based on usage in recent weeks, it seems Robinson has the leg up on Hardman to potentially maintain a full-time role, but it’s very possible they split those third-receiver snaps.
- Todd Gurley remained sidelined Thursday, and it’s starting to look like the Rams will hold him out of Week 6. That wouldn’t be too surprising after he racked up his two highest snap counts of the season in a five-day span last week. Sean McVay has discussed Darrell Henderson this week, and based on offseason comments about his ability as a receiver, I think there’s a decent chance he gets a reasonable number of high-value touches this week, assuming Gurley is out. His floor will be low, but he’s an interesting boom-or-bust option for deeper leagues or large-field DFS GPPs, especially in PPR formats.
- We’ve seen several other lead running backs on injury reports this week. Christian McCaffrey‘s status appears to be maintenance related, and he doesn’t appear in jeopardy to miss Week 6. Alvin Kamara was added to the Thursday injury report with an ankle injury that not much is known about, but his also doesn’t seem to be a major concern. David Johnson is closer to Todd Gurley on the spectrum where the commentary about his back injury seem a little more concerning. We’ll have to monitor all of these situations heading into the weekend.
- Christian Kirk has been practicing this week and appears likely to return Week 6 after missing just one game with an ankle injury. Kirk has seen solid volume so far this year, averaging 9.25 targets and 79 air yards, and gets a solid matchup with the Falcons. Reports on his health leading up to Sunday will be key, but if he’s looking like a full go, he’s a solid option.
- Both Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders were upgraded to full on Thursday’s practice report, and the Broncos will have their top two receivers Sunday.
- After missing Week 5 with a concussion, Jamaal Williams has been practicing in full ahead of Week 6. If he returns, it could put a dent in Aaron Jones‘ huge workload over the past two weeks, but it’s possible the Packers will ease him back in, especially considering how productive Jones has been. You have to start Jones after what he did Week 6, but this is a fluid situation.
- Gardner Minshew was added to the injury report Thursday with what is reportedly “minor groin soreness.” It seems unlikely he’d miss Week 6.
- Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said tight end O.J. Howard’s “time is coming.” I might be the last person holding out hope here, but Howard’s been inefficient thus far in 2019, a stark change from his first two seasons which were among the most efficient starts to a career for a tight end in league history. Even though he’s sharing routes with Cameron Brate and Chris Godwin‘s emergence has limited available opportunity, Howard can do a lot with a little, and in the current tight end climate, he’s more worth rostering than the current perception of him would indicate.