With the halfway point of the season now behind us, it's to no one's surprise that the New England Patriots sit atop the AFC East. Although their 6-3 record is tops in their division, it's the worst from all first place teams in the entire AFC. While Denver, Baltimore and Indianapolis have winning streaks of two or more games, New England has lost their last two, after winning four straight. Now is the time for the Pats to shine and to prove that they are better than they have shown at the start of the second half of the season. The Patriots aren't quite out of the Super Bowl hunt just yet, but they very well may be if they don't start putting it all together. The key focus: Tom Brady and the passing game.
With the departure of wideout Deion Branch, the Patriots were forced to rely on former San Diego Chargers starter Reche Caldwell. His was not a huge acquisition by any means but good enough to balance out a team that loves to start three- and four-receiver sets more than any other team in the league.
Officially listed on the depth chart as the No. 1 wide receiver, Caldwell remained extremely quite over the first five games of the season. During that time, he totaled only 10 receptions, 118 yards receiving and zero touchdowns. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is known for spreading the ball around, and from week to week, his favorite receivers will undoubtedly change. One week it's Doug Gabriel, who was acquired from the Oakland Raiders after Branch was traded; one week it's Troy Brown, the next, tight end Benjamin Watson. Lately, however, it's been all Caldwell.
Apparently, Caldwell treated Brady to an all-you-can eat at Tony Roma's (not to be confused with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo) on their Week 6 bye. Brady reciprocated by getting Caldwell more heavily involved in the offense. Over the last four games, Caldwell has been targeted most among all New England wideouts, with 33 attempts, or 13 percent of the plays. He's also the most active receiver when the Patriots visit the red zone, accounting for seven attempts or 14 percent of the plays.
Over the next four games, Brady and the Patriots have two games which should be great from a fantasy perspective and to where owners should cool their expectations. The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions should be giving up a ton of yards, as well as points to the Patriots wideouts. Caldwell in particular could come away with some very impressive numbers in those two matchups.
In Week 11, the Patriots visit Lambeau Field, and football fans should expect to see a game with a lot of passing. The Packers are giving up the second most yards through the air with 242 and the eighth most points with 24.1. Weeks 12 and 14 will be tougher on the Patriots, as they face stout defenses that play the pass very well, Chicago and Miami. Week 13 is the other matchup where the Patriots and the passing game should prevail. The Detroit Lions came out in Week 1 and opened everyone's eyes by holding defending NFC champions, the Seattle Seahawks, to a measly nine points. Since, they have been anything but impressive, giving up an average of 215 yards through the air and 24.7 points per game.
Brady has ever-growing confidence in Caldwell. Of all New England receivers,
he is the safest bet to put up consistent numbers for the remainder of the season. Caldwell
is a solid pickup and should be owned in all fantasy league formats going forward.
About Greg Elyea
Greg has been with KFFL since 2006.
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