New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has caused plenty of pain to fantasy football owners over the years, specifically to those victim to his unpredictable play calls for running backs. Yet this season LeGarrette Blount is on pace for one of New England’s best rushing outputs by any back in three years, and he’s become an even stronger play in weekly leagues with surprise fantasy darling Dion Lewis going down with a torn ACL in Week 9.
With 447 yards and five touchdowns in seven games, Blount’s already surpassed and is on pace to more than double Jonas Gray’s 412 yards from last season, and he could have the best rushing tallies Patriots fans have seen since Stevan Ridley’s 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 and BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1,008 yards and 13 scores in 2010.
Lewis’ injury likely translates into more targets for backs James White or Brandon Bolden, and as seen above it should mean an uptick in the number of touches Blount gets in the second-half of New England’s season.
Just take a look at the largely favorable slate the 28-year-old Blount has to battle for the remainder of 2015.
Over the final eight games of the season, here’s what kind of rushing defenses Blount will face, including their league and fantasy rankings against opposing running backs: at New York Giants (No. 26 in the league, No. 24 in fantasy), Buffalo (No. 5, No. 17), at Denver (No. 4, No. 10), Philadelphia (No. 20, No. 4), at Houston (No, 22, No. 22), Tennessee (No. 16, No. 8), at N.Y. Jets (No. 1, No. 2), at Miami (No. 31, No. 21).
Week 10’s rivalry matchup with the Giants could mean huge numbers for Blount, while the Houston and Miami trips could also mean beaucoup points. The Broncos and Jets might be a wash, but Blount does have the benefit of quarterback Tom Brady’s ability to find receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski anywhere at anytime.
For owners in any fantasy format that will miss Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman or Indianapolis’ Frank Gore, Blount’s an excellent plug-in against a poor Giants rushing D.
Blount makes our top five of running backs to start in weekly leagues, and he’s part of our full Week 10 rankings, complete with breakdowns at each position.
Week 10 byes: Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco
Key players on byes: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons; Julio Jones, WR, Falcons; Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons; Andrew Luck, QB, Colts; Frank Gore, RB, Colts; Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers; Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers; Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers
1.Tom Brady, Patriots
2.Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3.Cam Newton, Panthers
4.Blake Bortles, Jaguars
5.Sam Bradford, Eagles
A Super Bowl isn’t on the line and the Giants are giving up the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this season so Brady’s the safest choice. Rodgers won’t be throwing any Pro Surfaces or making silly mistakes against a Lions D allowing the fourth-most points to passers, while Newton’s matchup against the Titans No. 4 secondary isn’t exactly the best, so Bortles is a solid and out-of-the-box move against the Ravens' hapless pass D. The Bengals Andy Dalton is off because the matchup with Houston’s No. 8 secondary is a little too frightening, but Bradford has the benefit of running backs Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray to draw away Miami’s D.
1.Todd Gurley, Rams
2.LeGarrett Blount, Patriots
3.Adrian Peterson, Vikings
4.Doug Martin, Buccaneers
5.Jeremy Hill, Bengals
Gurley’s again No. 1 and should stay there against a Bears D letting up 4.7 yards per carry through the first eight weeks of the season. Blount jumps over Peterson because the Vikes draw an Oakland D that’s very effective against the run, and Martin gets to mow down a Cowboys D allowing more than 20 points a game to opposing backs.
1.Julian Edelman, Patriots
2.Alshon Jeffery, Bears
3.Dez Bryant, Cowboys
4.Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
5.Antonio Brown, Steelers
Edelman faces the Giants' league-worst secondary, while Jeffery meets a very tough Rams D but has played so well it’s hard to put him any lower. Bryant gets to light up a Bucs secondary letting up the third-most points to opposing wide receivers, and Landry also has a favorable matchup with an Eagles squad allowing nearly 25 points per week to wide outs. Brown’s going to get targets but owners remember too well how he faired without Ben Roethlisberger for four weeks, so proceed with caution.
1.Rob Gronkowksi, Patriots
2.Greg Olsen, Panthers
3.Delanie Walker, Titans
4.Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
5.Gary Barnidge, Browns
Gronk will have Thanksgiving dinner early against a Giants D allowing the second-most points to opposing TEs this season, ahead of only the Raiders who will have to deal with Rudolph. Olsen and Walker stand as their quarterbacks' favorite targets and have favorable matchups this week. Barnidge also gets to pick on a Steelers D coughing up the fourth-most points to TEs.
1.DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers
2.Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
3.Brandin Cooks, Saints
4.Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans
5.Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
Williams has showed all season he can carry Le’Veon Bell’s workload and he’ll get even more touches with Roethlisberger down against Cleveland’s last place rushing D. The matchup is great for Cooks and Drew Brees, and he should rack up catches in PPR formats. Green-Beckham is quickly becoming Marcus Mariota’s No. 1 receiver and he may benefit from Tennessee’s preoccupation with stopping Olsen.
Week 10 is quite thin on D/ST plays. Arizona and Seattle’s NFC West clash is just too unpredictable and makes picking either too risky for us. Peyton Manning’s costly turnovers will continue and maybe puts too much pressure on the Broncos, but in a week skimpy on reliable D/STs they hold the top spot. Cincy just has to neutralize DeAndre Hopkins with no other weapons in Houston’s arsenal, while the Jets are down to No. 5 because of the short week and Buffalo’s improving attack capable of going off. In fact, the Bills and Jets' injury reports should both be monitored right up until Thursday morning, because right now they could be interchangeable.