MNF Matchup: Chiefs @ PatriotsMonday, November 21, 2011
Monday Night Football
Kansas City @ New England
Coming off a 37-16 throttling of the division-rival Jets, New England is poised for a red-hot close to the season. Not one of their remaining seven opponents has a winning record, and combined they are 24-45 (.348). At the forefront of the fast finish is sure to be Tom Brady, and last week's three-touchdown, 329-yard performance reconfirmed Tom Terrific as matchup proof. Kansas City ranks dead last in sacks and has allowed the third most 20-plus yard pass plays in football. Brady is a lead-pipe lock for a big Monday night. ... After a two-game lull in Weeks 4-5, Rob Gronkowski is on a tear. He's caught at least seven passes in four straight games, averaging 95.5 yards with three TDs during that span while once again pushing Jimmy Graham for top billing among fantasy tight ends. K.C. might have the league's weakest safety duo in Jon McGraw and Kendrick Lewis, so there should be enough openings for both of New England's tight ends to exploit. ... Here is Brady's target distribution since the Patriots' Week 7 bye: Gronk 35, Wes Welker 26, Deion Branch 21, Aaron Hernandez 14, Chad Ochocinco 8. ... The Pats have tried to give Ochocinco opportunities at Branch's expense, but for the most part Ocho has failed to capitalize. Branch is never a good bet for high receiving yardage totals, though he does have four touchdowns in his last six games.
Welker leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards, and has at least six catches in all but one game this season. The Chiefs "play sides" in coverage, always leaving Brandon Flowers at left corner with Brandon Carr on the right and Javier Arenas inside. Welker projects to square off with Arenas for the majority of this game. ... The Patriots' backfield has been maddening from a playing time and touches standpoint since Kevin Faulk came off PUP in Week 8. Faulk, Danny Woodhead, and Stevan Ridley are barely worth owning in fantasy leagues, but this game has strong potential to set up well for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. New England should whip Tyler Palko's Chiefs from start to finish, and Green-Ellis' role always increases in "keep-the-lead" mode. Shake off Law Firm's slow four-game stretch and use him as an RB2/flex against the Chiefs' No. 26 run defense.
Matt Cassel's hand surgery leaves the Chiefs with little hope on offense. Essentially a poor man's Bruce Gradkowski, Palko will be Kansas City's starting quarterback until Todd Haley inevitably benches him for rookie Ricky Stanzi. In 2007, Palko went undrafted out of Pittsburgh due to severe talent limitations, standing just 6-foot-1, running a 4.83 forty, and possessing an incredibly weak arm. He was a noodle-armed scrambler in college. Palko is also left-handed, meaning protection liability Barry Richardson will be on his blind side. Through nine games, Pro Football Focus has graded Richardson 70th out of 74 tackles in pass blocking. In five career preseasons, Palko has completed 133-of-243 throws (54.7%) for 1,423 yards (5.86 YPA), five touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He has also fumbled 10 times, losing four. Fire up the Patriots’ fantasy defense.
Kansas City's backfield also needs to be avoided. Jackie Battle receives substantial workloads only when the Chiefs are out in front, and his carry totals have dropped in three straight weeks. The Patriots figure to control this game, limiting Battle's playing time. ... It is conceivable that Palko could check down to Dexter McCluster relentlessly with a weak arm and what projects as awful pass protection. McCluster always offers scant upside, but you could do worse as a last-minute PPR flex. ... Dwayne Bowe is still worth WR3 consideration because New England was playing the pass so poorly even before top CB Devin McCourty separated his right shoulder. ... Passing-game efficiency is a lock to dwindle in Kansas City, however, leaving very little appeal for secondary targets Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Even in the most favorable matchups, Palko will have trouble clearing 200 passing yards.
Score Prediction: Patriots 45, Chiefs 3
Check out Gregg Rosenthal's take on the key fantasy players in tonight's matchup.