When Bill Belichick stares deep into the soul of a young quarterback, he often extracts the very core of his enemy’s being. He starts with his subject’s nervous system, making him crumble on command. He focuses hard, closing his eyes and imagining that time he lost in Red Rover as a child. He calls this the pray mantis technique, and it usually works on standard, less nimble young arms (see: Andrew Luck and Jake Locker earlier this year).
But he has a nemesis, because every villain does. It is the leggy, long-striding and powerful quarterback. He who runs, or even gallops.
Colin Kaepernick is Belichick’s Bane today. So set aside whatever apprehension you may have with a rookie QB playing in a major primetime game with playoff implications, and start him. If the Patriots’ recent history against running quarterbacks repeats itself, this could be a highly profitable day.
The Patriots have the eighth best run defense in the league, and Jon Gruden would like you to know that they have SEC linebackers (also: SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC). With Dont’a Hightower the latest edition, it’s a group that’s played a key role in holding the opposition to only 100.8 rushing yards per game. That sounds discouraging, and then it doesn’t. Let me tell you the story of the running quarterback, and how he’s fared against the mighty Patriots.
The sample size against this edition of the Patriots defense is admittedly small, but that’s a poor counter argument since the group of QBs who are more than just mobile — indeed they can run, and run fast — is also rather tiny. Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck are mobile quarterbacks. They can elude and evade, and break a long run every now and then. But Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and Tim Tebow are running quarterbacks. See what I did there?
There’s a distinct difference there between two very different tiers, and it’s the tier with Kaepernick et al that’s been somewhat troubling for the Patriots. Yes, they crushed Tebow during the playoffs last January, containing him easily while sacking him five times, forcing a lost fumble, a completion percentage of 34.6 with only 5.5 yards per pass attempt, and most importantly, only 13 rushing yards. All of that would have added up to four fantasy points.
But that dominance makes us forget that the exact opposite happened just a few weeks earlier in the 2011 season. Tebow rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns during a Week 15 loss to New England. He was sacked five times again, but that meant very little, as he also finished with 194 passing yards. Total it all up, and he earned his owners 26 fantasy points during the 2011 semi-final week.
Kaepernick isn’t Tebow, though, and we can thank the almighty that there’s just one Tebow, because otherwise our world would fold.
In terms of his skillset and his passing accuracy, Seattle’s Russell Wilson provides a more favorable Kaep comparison. You know, the same Wilson who had a season high passer rating of 133.7 during the Seahawks’ 24-23 Week 6 win over New England, and the same Wilson who threw for 293 yards in that game with three touchdowns and no interceptions while averaging 10.3 YPA. The math on his day ended in a Sunday with 22 fantasy points, meaning that the Patriots have allowed 20 or more points in two of their last three outings against true running quarterbacks.
I don’t live in a world where unpredictable variables like primetime jitters matter for fantasy purposes. Ditto for the perception that Kaepernick isn’t “getting it done.” You only care about production, and right now a quarterback who’s averaging 17.3 fantasy points per game in his four starts has a fine opportunity to produce again.
Start him, and do it with some swagger.