Most weeks, a recommendation to bench Tom Brady in any fantasy format will be greeted with a healthy mix of laughter, and embarrassment for those who are pushing the anti-Brady propaganda. This is a quarterback who’s chucked 73 touchdowns and only 20 interceptions over the past two years, and he’s done it while also throwing for 10,062 yards over that stretch.
But we care little about historical numbers in the week-to-week and game-to-game slugging of fantasy football. There’s no room for stubbornness, and making a poor decision while starting a player because he’s always been super awesome. You field the best possible starting roster for each week and for each game. And this week, that won’t include Tom Brady.
You’re fully aware of the injuries Brady is dealing with and the lack of a support. But to review: Shane Vereen is on the injured reserve, Danny Amendola was a limited practice participant this week and still won’t play today, and while there was some fleeting optimism around Rob Gronkowski’s possible return, he was limited too and will make his debut next week at the earliest. So once again today that leaves Julian Edelman as the only trusted hand to catching footballs for Brady a week after rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson combined for five drops (and that may even be a conservative estimate).
That’s not a good position to be in against any opponent, and especially not one that features Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson in the secondary. The Patriots host Tampa today, and over his last three healthy seasons opposing quarterbacks have averaged a passer rating of just 44.6 when targeting a receiver blanketed by Revis. Then there’s Goldson, who recorded 11 passes defensed last year, and has nine interceptions over the last two seasons. Toss in the growth of 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron with his 13 tackles last week, and the little support Brady will receive from Stevan Ridley against a front seven that gave up 82.5 rushing yards per game last year (a league best), and there’s little to like.
It gets worse when we look back to Week 2, when the Bucs’ secondary intercepted Drew Brees twice (he had only a modest five multiple-interception games last year), while holding him to a completion rate of only 56.5 (he has a career completion percentage of 65.6). There would be optimism here if Gronk was healthy for more than just the blatantly obvious reason of his awesomeness. Over two games the Buccaneers have given up 258 receiving yards to tight ends, with most of that coming from Jimmy Graham and his 179 yards last week. But Kellen Winslow Jr., who had given us a steady supply of nothingness for quite some time, also pumped Tampa for 79 yards in Week 1. But alas, The Gronk remains broken for at least one more week, and without him the tight end position has largely been an afterthought for Brady, with only one reception by a TE over two weeks. Previously such a statement would have been unfathomable, but here we are.
So here’s what we’re left with then: a quarterback with little support from both his pass catchers beyond Edelman (who was targeted 18 times last week), and the running back behind/beside him (Ridley is averaging 3.4 yards per carry), and he’s throwing against a team that employs Revis and Goldson. Brady could make me and others eat delicious crow, mostly because he’s Tom Brady and that’s what he does. But when you objectively consider those factors, benching him for another option with even above average potential this week after Brady had a mere 11 fantasy points in Week 2 is the right decision.
Of course, it’s easy to make this assessment in a vacuum, and actually benching Brady is much more difficult even after you decide it’s the right move. If you own Brady you spent an early-round pick on him, and then after making that steep investment in the quarterback position you then waited a long, long time to draft a QB2, or maybe you didn’t draft one at all. That’s a common situation many lost souls are facing right now (myself included in one league), and we’ll get through this together with drastically reduced expectations for at least one more week.
For the rest of you: by starting Brady in a standard-sized league (12 teams, with only one starting quarterback), you’re saying that by the end of tomorrow night he’ll be among the top 12 producers at his position. Can you really be confident in that statement?
More stray lineup thoughts and words of warning
- With Reggie Bush out, starting Joique Bell in all formats is something you should do, and especially in PPR leagues. He’ll be running and catching against the Redskins, a defense that’s been torched on the ground over the first two weeks while giving up a league worst 402 yards. It’s not close either, as the Jaguars are 31st with 342 rushing yards allowed.
- Brandon Marshall gives us another case for decreased expectations because he’ll spend most of his evening being followed by Ike Taylor, the Steelers cornerback who allowed A.J. Green to catch only six balls for 41 yards last week, even though he was targeted 14 times.
- Due to availability and the juiciness of their matchup, the Dolphins’ defense is my top streaming play against a depleted Falcons offense. But Julio Jones could still easily go boom again despite the impressive play of Brent Grimes, simply because of the high volume of targets he’ll receive. Roddy White remains a decoy, and there will be little run support from Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, a formula which resulted in 14 targets for Jones last week (he caught 11 of them for 182 yards).
- Oh, and about those Falcons receivers: go ahead and flex Harry Douglas in deep-ish leagues. With White hobbled he has 136 receiving yards over two weeks, and at this time last year his total sat at a meager 59 yards. Even better/worse, Douglas finished 2012 with only 396 yards, meaning he’s already 34 percent of the way to that total.
- I know you’re jacked about being able to start Bernard Pierce after pissing off the Ray Rice owner in your league when you stole his handcuff. But be aware that with a healthy Brian Cushing the Texans are giving up only 3.8 yards per carry thus far.