It's football weather. The winds of winter are a blowin' in Foxborough, Mass. As I write this, it is 33 degrees, but with the wind chill, it feels like 23. The Denver Broncos will be forced to ground and pound vs the New England Patriots today.
Which isn't a bad thing. Last season, Knowshon Moreno rushed for over 200 yards vs the Patriots, on the road. It helped the Broncos control the game and it would have worked, had they not turned the ball over in bunches in the third quarter, allowing the Patriots to storm back from a 24-point deficit and take the lead.
For fantasy owners, the implications of this week's road game are myriad, especially when the weather is factored in. You should have guys like Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on auto-start. As for the rest, let's get to the Start 'Em/Sit 'Em for this week's game.
Hillman has been on a roll as of late, rushing for 347 yards and 2 touchdowns, over the last 4 games. He's also been increasingly targeted in the passing game by Manning. In frigid weather, the Broncos will take a run-first approach and Hillman will be the player who benefits most. Start him.
Thompson has also benefited from the injury to Montee Ball. Last week, he scored 2 rushing touchdowns as the Broncos goal line back. Against the Patriots 25th ranked rushing defense, Thompson could have a great day, and frustrate Hillman owners by vulturing touchdowns.
WR Wes Welker
When Welker returned to his old home stadium for the first time, in last season's 34-31 loss, he didn't have the type of game that he'd hoped for. He only caught 4 balls for 31 yards. Notwithstanding this, I like him this week. The Broncos will likely be granted the short throws underneath by Bill Belichick and Welker is the player who benefits most. I see him grabbing his 2nd touchdown of the season today.
Normally, Thomas is an auto-start, but this week I don't like him. When the Broncos battled the Patriots in last year's regular season matchup, they were without Thomas. Jacob Tamme had a great game in his place, with more than 50 yards receiving and a touchdown. After getting out to a ferocious start to the season, Thomas has been relatively quiet as of late. Alas, I don't expect today's game to be his turnaround moment. Expect Belichick to double team Thomas, nullifying his fantasy production.
Cold weather. Snow. Wind. None of these factors bode well for a kicker. And with McManus only hitting on 75% of his field goal attempts thus far, good for 28th in the NFL, I would stay away from starting this young, big-legged kicker, who is still trying to find his groove as a starter.