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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 3: Defenses

Still, this year’s Patriots roster feels deeper than ever, with Brandin Cooks added to the passing game alongside do-everything back Rex Burkhead. While Julian Edelman is out of the picture, pass-catcher Chris Hogan torched teams in the preseason, while Brady still has his game-changing tight end Rob Gronkowski to tip the scales.

It’s easy to wonder if this tilt could morph into an unwatchable slaughter, but the Chiefs — in the regular season, at least — have the tools to put up a fight.

The Redskins rank ninth in fantasy points among defenses after two weeks, but an upcoming matchup against Derek Carr and the Raiders is anything but favorable. In fact, the first two defenses to face them (Titans, Jets) combined to score minus-one fantasy point. Carr is on fire right now, so the Redskins should be avoided.

Houston recorded a solid nine fantasy points in last week’s win over the Bengals, but fantasy fans should look elsewhere for a defensive option ahead of this week’s matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Chiefs scored just one fantasy point against them in Week 1, and New Orleans scored a mere two points in Week 2.

NFL Films Presents: Touchdown in Israel documents New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft taking 18 Hall of Famers on a spiritual journey to the Holy Land last summer. Hosted by Katie Nolan, the one-hour film, which airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network, shows the impact a visit to Israel had on these great players.

“This is one of the most rewarding films we’ve ever done,” said producer/director Keith Cossrow. Kraft and his late wife, Myra, developed deep bonds to Israel, and he often brings people from different backgrounds to share the experience. This group would have been wonderful to follow on a trek to the corner store, let alone Israel: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Joe Greene, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, John Stallworth, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Dave Casper, Jerome Bettis, Ron Yary, Aeneas Williams, Lem Barney, Willie Lanier, Mike Singletary, Andre Tippett and Bruce Smith.

In his first start Mitchell Trubisky flashed why he’s the future under center in Chicago, but the rookie will go through his struggles. Against a Ravens defense that has feasted on turnovers, how Trubisky bounces back from his game-losing interception will be key. The Bears got Trubisky out of the pocket often Monday, which plays to his strength of throwing accurately on the run. It also cuts the field in half. The Ravens will be ready to overload the left side of the defense on the rolls and force the rookie to try and fit the ball into tight windows. If the boot-action plays are nullified, will Trubisky be able to stand in the pocket and spread the ball around efficiently?

Last week, finally connected on a few deep throws, and it opened the Ravens’ offense. Against a Bears defense that can be beaten down the field, Baltimore needs these stretch plays to continue. First the Ravens must protect Flacco against an underrated Chicago defensive front. Akiem Hicks has been a menace up the gut for the Bears this season, and Flacco struggles with interior pressure. If the running game with Alex Collins and Buck Allen is shut down, and Flacco doesn’t have time for routes to develop deep, it will lead to another inefficient dink-and-dunk day for Baltimore’s offense.

Through the first two years of their existence, the Next Gen Stats have quickly progressed, not only in their depth and insight but also in their utility. Now that we’ve spent the last two NFL seasons exploring and tracking the data provided by the microchips in the players’ shoulder pads, we’re ready to take the information and its practical value to the next level.

In this space, every week we’ll use some of the Next Gen Stats metrics to delve into a few of the top games of the week and explore individual player or team-level matchups. The hope is with some of the truly high-level analytic data we can uncover unique edges for fantasy football players when making lineup decisions for the upcoming week. Most of all, we’ll be more informed consumers of the NFL contests, which we should always strive to be in our fantasy decision-making process. Let’s dive into three games on the Week 2 slate that come with areas where Next Gen Stats can help cut through some of the questions.

Mitchell Trubisky is coming off the best game of his career, completing 78.1 percent of his 32 attempts in a Week 14 win. The rookie has shown signs of progress in recent weeks, getting the ball out faster and displaying a better understanding of defensive schemes. While the Bears will ride Jordan Howard Saturday versus a porous Lions run defense, the development of Trubisky is what the final three weeks are about for the Bears. Detroit’s lack of pass rush should provide the rookie quarterback time to go through his reads and build on his rising confidence in the pocket.

Matthew Stafford’s banged-up throwing hand didn’t slow him down last week, and the Lions quarterback gets a prime matchup to continue his hot play. Stafford ripped Vic Fangio’s defense in Week 11, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Marvin Jones should be in for another big week picking up chunk gains in the friendly Ford Field confines against a flagging Bears secondary. Stafford has targeted his tight ends more frequently over the middle in recent weeks, so keep an eye on Eric Ebron, who could build on his best game of the season.

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