There have been a lot of big matchups in Week 13 that didn’t play out as expected, especially in the AFC. Tonight, as the week comes to a close, we have perhaps the biggest as the New England Patriots head to Buffalo for the first of two December meetings. The Bills were my pick to go to the Super Bowl pre-season, while the Patriots have been the little engine that could, winning six straight games to sit atop the AFC heading into tonight’s game. There is plenty to consider with the matchup, but more on that in a minute. First, let’s consider some of the takeaways from another Sunday of NFL action.
The Steelers Aren’t Dead Yet
At 5-5-1 heading into Sunday, it didn’t look good for the Steelers. Rumors also came out this weekend that Ben Roethlisberger has told those close to him this will be his final season. That’s hardly a surprise given his age and injury history—especially with draft class compatriots Eli Manning and Philip Rivers already retired. The Steelers entered Sunday’s game with the Ravens with plenty of work to do to get back in the playoffs. The win wasn’t dominant and it wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. The Steelers still have work to do if they want to get in the playoffs and make a run but seeing them grind out a win over the Ravens—who came into the game as the top team in the AFC—was a reminder the Steelers aren’t dead yet.
The Vikings Need A Change
We’re in year four of the teaming of Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins. So far that duo of coach and highly paid quarterback are 30-29-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs, having made the dance just once together in 2019. At 5-7 the Vikings aren’t out of it this year but it isn’t looking good, especially after a bad loss to the Lions on Sunday. A lot have been invested to make the Vikings competitors but they’ve never even gotten back to where they were in 2017, the season before Cousins joined the squad. It’s time for a change in Minnesota.
Taylor Heinicke Deserves a Chance to be The Guy in 2022
Heinicke has been a sub for Washington for two seasons. Last year, he came off the bench to play in a regular season game and then pushed the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers to the limit in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. This season, while Ryan Fitzpatrick was the opening day starter, Heinicke came off the bench and has played well. He’s 6-5 as a starter, and Washington is 6-6 on the season, having won four straight to climb back into the playoff picture. It’s a place the team can stay with a strong finish. Heinicke’s numbers haven’t been gaudy, as he’s thrown for just 2,811 yards, 18 TDs and 11 INTs, but he’s been gutty and he’s brought Washington back. Given the landscape at the position and his play in his first real opportunity to start, Heinicke deserves the chance to lead Washington in 2022.
And now, on to the Monday night game.
Monday Night Preview
The battle for the AFC East, and possibly the AFC in general, begins in earnest tonight. The Bills won in 2020, snapping a long streak of dominance from New England. With rookie Mac Jones, the Patriots aren’t going away quietly in 2021. The team has won six straight and sits a half game up on the Bills heading into this Week 13 matchup, the first of two meetings in the next four weeks.
Buffalo began the season with lofty expectations but it’s been a bumpy ride. The team has won big games, like beating the Chiefs and bludgeoning the Saints on Thanksgiving. They’ve also had some low moments, like being blown out by the Colts and suffering a 9-6 loss to Jacksonville. The Bills need to find some consistency, avoid turnovers and get some big wins in December if they want to repeat as AFC East champs and go into the playoffs. That comes down to Josh Allen.
From a fantasy perspective, Allen is a Top 5 option for me and your best hope for a Monday Night Miracle, should you need one. The second-best option is probably Bills’ receiver Stefon Diggs, the top target in the team’s passing game. I also like tight end Dawson Knox as a Top 5 option. I’m not confident in any other Bills receivers or in their backfield. Though, if pressed, I’m starting Matt Breida in my flex.
For the Patriots, Jones has been great and steady but is a QB2. The backfield features two great backs in Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson who are splitting the work. I lean Harris, but both are in the RB3/Flex range for me. In the passing game, Jakobi Myers is my top choice, a WR3, while Kendrick Bourne is a deep league flex option. After a hot start, tight end Hunter Henry has cooled, so he’s a TE2 for me.
I think the Bills get it done and move back into first in the AFC East with a win. Enjoy the game.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.