One of the most persistent questions within the fantasy community is this: Will the New England Patriots rest their stars in Weeks 16 and 17?
Let's say that New England enters Week 16 with a 14-0 record and a safe lead over Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. And if you even suggest that anything else might happen – like, say, a 13-1 record and a safe lead – then Patriots fans will tell you that you hate them, hate freedom and that every (expletive) Manning-lovin' atheist (expletive) can just (expletive). So just keep any such thoughts to yourself.
If there's nothing left for the Patriots to clinch by Week 16, then the rest-versus-rust debate will erupt – everywhere. You will not be able to avoid it. Every sports columnist and TV commentator will discuss it. School children across New England will vote on the issue. Presidential candidates will be forced to pick a side. Edwards will accuse Hillary of picking both. The debate will rage until the Super Bowl ends.
Maybe Bill Belichick will let us know which side he's on, maybe he won't. He's certainly not going to say anything meaningful about his Week 16 plans during Week 10, though.
Right now, he's busy complimenting his team's next opponent, the Buffalo Bills. After he eviscerates them, he'll move on to complimenting the Philadelphia Eagles, and so on. Don't expect him to address Week 16 in any useful way until Monday, Dec. 17, after his Week 15 annihilation of the Jets.
By then, it will be too late for fantasy owners to act. Your league's trade deadline is probably near. In public leagues the deadline is Friday, Nov. 16. So anyone who's been relying on Patriots needs to know what New England will do in the final weeks, and they need to know it rather urgently. They're thinking about selling high to avoid potential zeroes in the fantasy season's most important week – and don't tell me they're not thinking this, because I've seen the email.
Well, if you're selling Patriots in a fantasy league, I'll buy.
I find it difficult to believe that a coach who won't rest his starters late in a game he leads 38-0 will rest them in Week 16, just days before the NFL playoffs begin. It's just a guess, because no one who isn't Bill Belichick can claim to know what that guy's thinking. But I think the Patriots head coach wants his team, and his starters in particular, to be in the habit of scoring fourth quarter touchdowns.
Not backups, but starters. And not field goals, but touchdowns. In this game, the Patriots kicked late. They lost because the Colts did a little better.
The commonly held opinion seems to be that Belichick is burying teams in order to make some camera-related statement to the NFL. That's what a petulant idiot would do, though, and Belichick certainly isn't … well, he's not an idiot.
He seems more concerned with making statements to his team than to the league. I'm willing to bet that in the final weeks – when fantasy titles are decided and very little is likely to be at stake for New England – the statement Belichick makes to his team will not be, "Take a break. Relax. Let's all enjoy some Kyle Eckel." My expectation is that we'll see enough of his starters in the final weeks to make them the best possible fantasy options.
So trade me your Patriots. I'll deal with Week 16 when I get there. If I've got Brady and Moss, I almost certainly will.
And Don Shula would give me an asterisk
A postscript today… Normally, I'd use that 10 under 10 gimmick on Tuesday. But the players I was going to pick – at least the important ones – were pretty much the players I picked last week, here. I'd make waiver claims on these guys, and in this order: Justin Fargas, Priest Holmes, Chris Henry – the criminally mischievous Bengals receiver, not the allegedly pharmacologically-altered Titans' running back – and David Patten.