Bill Belichick doesn't care about your fantasy team.
Yes, that line could've been written at any time during the past 15 seasons, spanning Belichick's tenure as coach of the New England Patriots. But there might not be any more compelling evidence than what he has done with his backfield the past two weeks.
On Sunday of Week 11, Jonas Gray burst onto the scene with a 201-yard, four-touchdown, 44-point fantasy performance. He played a team-high 55 of 74 snaps and amassed 38 of the team's 45 carries, en route to being the week's most-added player in ESPN leagues: As of Sunday, his ownership had gone from 8.4 to 75.7 percent, and after being started in 1.3 percent of leagues in Week 11, he was started in 32.9 percent in Week 12.
This Sunday, Gray didn't only get shut out on the fantasy scoreboard, he didn't even play a single snap. That came on the heels of a report that he missed Friday's practice after oversleeping; the team did announce beforehand that he wouldn't start.
Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount -- who ironically played only one snap for his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Monday of Week 11 before leaving the field before the game's conclusion, a contributing factor to his release the following day -- joined the Patriots on Thursday, played 17 snaps for his new team (that per ESPN NFL Nation reporter Mike Reiss' account) and scored 19 fantasy points.
Oh, and just for an added wrinkle, per Reiss, Shane Vereen played 62 snaps Sunday, which would represent his season high in that department.
Let's start with Blount's performance, perhaps the least likely outcome in a season of unlikely outcomes from Patriots running backs. Historically speaking, for a player to score as many fantasy points as he did following a midseason change of teams is extremely unusual, or, at least, a player doing so in his first game for his new team -- among those without any gap in playing time between teams (other than bye weeks) -- is unusual. In fact, since 1960, only one player has scored more than 19 fantasy points in those circumstances, and only eight have scored as many as 14:
Interestingly, there are common threads between multiple pairs of players on this list. Walker was traded to the Minnesota Vikings midseason, with Palmer acquired by Walker's former team, the Dallas Cowboys, to serve as Walker's replacement. Moss, meanwhile, was traded to the Vikings by the Patriots, who then acquired Branch the following week to help fill out their wide receiver corps. Meanwhile, Cassady, Chambers and Nedney, along with Blount, were free-agent pickups.
As for Gray, his 44-point decline in fantasy production from one week to the next also ranked among history's most unusual occurrences. Since 1960, only three players have suffered a greater drop-off in fantasy points from one game to the next, and only 15 have seen their scores decline by 40 points or more:
So what's in store for Belichick and the Patriots next week?
Well, that's obvious, isn't it? Vereen and Gray share the backfield evenly in Week 13, with so-so, eight-point fantasy efforts, and then Brandon Bolden explodes for a multiple-touchdown Week 14. Yup, totally predictable.
• This might, to date, have been a disappointing season as far as first-round picks are concerned, but for one week, at least, it wasn't so much the case. Six running backs were selected in the first round on average in ESPN leagues -- Adrian Peterson (first overall), LeSean McCoy (second), Jamaal Charles (third), Marshawn Lynch (fifth), Matt Forte (sixth) and Eddie Lacy (eighth) -- and those six had their greatest combined weekly fantasy total in Week 12: 91 points (15.2 per player, 18.2 if you exclude Peterson).
These six running backs, in fact, have enjoyed their three most productive fantasy weeks during Weeks 10-12: In Week 10, they scored 88 combined points, and in Week 11 they scored 85. If it's a matter of their heating up after slow starts, they sure picked a good time to do it, what with many fantasy leagues' playoffs nearly here.
• The Philadelphia Eagles' D/ST -- who else? -- had the honor of scoring the first touchdown Sunday, as Josh Huff returned the opening kickoff 107 yards for a score. That gave the Eagles' D/ST their 10th touchdown of 2014, which is twice as many as any other team has scored (the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans each have five).
It also put the Eagles within three scores of the single-season mark by any D/ST since 1960, held by the 1998 Seattle Seahawks (13). It also makes them the 15th team during that time span to score at least 10 touchdowns in a season ... and remember, they have five games remaining on their schedule. Here are the 15:
The Eagles' D/ST now has 124 fantasy points for the season, with 60 of them -- or 48.4 percent -- coming via touchdown. That's an extremely high rate; only six had a higher percentage since 2001:
I've likened what the Eagles have done this season to that 2010 Cardinals team, a touchdown-dependent unit, albeit one that maintained a level of consistency all the way through their TD-heavy year. Those Cardinals amassed 64 fantasy points from their D/ST in six games from this date forward, averaging 10.7 per contest; it was the following season during which their touchdown total regressed to the mean: The 2011 Cardinals D/ST scored just four touchdowns, all on Patrick Peterson punt returns. Keep that in mind if you've been relying upon the Eagles to regularly fill your D/ST slot, as while their big-play potential makes them a viable option regardless of matchup, in the weeks they don't score -- such as the Week 11 game at the Green Bay Packers (0 TDs, minus-5 fantasy points) -- their downside is rather extreme.
• Odell Beckham Jr. has enjoyed one of the more beneath-the-radar starts to an NFL career, at least as wide receivers are concerned. With his career-high 26-point fantasy performance Sunday night, he joined an exclusive group of young wideouts. Only one wide receiver since 1960 scored more points in his first seven NFL games:
But it's not acrobatic catches alone that make Beckham a burgeoning fantasy WR1; it's also his quick ascent to a prominent role with the New York Giants. Consider that Beckham has been targeted at least 10 times in each of his past four games and, using the early-run snap counts from Sunday's game, he has played 333 of the Giants' 344 offensive snaps (96.8 percent) in his past five contests. And with Victor Cruz out for the season, plus Beckham making the kinds of catches he has the past two weeks, there's little doubt he'll continue to be used this heavily going forward.