Start with this: The other offenses in New England’s division are all a hot mess. There’s not enough space here to detail the offensive woes of the Bills, Dolphins and Jets, but suffice it to say that you’ll start the Patriots’ defense with confidence in any week when they face a divisional foe. Also consider this: The Patriots finished 13th in defensive fantasy scoring last season, and that was their worst fantasy finish over the last eight years. A pair of trades with the Browns brought in CB Jason McCourty (who’ll join his twin brother Devin in the secondary) and DT Danny Shelton to plug holes. There are few marquee names here, but there’s talent on all three levels of the defense.
You might recall how bad the Patriots’ defense looked at times last season. It was torched by the Chiefs in an embarrassing Week One home loss. In Week Three, Deshaun Watson threw for 301 yards and two TDs against the Pats in his second NFL start. Cam Newton dropped 316 passing yards and three TDs on New England a week later. They were upset by the Dolphins in Week 14, when they let Jay Cutler throw for 263 yards and three TDs. And then there was the Super Bowl, when the Eagles pretty much moved the ball at will. By no means was this a consistent lock-down defense in 2017.
It’s worth noting that the Patriots were one of only three teams not to score a defensive touchdown in 2017. The others were the Jets and Raiders, who finished 31st and 32nd, respectively, in defensive fantasy scoring. That the Pats were able to finish 13th without a defense score is rather remarkable, and it suggests that they’re a good bet to have a better fantasy showing in 2018.