Thursday Night Fantasy Starters: Tom Brady, Chris Johnson And Rob Gronkowski

By Steve Silverman

There are rumblings coming out of New York as the 1-5 Jets get set to take on the Patriots Thursday night in Foxboro.

Those rumblings concern head coach Rex Ryan. While he may not be on the firing line right now, it can’t look good for the formerly rotund head coach unless he can get the Jets turned around.

The Jets have not been able to mount a consistent offense this year with second-year quarterback Geno Smith under center. It would not appear that Smith has much rope left, and the Jets could decide to go with veteran Mike Vick at any time.

While the Jets have fallen badly, the Patriots have picked it up with two stellar offensive showings in the last two weeks. Tom Brady has found his rhythm, while tight end Rob Gronkowski is growing more dangerous each week.

Here’s a look at the key players on each side and which players belong in your fantasy line-up.

Jets players

QB Geno Smith – Smith has completed 57.1 percent of his passes this season, but the Jets offense has stalled since they earned a win over the Raiders in the opening week of the season. Smith has thrown just six TD passes this year and he has been intercepted seven times. In addition to his unimpressive numbers, Smith has looked more unsure with each passing game. It would be awful to have Smith on your roster, alone in your lineup. BENCH HIM.

RB Chris Johnson – The Patriots have been solid on defense this year, but a season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Jerod Mayo may make them vulnerable against the run. Johnson has just 200 yards in six games, but he has the speed to break explosive big plays. Johnson may have an opportunity here to have a huge day. PLAY HIM

WR Eric Decker – Decker is a stellar receiver who knows how to get open, runs better than many give him credit and he can catch the ball in traffic. Last year, he had Peyton Manning throwing the ball to him in Denver. This year, he’s got the reluctant Smith and he has caught 20-258-3 so far this year. While those numbers are decent, he is likely to draw former Jet cornerback Darrelle Revis in coverage. That will almost certainly result in an unproductive day for Decker. BENCH HIM

Patriots players

QB Tom Brady – A couple of weeks ago, critics were starting to ask what was wrong with Brady. After two impressive showings against the Bengals and the Bills, those questioners have been silenced. Brady threw four TD passes in the Week Six win over the Bills, and he is once again a viable fantasy factor. Brady has made a career of dominating the Jets, and he should do it again here. PLAY HIM

RB Shane Vereen – The Patriots had gotten their running game going the past two weeks as Stevan Ridley rushed for 113 yards against Cincinnati and appeared ready to have another strong game vs. Buffalo before he injured his knee. Ridley’s out for the season, and the hard-working Vereen has to take his spot. Vereen can run between the tackles, but he is not going to gain more than three or four yards at time. He is not going to help your fantasy team. BENCH HIM

TE Rob Gronkowski – After two injury-plagued seasons, Gronkowksi is once again close to top form, and is a must play every week in fantasy football. Gronkowski has excellent hands and can make key catches on third-down plays to keep drives alive. However, what separates him from nearly every other tight end is his ability to run over or by tacklers. He picks up key yards after the catch and he runs extremely well. Gronkowski has four TD catches already this season, and he could catch two more here. PLAY HIM

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Steve Silverman has been writing, talking about and playing fantasy football since the early 1990s. He co-hosted Fantasy Football Weekly, the first Fantasy Football television program, in 1994 and ’95. Follow Steve on Twitter @profootballboy.

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