I urged owners to start Brady last week, but temper their expectations. This week, I really mean it. The weather in Chicago is expected to be horrific. Up to six inches of snow throughout the day, sub-zero wind chills, 20+ mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph. Basically, it’s what hell would look like if Rex Ryan’s team ever lived up to his expectations. Just awful. I think the Patriots will try to rely on the ground game in this one with a lot of dinks and dunks down the field in the passing game to negate the weather conditions. If you’re in a shallow league and can start someone else, I’d at least consider it. I think something close to 250 and 2 scores is likely, but it will only take a few slip-ups by defenders or broken tackles to turn it into 300+ and 3-4 TDs.
Wes Welker/Deion Branch
I think Welker stands to benefit most from the weather conditions. His intelligence and reliability should make him Brady’s favorite target this week. I’d be surprised if he had fewer than 6-7 catches and 80 yards, and he’s probably a good bet to score. Branch has been money in the bank the past few weeks, and I would not be surprised to see him find paydirt in this one too. However, in leagues that award a point per reception, I’d bump him down a few notches to a #3 WR. I’m thinking he’ll end up with 60-70 yards as Brady spreads the ball around.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
While the Bears have a stout run defense (#2 in the league coming into this week), BJGE has been match-up proof the past several weeks. He’s racked up 202 total yards and 2 scores against the #1 and #3 rushing defenses this year, and with weather and field conditions expected to be awful, he should see the ball 15-20 times. That probably translates into 80 yards and a score. Woodhead is a bit of a wild card this week. I don’t think he’ll do much on the ground, but the Patriots will probably throw a lot of shorter passes to beat the zone, and Woody is dynamite with the ball in his hands with a little bit of space. Expect him to have 20 yards on the ground and probably another 40+ through the air.
Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez
As predicted, Hernandez had a nice bounce-back week with 51 yards and a score. Against a Bears team that will try to take away the flats and the deep ball, I would not be surprised to see Hernandez get a half-dozen targets in this one too. Gronkowski had a bad statistical day, but he drew a key pass interference penalty in the end zone that set up an early Pats score. Like Hernandez, I think he’ll find some soft spots in the zone and make up for his bad statistical performance with 40-50 yards and a possible score.
Patriots Defense/Special Teams
I’ve been down on the Pats’ D for fantasy purposes for much of the season, but this looks like a tailor-made opportunity to start them with confidence. Cutler gets sacked about 3-4 times a game, and his affinity for turnovers is no secret. Due to the field ans weather conditions and the complicated and intricate Martz passing offense, I would not be surprised to see this D/ST unit put up some points of their own.