It’s hard to downgrade Tom Brady after his sensational stretch of games. However, no team that the Patriots have faced over the past several weeks feature a pair of corners quite as good as former Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and the underrated Tramon Williams, and the Packers have no trouble getting after the quarterback with All-Pro Clay Matthews. On the year, the Packers are only allowing 197 passing yards per game and have allowed just 12 passing TDs while picking off 18 passes. Even with a number of injuries plauging the Pack, I think they will be able to limit Brady to 280 yards passing and two scores. Those are still big numbers, but substantially less than he’s enjoyed in the past few weeks.
Wes Welker/Deion Branch
Because of how much the Patriots move Welker around in formations, it’s safe to say that he’s approaching match-up proof territory. You can count on him for 6-8 catches for 80-100 yards, though I think he’ll be on the lower end of those projections this week. Brach is a bit harder to figure. He’s scored in three straight games, and he has been arguably the team’s best intermediate and deep option in the passing game. He’s getting a healthy number of targets. I won’t be surprised if he approaches another 100 yards in the air this week, but he’s not quite as automatic as Welker. I’d love to start him as a third receiver, but he could easily serve as a low-end WR2.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
The Law Firm had a surprisingly quiet day in Chicago, racking up 87 yards on the ground with no scores. While the Packers have only given up 5 rushing TDs all year, they allow 4.5 yards per carry and rank 19th in terms of yards per game. I expect the Patriots to try to grind out yards on the ground to help slow down the Packers pass rush, so BJGE is a good bet to approach 100 yards on the ground with a decent chance of a score. Woodhead is a bit harder to pin down. He seems to get around 10 touches and 50 yards per game, scoring every other week. I see him exceeding those totals this week.
Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez
While Hernandez and Gronkowski have been neck-and-neck all season, a clear winner is emerging in the battle to be New England’s top tight end. Over the past 5 games, Hernandez has received just 13 targets to Gronkowski’s 22 looks. Gronk has been on the field much more due to his ability to be deployed as a blocker on a receiver, and Coach Belichick seems to value that kind of versatility. Unless the disparity in playing time between the two tight ends disappears in the coming weeks, you can’t rely on Hernandez as a starter in the fantasy playoffs. Even though Gronkowski burned fantasy owners two weeks ago, he appears to be a good bet to post Top 10 fantasy numbers over the final three weeks of the regular season.
Patriots Defense/Special Teams
I predicted a big game for this unit last week in the snow, and they delivered in a big way. The Patriots are facing Matt Flynn instead of Aaron Rodgers, so I think they will exceed last week’s performance. Against Rodgers, the Pats’ D would be worthy of consideration, but against Flynn, they are a sure-fire top-five option with a likely 3-5 sacks, 2-3 turnovers and 10 points allowed. If they face Flynn in the snow, go ahead and start planning your victory parade.