Week #9 New England Patriots Fantasy Football
New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers
Once again the Patriots are playing in prime time and this one will be watchable and it won’t be a cakewalk like the Buffalo Bills matchup was in Week #8. The Patriots/Packers game is a matchup of two teams that in many ways are a mirror of one another. They’re both led by elite quarterbacks who are supported by a core of wide receivers with varying levels of explosiveness without having a true number one receiver. They both live with a running attack that struggles to be relevant and both have tight ends with Hall of Fame calibre resumes and disappointing 2018 seasons. The Patriots have a defense that, like most seasons during their amazing current run of titles, allows a lot of yards and more than their fair share of points and an offense that has been consistently able to outscore their opponents. The Packers live a similar life with less successful outcomes.
The Patriots run defense has been slightly better than the Packers has while their pass defense has been significantly worse. The key to this game will be how the pass defenses handle the opponents passing offense.
If Sony Michel was 100% the Patriots game plan would have attacked the Packers run defense, controlled time of possession and limited the number of Packer possessions. Without Michel, who is listed as questionable but it looks like he is unlikely to play, the Patriots won’t be able to do that.
In Week #8, Cordarrelle Patterson, their special teams specialist and part time wide receiver, led the team in rushing attempts with 10 while James White, who is almost entirely a pass catcher, had eight rushing attempts for 15 yards while being targeted 13 times for 79 receiving yards in the passing game.
Neither team is going to invest a lot of snaps on the run-game this week. The questions to be answered Sunday night are; can the Patriots pick apart a Packers pass defense that has been one of the better units in the league and can their defensive backfield limit the big plays and bend just enough without breaking to allow Tom Brady and company to outscore Aaron Rodgers and his pass catchers.
The Numbers and The Rankings
The Packers rank 16th worst in points allowed per game (24.7 PPG) and 21st worst in yards per game (340.9 YPG) compared to a Patriots defense that ranks 21st in points allowed per game (23.1 PPG) and eighth worst in yards per game (382.8 YPG).
The Patriots defense has allowed 277.2 passing yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL, while the Packers rank 28th of 32 teams by allowing 221.7 passing yards per game. The Patriots have allowed 17 passing touchdowns while the Packers have allowed 13 in one fewer game. The Packers run defense ranks 11th worst in rushing yards allowed per game (119.1 YPG) while the Patriots rank 19th worst (105.5 YPG).
The Packers run defense has been a weakness while their pass defense has been one of the stronger units in the NFL. It isn’t uncommon for one unit to look strong while the other is actually weak, but the Packers pass defense looks legitimate. They held a Los Angeles Rams offense to 29 points and if not for Ty Montgomery’s late game fumble, they had a chance to kick a late field goal and beat the best team in the football on the road, after traveling cross country. Thats not an easy thing to do in the NFL in the best of circumstances, nevermind against a team as good as the Rams.
Their pass defense held Jared Goff to fewer than 300 passing yards, they didn’t have a 100-yard receiver and neither Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods had a touchdown reception.
This will be the first week they have to play without Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who they traded to the Washington Redskins. We will see how the removal of one good piece impacts the unit as a whole.
Fantasy Outlook vs. Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots
Tom Brady has thrown the ball 35 times or more in seven of eight games, including five straight. With Sony Michel on the bench or limited and Aaron Rodgers likely to put up big numbers against a porous Pats defense, this is a game where Brady could attempt 50 or more passes.
The Packers are a difficult matchup for Brady, as we saw against Jared Goff and the Rams, but the Patriots don’t have Todd Gurley to offload some of the burden too. This game is going to fall entirely on Brady’s shoulders, like it or not, and with that many attempts he is going to stack up passing yards and potentially three or more passing touchdowns.
This is a game that looks like a bad matchup that could have owners running for alternatives, but the gameflow should result in big numbers for Brady this week. I have the over/under at 325 passing yards and three touchdowns – and I am taking the over on both.
Start him in Yearly leagues and seriously consider him in DFS. With the Packers success against the high-powered Rams offense last week and an overall stingy pass defense for the year, the consensus will be to avoid Brady. That makes him both affordable and contrarian in DFS.
To cash in DFS you need at least three touchdowns from your QB and that is typically an expensive price players are required to play to guarantee it. Brady should be one of the more affordable three-touchdown plays this week. He will be the reason many DFS players cash this week. Buy Brady this week, stack him with running back James White and spend your savings wisely.
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Gronk hasn’t been the same guy this season and if the tight end position wasn’t so lacking in even relevant options he would be a serious “sit” consideration. He has only three games of 75 yards receiving or more, two games of six receptions or more and he hasn’t scored a touchdown since opening week against the Texans. In his last two games, Gronk has three receptions in each. The Packers defense has allowed the seventh fewest points per game to Tight Ends at 9.5 and zero touchdowns this season. This is unlikely to be the week that Gronk breaks out of the funk.
Because of the lack of relevant performers at the position, Gronk is a must-start in yearly leagues while his lack of production and elevated reputation makes him too expensive to risk paying for in Daily Fantasy.
Sony Michel, RB
If Michel was healthy this could have been a potentially huge game for the rookie running back. As things stand, I don’t expect him to play and if he does he should be significantly limited.
Because it is a Sunday Night game owners will have to decide with limited information whether to start or sit Michel. In those rare situations where owners have Michel and Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams or possibly Dion Lewis of the Titans who plays on Monday Night, there is an opportunity to wait and see on Michels status. If it is announced that Michel will play and isn’t on a “pitch count” or is limited but not severely limited, gameplan will make him a better option than those others. For owners that don’t fall into this very specific situation, Michel is a sit this week. The Patriots love to mess around with the injury designations. I don’t expect him to play.
James White, RB
White is the Patriots best weapon, a must-start running back and in Points Per Game leagues a top 10 Fantasy running back and that won’t change all season. He is an essential piece of their passing game and an almost impossible mismatch for defenses to try and cover.
He has seven receptions or more in five of eight games, eight receptions or more in three of his last four and a rushing or receiving touchdown in every game but one this season – the Kansas City Chiefs in Week six.
White is matchup and gameflow proof. The Packers have been one of the league’s best defenses defending the running back in the passing game and they have only allowed one receiving touchdown to RBs this season and he is still worth the cost in DFS and a RB1 in yearly leagues. For the patriots to win, White will have to be a big part of their yards from scrimmage and there is no reason to think he won’t be.
The Patriots Wide Receivers
The Packers are a difficult matchup for wide receivers, but this is a game where even if their defense plays well, there are going to be Fantasy points scored from Patriot wide receivers. Their offense is too good and they are going to throw the ball too often to be completely shut out.
For Fantasy owners that means there isn’t a must-start Patriot wideout, but there are varying Flex considerations, depending on the alternatives and with six teams on bye this week, how desperate owners are.
Josh Gordon, WR
He has shown flashes of what he can do, capped off by a 100 yard receiving game against the Chicago Bears in Week #7, but his volume and lack of touchdowns makes him a low-end Flex option.
Gameflow should result in more opportunities than Gordonis used to, but that doesn’t guarantee he takes full advantage of it. Gordon is a better option this week than most, but he isn’t a must-start. If your alternatives are weak, Gordon could be your man, but don’t sit a typical start to make room for Gordon.
Chris Hogan, WR
A lack of targets (32) and lack of big-play ability has resulted in Hogan’s ownership in Yahoo! Leagues to drop below 50%. He hasn’t had a game with more than 80 yards receiving or six receptions and he has only caught two touchdowns all season, both in Week #2, when Edelman was still on suspension and Josh Gordon was playing for the Cleveland Browns.
In the best matchup of his season, the Chiefs in Week #6, Gordon was only able to haul in four receptions for 78 receiving yards without a touchdown. This is a tougher matchup than that and Josh Gordon’s role in the offense has grown since. Only in the most desperate of situations is Hogan a consideration this week. You never know where and who Brady will choose to throw the ball, but it’s a low-percentage play to bet on it being Hogan.
Julian Edelman, WR
Tom Brady has thrown the ball 35 times or more in seven of eight games and five straight. With Sony Michel on the bench or limited and Aaron Rodgers likely to put up big numbers against a porous Pats defense, this is a game where a lot of the 50+ Brady pass attempts are going to end up in Edelman’s hands. Gameflow is in Edelman’s favor and while touchdowns could be difficult to come by, yards and receptions will be enough to make Edelman a must-start Flex with a chance to finish as a WR2 this week.
Edelman’s inability to make big plays downfield or consistently score touchdowns makes him a low-end DFS option. He is a safer play as a stack with Brady in Cash games than as a contrarian tournament one where a better strategy is to chase upside performers rather than reliable point getters. Marquez Valdes-Scantling of the Packers and even Randall Cobb are examples of risky, upside plays in tournament formats.
Fantasy Outlook vs. New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, QB
Rodgers is actually having one of the worst seasons of his career if you care about completion percentage. Rodgers has completed only 61.3% of his passes with only two 300+ yard passing games (both were over 400). Week #9 against the Patriots will be his third and there is a good chance he crosses the 400 yard threshold again as well.
The Patriots rank sixth worst in passing yards per game at 277.2 and they have allowed 17 passing touchdowns. Almost every quarterback in the league has one of their best games of the season when they face New England’s “defense?” Patrick Mahomes threw for 352 yards, Blake Bortles threw for 376 yards, Andrew Luck 365 yards and even Mitchell Trubisky threw for 333 yards. The only quarterbacks that didn’t find their highlights on ESPN after a game against the Patriots were the Houston Texans on opening weekend (DeShaun Watson), Miami Dolphins Ryan Tannehill and the Buffalo Bills Derek Anderson, who was golfing 10 days before he lined up across from Devin McCourty and Eric Rowe. It’s impossible to make a compelling argument against Aaron Rodgers throwing for at least 350 yards and three scores.
Enhancing his expected explosion on Sunday Night is gameflow. The Packers don’t run the ball well and the Patriots don’t defend the pass, seemingly at all. Both teams are going to have to pass the ball a lot and both are likely to score a lot of points.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see 50 attempts from each quarterback and 325-350 passing yards or more. Rodgers is going to have a huge game with the potential for as much as 450 passing yards and as many as five or six touchdowns. If you don’t mind paying big dollars, Rodgers will be worth it in DFS.
The Packers Running Backs
The Packers are a true running back-by-committee situation even though Aaron Jones clearly has the more explosive all around skill set than Jamaal Williams. Neither has had more than 16 rushing attempts in a game and since Jones returned in Week #3, Williams has had more than six rushing attempts only once, against a run-deficient Buffalo Bills in Week #4, and neither has more than two receptions or 19 receiving yards in a game.
With six teams on bye this week and a high-scoring affair in the offing it is understandable why owners might want to start Williams or Jones in this one, but they shouldn’t. The Patriots rush defense has only allowed two rushing touchdowns and 675 rushing yards this season. These running backs aren’t very good, they don’t receive the number of touches or targets to be relevant in the best of circumstances and the Patriots are a bad matchup.
The Packers Wide Receivers
There are going to be a bushel full of receptions, a lot of yards and potentially a five finger full of touchdowns for Packers wideouts this weekend. Enhancing their potential is the likely absence of Geronimo Allison, the futility of their run game and the porous Patriots pass defense. That combination will provide more opportunities for Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, and potentially enough for Marquez Valdes-Scantling to be relevant as well.
Davante Adams, WR
Adams is the Packers best wide receiver and it isn’t all that close, statistically at least. He has more than twice as many receptions as any other Packers wideout, partially due to injuries, but part of it is that Adams is their best offensive player and that fact might hurt his performance this week.
The Patriots approach to defense has been to take a teams best weapon away and force them to win with their other options. Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs burned them for three touchdowns on a multiple of big plays, but an argument can be made that taking away one Chief is impossible because they have three (Hill/Kelce/Hunt). The Patriots limited DeAndre Hopkins to eight receptions and 78 receiving yards without a touchdown for the Texans in Week #1.
The matchup suggests that Adams is primed for a huge night, but the lack of any semblance of a running game means that the Patriots are likely to box and double Adams, limiting the potential for a monster game from their #1 wideout. In DFS, this is the week to fade Adams and target cheaper options like Randall Cobb and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Randall Cobb, WR
Cobb has been limited in practice but it doesn’t look like he will be on Sunday night. The Patriots defense lacks speed and as we saw against the Chiefs, they struggle to defend players that have it. Cobb has big-play potential even though he hasn’t done much, partially due to injury this season.
The friendly matchup makes Cobb a serious Flex condition bordering on must-start and a potential DFS value. His price should be low, which will enable players to spend their budgets elsewhere and if Cobb makes a play or two, he could lead the way to money in tournaments and cash games.
The risk is Cobb’s relative ineffectiveness this season, but the matchup is such that it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he doesn’t contribute at least five catches and 65 yards or more. And, one big play and he could be a top 10 Fantasy receiver this week. There is too much upside to ignore for Cobb this week.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR
The absence of Geronimo Allison, the potential defensive focus on limiting Davante Adams and the limited health and impact of Randall Cobb this season is an opportunity in a great matchup for Valdes-Scantling to have a huge game as the Packers third or fourth receiver. The further a player falls in the Patriots pass coverage priority the friendlier and friendlier the matchup becomes and that’s where Valdes-Scantling will be. He will be a significant mismatch for whatever mid-level nickel corner the Patriots choose to put him one-on-one against.
Scantling has 68 yards receiving or more and a touchdown in two of his last three games and in limited touches and targets, he leads Packers receivers with at least 10 receptions in yards per reception (18.4) and is second in touchdowns with two. He also has more receiving yards with fewer receptions than Cobb.
With six teams on bye this week, Scantling is a Flex starter for owners looking for upside. Owners shouldn’t start Scantling over more reliable must-start Flex alternatives if they have them, but owners handicapped by the bye week and reaching for a relevant option, I love Scantling this week. In DFS, his bargain-basement price and extremely friendly matchup make him a must-buy DFS play for me. I will own plenty of shares of Valdes-Scantling this week, especially in tournaments.
Jimmy Graham, TE
Graham isn’t having much of a 2018 season after having a potential Hall of Fame career. At one time he was an impossible Red Zone mismatch while he has only one touchdown in 2018. This should be the week that makes his season.
Both Eric Ebron of the Indianapolis Colts (105 receiving yards – 2 touchdowns) and Trey Burton of the Chicago Bears (126 receiving yards – 1 touchdown) led their teams in receiving yards against the Patriots and even Jacksonville Jaguars Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins scored a touchdown.
The Patriots rank sixth in most Fantasy Points Allowed to Tight Ends (15.2 PPG) and are tied for most touchdowns allowed (5). Graham has one of the best matchup of his season and is a legitimate DFS and must-start play in yearly leagues this week.
The one issue I have with playing Graham in DFS formats is that stacking both a tight end and a wide receiver from the same team is typically not good strategy. I suggest players enter multiple lineups, stacking them with Rodgers and owning shares of either Valdes-Scantling or Cobb in one set of lineups and Graham in others. If you want to play it extremely safe then stacking Rodgers, Valdes-Scantling/Cobb and Graham should help guarantee a good weekend of scoring, but it limits your ceiling and could prevent you from cashing in tournaments especially. It’s a more viable play in cash games, but even in that format I discourage it. This is going to be a high-octane scoring week for Packers, but limiting your ceiling is bad strategy and poor roster management almost every time.
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