The Patriots succeeded yet didn't dominate against the Bills--a team many (myself included) figured they should steamroll. With a Sunday Night Football date set with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, is that a cause for serious concern?
It's time to sound an alarm on Tom Brady. This is the biggest QB duel of the season for him, and he's going on on a multi-week slide. While he's been good, the Pats offense isn't functioning at a championship level and he has to own part of the blame. As Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar pointed out, Brady is second in the NFL with 21.3% of his throws ending up off target. Against Aaron Rodgers, that will have to improve. I would be cautious starting Brady this week--he's certainly one of the top 10-12 QBs in the league, but only a low-end starter in this matchup. I'd expect an ugly but effective type of game. Especially after the Ty Montgomery trade, Aaron Rodgers will have to carry Green Bay on his back if they're going to win. That approach can lead to some yardage and an easy fantasy start, but could also hamper his performance with interceptions. Either way, these are two of the best QBs to ever play football. Unless your team is absolutely stacked, they should probably be starting this weekend.
James White is an RB1, and a must-start. The way he's been playing, he's nearly matchup proof at this point, especially with Sony Michel questionable for this game. Michel has been participating all week (albeit in a limited way), so he should probably get into the game at some point. With the injury still lingering and White playing as well as he has, I'd be cautious about giving Michel much consideration this week. The Packers traded Ty Montgomery after he fumbled late and cost Aaron Rodgers the chance to run a game-winning two-minute drill, meaning young backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will split about seven extra touches per game. Jones is the lead dog and will have plenty of opportunities on Sunday night, but Williams also has value as a sleeper flex--New England has had trouble with lots of receiving backs this year, and he should see the majority of third-down reps.
Davante Adams is the clear-cut best fantasy option in this game. He's an automatic start despite going against Stephon Gilmore (who's allowed the league's lowest passer rating against since Week 3). Julian Edelman has been targeted 34 times in the past four games, making him a strong flex or WR2 for this game--there will be plenty of points for the taking. If he can produce anything like last week's 100-yard effort and get into the end zone, he'll be an attractive start. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is another flex play. He doesn't see the same volume of targets as Edelman, though his game-breaking ability compensates for the fewer opportunities. Beyond Adams, the Packers have a sleeper target in Marques Valdez-Scantling. As PackersWire recognized, the rookie wideout has either caught 100 yards or a touchdown in each of the past three games, and his role should only increase with Geronimo Allison out this week. I don't see another 100 yards in the bag, but a touchdown is certainly a possibility. He's an intriguing flex play with some upside.
Bottom line: Rob Gronkowski clearly isn't himself. The superstar tight end landed on the injury report again this week after a subpar performance in Buffalo. Given the draft capital many owners invested in him and his breakout potential I think he has to play in most leagues, but if you don't have one already now is the time to look for an effective backup. Keep your expectations low until he surpasses them. Jimmy Graham was neutralized last week, but he had back-to-back outstanding fantasy performances. His situation is very similar to Gronk's: if you have him, you probably invested some capital to get him, so you could be starting him.
The Patriots defense scored its first pick-six since 2013 last week. Could it be a good omen for this game? Possibly, but it's also tough to imagine starting any defense playing against Aaron Rodgers. They're a fringe option this week, as are the Packers (for much the same reasons). After going 1-for-5 three weeks ago, Mason Crosby has rebounded very nicely, making him and Stephen Gostkowsi easy plug-and-play options.
That's it for this fantasy breakdown. Enjoy your Sunday night, and Go Pats!