PACKERS // PATRIOTS OVERVIEW
FantasyDraft players (including those of us who advanced to Week 3 of the One Week Season Survivor Contest!) get a treat once again this week, with Green Bay traveling to New England on Sunday Night Football, in a game with a Vegas-implied total of 56.5 between the 6-2 Patriots and the gasping-for-air 3-3-1 Packers. New England is the better team, but when Aaron Rodgers is on the field, the Packers are in any game — and this should put Green Bay in position to keep this game entertaining (and fantasy-productive) from beginning to end.
The Packers have been middle-of-the-pack on offense this year, ranking 13th in yards per drive and 16th in points per drive, while ranking only 18th in drive success rate. Only four teams have piled up more yards per game, but 12 teams have recorded more points per game, with the Packers especially struggling in the red zone (20th in red zone touchdown rate).
The Patriots, on the other hand, have shaken off their slow start, now ranking ninth in yards per drive, sixth in points per drive, and 10th in drive success rate. Only the Chiefs, Saints, and Rams have scored more points per game than New England (and with that: you have the four early frontrunners for the Super Bowl title).
PACKERS PASS OFFENSE
Only two teams have faced a deeper average depth of target than the Patriots this year, but this defense makes up for this by allowing the third lowest catch rate in the NFL — leading to a yards per pass attempt mark of 7.1, good for eighth lowest in the league.
While the matchup is less than ideal on a per-play basis, however, the high-scoring nature of the Patriots’ offense has led to their defense facing the seventh highest opponent pass play rate, while the Packers rank second in the NFL in pass play rate on offense — choosing to attack through the air early and often. Rodgers has fallen shy of 40 pass attempts only two times this season, and with the Patriots playing at the fifth fastest pace and allowing the seventh most opponent plays per game, 40+ pass attempts is a reasonable expectation for Rodgers in this spot once again. This is a very different setup than the Packers had last week against a Rams team that allows the fewest opponent plays per game, and Rodgers (who has only one game all year below 280 passing yards) will be well positioned to clear 300+ yards this week.
The main target this year for Rodgers has been Davante Adams, and while Adams saw only seven looks last week, we should keep in mind that Rodgers threw only 30 passes. Adams has two games this year with A) his fellow “top receivers” healthy, and B) Rodgers throwing 40+ times, and in those games he has seen target counts of nine and 12. Adams also ranks third in the NFL in red zone targets, and he is tied (with Eric Ebron…and James White) for the most red zone receiving touchdowns in the league.
Of greater concern for Adams is a quietly difficult matchup against Stephon Gilmore. As always with Adams: Rodgers is going to target him regardless, so volume is not a major concern in a difficult matchup. But while Gilmore doesn’t have the DFS Name Value of Tre’Davious White, White and Richard Sherman are the only players in the league who have allowed fewer receptions per coverage snap than Gilmore (among players with 100 or more coverage snaps). On the season, Gilmore has incredibly allowed only 18 receptions on 44 passes thrown into his coverage (40.9%). Expect Adams to see plenty of work in this spot; but expect efficiency to be a challenge, as the Patriots should keep Gilmore glued to Adams as often as they can.
Last week, Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb each played limited snaps — with Allison seeing 30 snaps and Cobb seeing 24 (out of a possible 52). Marquez Valdes-Scantling played 31 snaps and saw five targets (the same as Cobb, and four more than Allison). There is at least some chance that this was due to Allison and Cobb each returning to the field for the first time in weeks — though at this point, it is likelier that the Packers have realized that MVS is their best means of moving the ball. It is noteworthy that only nine of his snaps came in the slot, while 22 came out wide — displaying role flexibility that will play nicely in this offense. While we can expect Adams to see his targets regardless, his difficult draw will likely push some looks to other players, making these ancillary receivers interesting guys to consider, on both the showdown and the full-Sunday slate. MVS is the player likeliest to produce a big stat line on his work this week, with his speed playing nicely against this defense. Allison’s role has the most question marks after he saw only one target last week, but he is a better bet to beat man coverage for a big play than Cobb. Cobb will likely need a touchdown in order to produce a noteworthy stat line.
This passing attack rounds out with Jimmy Graham, who disappointed last week with only four looks, but who saw target counts of eight and seven in the two games earlier in the year in which A) all the receivers were healthy, and B) Rodgers threw 40+ passes. Graham’s red zone role (six targets inside the 20, three targets inside the 10) pales in comparison to what he had to work with last year on the Seahawks, but the matchup is above-average (the Pats rank bottom 10 in receptions and yards allowed to tight ends), and he should see enough looks to be worthy of consideration.
PACKERS RUN OFFENSE
Packers running backs are not a big part of the passing attack on this team, so these guys are essentially relegated to “yardage and touchdown” territory — a poor setup against a Patriots team that faces a bottom eight run play rate and has allowed the second fewest running back rushing touchdowns in the league.
The good news in this spot is that Ty Montgomery is gone, which leaves this backfield to low-upside Jamaal Williams (with his high-yardage mark of 33 across his last five games) and upside-oriented Aaron Jones (40+ rushing yards in four consecutive games, in spite of topping eight rush attempts only once). The departure of Montgomery leaves about three targets on the table, so we could see Jones pile up three or four catches in all, to go with what will hopefully be another eight to 12 carries.
PATRIOTS PASS OFFENSE
The Patriots rank 19th in pass play rate, but they have shown an ability to shape-shift based on personnel and matchup. The matchup this week against the Packers (20th in yards allowed per carry, with the ninth lowest opponent pass play rate on the year) sets up well for the Patriots to lean on the run — but the personnel will ultimately dictate what the home team does in this spot. If Sony Michel returns to the field, the Patriots should feed him 20+ carries (while mixing in James White on the ground and even giving Kenjon Barner a few “breather” looks), as this is a great spot for them to lean on the run and bleed out the clock against a poor run defense and a high-powered opposing offense. But if Michel misses, the Patriots will again feature the short passing attack as their “run game replacement.” Last week, White saw eight carries while wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson mixed in for 10 carries of his own. Barner took a backseat with only two attempts all game.
When the Patriots take to the air, they will contend with a pass-focused Packers defense that has allowed the third fewest wide receiver receptions and the fifth fewest wide receiver yards in the league — though it should be noted that a large part of the reason for this low wide receiver production has been the fact that only two teams have faced fewer pass attempts on the year, with teams preferring to attack this unit on the ground. Last week, this created concern for us that the Rams (with Todd Gurley in the backfield) would take the Packers up on this invitation. This week, we should realize that if Michel misses, the Patriots are still going to pass. On a per-play basis, Green Bay has been less scary, ranking 22nd in yards allowed per pass attempt.
The best way to attack the Packers is A) over the middle, and B) downfield. The first element lines up well for Julian Edelman, who has target counts on the year of 9 // 7 // 8 // 10. Edelman has already piled up eight red zone targets, with a pair of red zone touchdowns.
On downfield looks, it will be Josh Gordon, who has target counts in his last three games of 9 // 7 // 6. He’s essentially the fourth element in this passing attack, behind Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and White, but he carries plenty of upside on the looks he receives.
Gronk has continued to disappoint, with four or fewer catches in all but two games this year, and with only one touchdown on the season. He has topped 100 yards only once, and the last time he posted a score that justified his price tag was way back in Week 1. Naturally, he still has the upside to hit — but his floor is lower than it ever was in the past, and he looks more like a “really good tight end” right now than like the dominant force he has been through much of his career.
As has often been the case this year, the crown play on this side of the ball is White. White has double-digit targets in four of his last five games and has piled up eight total touchdowns on the year, while adding a handful of carries each week along the way. Only two teams have allowed fewer receptions to running backs than the Packers, but the Bears ranked top of the league in this category when the Patriots played them a couple weeks ago, and White picked up eight catches for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that spot. If Michel plays, there is a chance White dips down to eight or nine looks; but if Michel is out again, White will be locked into a few extra carries and plenty of time on the field — leading to a high likelihood of double-digit looks once again.
On the Packers’ side, the play that stands out the most to me is Rodgers, as it seems massively unlikely that he falls shy of “300 yards and two or more touchdowns” in this spot — and while I probably like Cam and Goff more on the Main Slate, Rodgers definitely has a spot in the conversation. Among pass catchers, Adams and Graham are in the “Main Team” conversation for me on the full-Sunday slate, though neither guy stands out as an obvious lock-button option. Both guys are obviously among the top plays on the Showdown. I also like the idea of taking large-field tourney shots on MVS (and mixing him into Showdown builds), as he carries big upside in this offense (with iffy, workload-insecure floor). Aaron Jones also carries upside, though he is less likely to hit. Cobb/Allison are fringe plays, but it’s not impossible for one of these guys to post a big game this week.
On the Patriots, the backfield is the main place to look, with Michel popping in a great matchup if he plays, and with White standing out as one of the better plays on the weekend regardless — while taking on more certainty if Michel happens to miss. If looking elsewhere, Edelman is the pass catcher likeliest to produce a big stat line, followed by a close call between Gronk/Gordon and a long-shot chance on Chris Hogan. Tom Brady should also produce a nice game here, and his upside will be heightened if Michel misses. You could also roster Patterson (assuming no Michel) and hope that he breaks one of his carries for a long touchdown run.
Both kickers are very much in play on the Showdown as well. The DST units are “hope and pray” game theory plays that will draw low ownership, but that are also unlikely to pay off.
SATURDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Geronimo Allison will miss this week for the Packers, which locks in Marquez Valdes-Scantling to a near-every-down role. With Stephon Gilmore on Davante Adams, MVS is an interesting play on the full-Sunday FantasyDraft slate, as well as on the Sunday night Showdown.