I undersold Brady in terms of fantasy points last week, but I’m still counting it as a moral victory since my projections were far higher than most experts’. While Brady lit up the Steelers like a Christmas tree last week, I don’t think he’s going to see the same level of production this week. The Indy secondary has held opposing QBs to 211 yards passing and 1.2 TDs per game. I expect the Patriots to lean heavily on the running game against a banged-up and exploitable front 7. Somewhere in the vicinity of 250 yards and 1-2 TDs seems reasonable, although he could certainly find the end zone more since the Patriots should spend some time on the Colts’ end of the field.
Wes Welker/Deion Branch
The Patriots’ top two targets came alive last week, splitting up 15 catches for 160 yards. Still, I am tempering my expectations since the Patriots are likely to run the ball more this week. I would start either guy as a third wideout in fantasy, but relying on either of these guys heavily isn’t likely to pay big dividends. I’d expect a statline of about 5-6 catches and 60-70 yards for Welker and 3-4 catches for 50-60 yards for Branch.
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BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
The Pats threw the Steelers a curveball by involving BJGE in the passing game last week. He caught 4 passes, tripling his season total and keeping the defense off-balance. I expect the Patriots to offer a heavy dose of the Law Firm again this week, with a safe floor of 80 yards and a score and a ceiling of 100+ and 2. Woodhead was limited to just 6 touches last week due to the matchup, but I’d expect them to get him the ball a few more times this week as the team tries to pound the ball at the Colts. Woodhead’s best chance for a score is in manageable down-and-distance situations around the red zone. I think he’ll finish with around 70 total yards and a 50-50 shot at finding paydirt.
Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski exploded for 3 TDs last week. Hernandez only showed up in the box scores with a defended pass. The gameplan last week was a lot of 2-TE and 3-TE sets to help slow down the edge rushers, and with Mathis and Freeney coming to town, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of the same. The tight ends should be a valuable part of the gameplan again this week. Look for the two top TEs to combine for around 80-100 yards and a score this week, with Hernandez getting more involved this week in the middle of the field.
I normally wouldn’t cover kickers two weeks in a row, but the situation is unique due to injury. Graham converted both of his FGs last week, but missed an extra point. With Gostkowski gone for the year, the New England kicking game is going to be a bit of an adventure. In deeper leagues, Graham projects to be a fringe starter, but not the stone-cold lock that Gostkowski was.
New England Defense/Special Teams
The Colts typically feature a high-powered offense, but the absence of a number of offensive pieces makes the possibility of starting the New England defense slightly more attractive this week. As noted in my Opening Lines piece earlier this week, Manning has thrown for 300 yards just once in his last five games, and the Colts have the 27th-ranked rushing offense. However, Manning still doesn’t take many sacks or turn the ball over often, so fantasy points could be limited. It’s also worth noting that Indy’s special teams have had a few problems limiting kick returners in recent weeks, so a big play on special teams is a possibility. If your league rewards special teams yardage and/or TDs, you could certainly do worse than New England’s D this week.