Believe it or not, Detroit’s pass defense actually ranks in the top half of the league in terms of yards per game. However, that is largely because opposing offenses choose to attack their putrid run defense (130 yards per game allowed). I expect the Patriots to run the ball a lot in this game, but the Lions’ offense should be able to keep things close enough to keep Brady throwing. Look for a statline in the 275 yard, 2-3 TD neighborhood once again.
Wes Welker/Deion Branch
This looks like a “start-all-your-Patriots” kind of week. In three of their last four games, the Detroit pass defense has allowed both opposing starting WRs to top 70 yards. That bodes well for Welker and Branch. I think we’ll continue that trend with Welker and Branch splitting up about 175 yards and at least one score.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
Even though this week’s game is being played on Thanksgiving, Patriot running backs are going to feel like it’s Christmas. The Lions give up 4.6 yards per carry and 1.1 rushing TDs allowed per game. After watching both of these guys gallop for TDs against the Colts, I think you can start both of them against the Lions with confidence. Look for 100 total yards and a score out of BJGE and at least 50-60 total yards out of Woodhead with a better-than-average chance of a score.
Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski
While the Lions struggle to defend the pass, they have a formidable front four. For that reason, I’m a bit down on Gronkowski this week. I think the Patriots will use him more as an extra blocker or to chip the defensive ends. He’ll be in the game a bunch, but probably will spend a lot of time in the backfield. On the other hand, I like Hernandez against the Lions’ linebackers. In leagues that award a point per reception, I would start him with confidence this week. Look for 3 catches for 40 yards out of Gronkowski and 5 catches for 50-60 from Hernandez. I’d put the odds of a TE score at about 50-50.
Patriots Defense/Special Teams
I’m down on this unit this week. The Lions should present problems for the Patriots in the passing game. Even with the corners getting help over the top, Calvin Johnson is a mismatch for this (or any) secondary. The Lions also have two good receiving tight ends and a good complimentary receiver in Burleson. New England has struggled to defend the pass, so I would be surprised if they were able to hold the Lions under 20. I think we’ll see Hill turn the ball over 1-2 times along with 2-3 sacks, but you can find those kinds of numbers out of just about any defense. The Pats’ D probably ranks as a middle-of-the-road option this week at best.