Brady has faced some tough defenses the past three weeks, and his stats have suffered as a result. He has failed to throw for 300 yards or throw multiple TD passes in three straight. The Vikings have the 13th ranked pass defense and have allowed just 8 TD passes this year. Since the Moss trade, Brady had averaged a paltry 5.9 yards per passing attempt. A forecast of 225-250 yards and 1-2 TDs seems about right. In shallow leagues, it’s worth considering other options this week. While he is arguably the best real-life QB in the NFL, his talents have not been translating to the fantasy football field this year.
While Welker is still money in leagues that award points per reception (PPR), he hasn’t scored since Week 2, and his yardage totals have been nothing to write home about. The Pats will likely try to focus on underneath passes and the intermediate routes that are Welker’s specialty. He should see a healthy number of targets and catches, but his chances of finding the end zone are not great. Look for a statline around 6-7 catches for 60-80 yards and no scores.
Branch saw a steep decline in production in Week 7 after a great game against Baltimore in Week 6. The consistent pressure from the Chargers forced Brady to get rid of the ball quicker, which limited Brach’s opportunities. Minnesota has recorded just 6 sacks this season, and unless they run a lot of blitzes, I expect Branch to bounce back with 5-6 catches for 80 yards and a 50-50 shot at finding the end zone.
The Law Firm has scored in four straight contests, but his yardage totals have been pathetic in the past two. As more of a between-the-tackles runner, he faces a stiff test against a tough Minnesota defensive front. I can’t foresee him eclipsing 50 yards on the ground this week, and I’m not bullish on his prospects of finding the end zone.
If any Patriots RB finds the end zone this week, I think it’s likely to be Woodhead. The slippery speedster has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has carved out a substantial number of touches in the New England backfield. He’s not quite #2 fantasy RB material quite yet, but in a week with Ray Rice, Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Peyton Hillis, Lesean McCoy, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs all on a bye, Woodhead certainly merits consideration as a starter. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 touches, 50 yards and a possible score.
Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski
The season-ending injuries to Clark and Finley have left many fantasy owners in a lurch at the TE position. Hernandez is 5th among all TEs in receiving yardage in 2010, and only 4 TEs have more TDs than Gronkowski. Depending on your league settings, either option could easily be starter material. Look for the dynamic duo to combine for about 70 yards and a score, with Hernandez doing most of his work between the 20s and Gronkowski doing most of his damage in the red zone.
Although he has struggled a bit with his accuracy this season, he’s had at least 8 points in five out of six games this year. He’s currently 9th in overall scoring for kickers. You’re never going to sit Gostkowski. Pencil him in for his usual 1-2 FGs and 2 XPs, but also recognize that he could exceed those projections since the Pats could struggle in the red zone against a tough Minnesota front 4.
New England Defense/Special Teams
The value of New England’s defense and special teams is primarily in its ability to put points on the scoreboard. The team ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks and turnovers, and they are in the lower half of the league in points against. Minnesota has turned the ball over 16 times and allowed 14 sacks (and even more QB hits and pressures), so they aren't a bad team to pick on if you need a team defense. The Favre injury and possibility of Tavaris Jackson spending time under center make the Patriots D a great plug ‘n play for Week 8. 2-3 sacks, 2-3 turnovers and about 17-20 points against seems like a decent guess.