With Brian Cushing down for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, this game should be much closer, right? Wrong. Every week, my skepticism over this year’s Green Bay Packers team increases two-fold.
The Packers have a few problems: injuries and a terrible offensive line. Want a staggering statistic? The Packers are second to last in the league in Adjusted-Sack Rate with 10.0%. Adjusted-Sack Rate is a metric that attempts to find the amount of blame to place on the offensive line for a sack compared to the quarterback. The Cardinals are the only team with a worse A.S.R than the Packers at 11.0%.
Key Matchup: Texans DE J.J. Watt vs. Packers O-Line.
So you’re telling me the AFC’s best D-Lineman is going up against the second-to-worst offensive line in football? Yeah folks, it’ll get ugly.
Key Matchup: Texans CB Jonathan Joseph vs. Packers WR Jordy Nelson.
It’s not often that the biggest Key Matchups in a given football game are matchups to which we already know the winner. Jonathan Joseph is without question one of my favorite players to watch. Great cornerbacks are hard to find; shutdown corners, even harder. With Revis out for the season, insert Jonathan Joseph as the best cornerback in the league. The Texans are best in the league against opposing #1 WR and it’s not even close. They have a -51% DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value over Average) against #1 WR, which leads the league by a healthy margin. Insert struggling WR Jordy Nelson and a Packers O-line who are about as effective as mall cops and it leads to Jordy Nelson ends up outside my Top 50 WR for this week. Rodgers will continue to not have time to get the ball to Nelson this week.
Are there any matchups that favor the Packers in this game? Well, they do catch a break given the Texans poor WR corps, but they could have some problems covering Owen Daniels. If Charles Woodson needs to bring help for Tramon Williams against WR Andre Johnson (which will most likely happen), that leaves SS Morgan Burnett in the box against the run (which is fine) which creates a problem because LB D.J. Smith, the fill-in for ILB Desmond Bishop who is on IR with a torn hamstring, is woeful in coverage. Smith is pretty strong against the run but recorded some pretty weak success numbers against the pass last year and has been struggling already this year.
Key Matchup: Texans TE Owen Daniels vs. either FS Charles Woodson or ILB D.J. Smith
If NT B.J Raji is out, the Packers are going to get clobbered.
WR Greg Jennings: Groin- Out
TE Jermichael Finley: Shoulder- Questionable
NT B.J. Raji: Ankle- Questionable
RB Cedric Benson: Lisfranc- IR
WR Andre Johnson: Groin- Questionable
RB Ben Tate: Toe- Questionable
LB Brian Cushing- Torn ACL- Out/ IR
Sit Packers WR Jordy Nelson in all leagues
Start Packers WR James Jones and Randall Cobb in most leagues (targets have to go somewhere)
Start Packers RB Alex Green in only deep leagues
Start Texans TE Owen Daniels in all leagues
Start Texans QB Matt Schaub in most leagues (my #9 QB this week)
Start Packers safety Morgan Burnett
Start Packers LB D.J Smith
Start Texans DE J.J. Watt (no brainer obviously)
Prediction: Texans 31 Packers 17
Patriots @ Seahawks: 4:05 P.M.
The Seahawks easily have one of the most under-rated secondary’s in the NFL. If they played on the East coast, CB Richard Sherman would be a house-hold name. At 6’5, Sherman is one of the best corners in football as he combines that incredible size with elite shadowing skills. His lone Achilles heel is in press coverage against speedy receivers.
The problem for fantasy owners is that there is a significant difference between the production of a #1 WR and a #2 WR against the Seahawks stout defense. Well, this difference is only a problem in situations like this where there are two great WR on the opposing offense. Insert Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.
Key Matchup: Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd vs. CB Richard Sherman
Key Matchup: Patriots WR Wes Welker vs. Brandon Browner
If we were to assume the Sherman would shadow Lloyd all day, it would be a big problem for Lloyd owners. Referencing the aforementioned difference between #1 and #2 WR effectiveness, the Seahawks are 2nd in the league in DVOA against #1 WR, 15th in the league vs. #2 WR, and 21st in the league vs. all other WR. The Seahawks are giving up 45.1 yards per game against “other” WR, and 41.1 yards per game against #1 WR. This despite 10.0 Pass Attempts per game on #1 WR and 3.6 pass attempts per game vs. other WR. In my opinion, “other WR” means slot receivers, and Welker typically would work out of the slot. However, the Patriots don’t really have another credible WR to run the outside alongside Lloyd. Gun to my head, I would predict a healthy Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez receives the lions-share of those “middle of the field” targets that the Seahawks tend to have trouble against. However, they could go to Welker.
In any case, I have Lloyd pretty far down in my rankings for this week because the shutdown probability is too high, or at least, given the matchup, I would expect much fewer targets for Lloyd.
Key Matchup: Tom Brady and Pats up-tempo offense vs. the 12th man
The Seahawks are known for having the loudest stadium in professional football. The Patriots love an up-tempo offense. Knowing Bill Belichick, I would imagine that one of the things the Patriots worked on during the week was simulating snap counts, changing the snap counts, and working the offensive line by practicing with loud distractions in order to simulate the sound of game day so they can avoid numerous false-start penalties.
Brady and the Pats absolutely cannot afford another slip-up like what happened in Arizona, and Belichick will have them ready for that. I expect the Patriots to run the ball a ton in this game in their up tempo offense using a lot of draw plays to counter the blitz-happy Seahawks.
Long, sustained drives that tire the Seahawks defense will be of paramount importance. If that happens, expect a lot of running plays when Buck-end pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin gets stuck on the field after a third down conversion in a passing situation.
The Patriots lost to the Cardinals because of inefficiency on third-down. If that happens again, they will lose. The Seahawks pass-rush at full energy is going to be way too much for the Patriots offensive-line to handle, but as they get tired, after an increasing number of third-down conversions, the Patriots will start to gain a hold on this game.
Key Matchup: RB Marshawn Lynch vs. the Patriots Defense
With the above paragraph listing the ultimate key for this game, insert this one as the second most important. The Seahawks need to convert on third-down and Lynch needs to be able to run the ball effectively to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offense off the field.
TE Aaron Hernandez: Ankle- Questionable/Doubtful
WR Wes Welker: Ankle- Questionable/Probable
TE Rob Gronkowski: Hip- Questionable/Probable
RB Marshawn Lynch: Back- Probable
TE Aaron Hernandez is a game-time decision, his upside if he plays is huge, so pick up Zach Miller or another TE that plays at 4 p.m. or later just in case.
Sit Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd if you have a better option
Start Patriots RB Stevan Ridley
Start Seahawks WR Sidney Rice
This game can absolutely go one of two ways, and each one depends on the same thing: the health of Aaron Hernandez
If Hernandez plays, Patriots win 27-20.
If Hernandez doesn’t play or is highly limited, Seahawks win 23-20.
Written by Josh Kay exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Send all your PPR questions to Josh on Twitter @JoshKay_Fantasy.