Sunday Night Football

Green Bay @ New England
Team Totals: Patriots 31, Packers 25.5

Packers-Patriots is Week 9’s second-highest-totaled game between teams that rank Nos. 4 (NE) and 13 (GB) in points per game despite myriad offensive injuries in the season’s first half (Packers at Patriots, Sunday at 8:20 pm ET; watch on NBC and the NBC Sports app). Whereas Tom Brady has struggled in road dates with the Bills, Lions, and Jags, he’s been a difference maker in Foxboro with a 69.9% completion rate, 308-yard average, and 12 all-purpose TDs in four home affairs. Back home following last week’s scoreless clunker at Buffalo, Brady catches a prime rebound spot in this probable shootout. … After Cordarrelle Patterson was unsuccessfully shoehorned into the Patriots’ Week 8 lead-rushing role, Sony Michel (knee) is tentatively due back against a Green Bay defense coughing up 4.68 yards per carry to enemy backs, including a 26/121/0 (4.65 YPC) rushing line to Rams RBs last week. Michel’s continued knee problems elevate his risk; pre-draft rumors swirled he had a “bone-on-bone” condition, and Michel missed nearly all of training camp due to a knee “procedure.” Michel emerged as an offensive focal point before his latest setback on Weeks 4-6 touch counts of 25 – 19 – 24. Nearly a touchdown home favorite in a favorable matchup, Michel will be a high-ceiling, low-floor RB2 if he gets the green light. … White has earned every-week RB1 treatment regardless of Michel’s status, ranking No. 3 in the NFL in targets (44) over the last month. White leads the Patriots in red-zone targets (12) and targets inside the ten (6) and has double-digit touches in five of the last six weeks. His increased usage as a split-out receiver stood out on Week 8 tape. Fellow RB Todd Gurley led the Rams in receiving (6/81/1) against this same Packers defense last week. 

Brady’s Week 8 target distribution: White 13; Julian Edelman 10; Rob Gronkowski 8; Josh Gordon 6; Chris Hogan 2. … Averaging 8.5 targets since returning from suspension, Edelman has hit pay dirt and/or cleared 100 yards in three straight games and in Week 9 will draw Packers 35-year-old slot CB Tramon Williams, whom PFF has charged with a team-high four touchdowns allowed. Edelman has eight red-zone targets and four targets inside the ten in only four games. … Expectations must be lowered for Gronkowski, whose separation ability is limited by his bad back. Opportunity is still in Gronk’s favor; he set a season high with 44 routes run and led New England in Air Yards (121) in last week’s win. Unless something suddenly changes with his health, however, Gronk can no longer be viewed in the Travis KelceZach Ertz tier. … Shut down by Bills top CB Tre’Davious White last week, Gordon popped as Week 9’s No. 3 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. Gordon’s 270 Air Yards lead the Patriots since he became a full-time player three games ago, while the Packers have surrendered the NFL’s third-most TDs (12) to enemy wideouts. … Hogan nearly hit pay dirt on a 29-yard reception in last week’s victory at Buffalo, only to be pushed out of bounds inside the five, setting up White’s goal-line score. Hogan has exceeded five targets in just 1-of-8 games, devolving into a touchdown-or-bust WR4. 

Aaron Rodgers’ Week 8 box score disappointed because Jimmy Graham’s first-quarter touchdown was overturned on replay, Green Bay scored two of its three TDs on the ground, the coaching staff too often balked at designing boots and rolls for Rodgers to avoid interior disruptors Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, and Ty Montgomery’s lost fumble eliminated any shot at late-game heroics. Rodgers still played at a high level, averaging a season-high 9.5 yards per attempt with zero turnovers and improving his TD-to-INT ratio to 13:1 on the year. This is a bounce-back spot against a Patriots defense that has allowed top-six fantasy results to four of its last seven quarterbacks faced, exceptions being Nathan Peterman/Derek AndersonRyan Tannehill/Brock Osweiler, and Matthew Stafford, who threw for a cool 262 yards and two TDs on 75% passing in Detroit’s Week 3 upset of the Pats. … Aaron Jones emerged from Green Bay’s Week 7 bye in a true lead-back role against the Rams, setting season highs in snaps (62%), routes run (17), and touches (14) en route to 86 yards and a score, repeatedly breaking chunk runs including a 33-yard mad dash to pay dirt. Jamaal Williams vultured a goal-line TD but managed a season-low four touches, and Montgomery was traded away on Tuesday. Jones has finally earned RB2 treatment for Week 9’s Foxboro trip. Bill Belichick’s defense has permitted an unimposing 4.25 yards per carry to running backs, plus the NFL’s second-most receiving yards (520) to the position. Montgomery’s departure increases the chances Jones will stay in the game and see targets if Green Bay falls behind.

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Rodgers’ Week 8 target distribution: Davante Adams 7; Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb 5; Jimmy Graham 4; Jones and Equanimeous St. Brown 2; Williams and Geronimo Allison 1. … Fresh off dominating Marcus Peters (5/133/0), Adams gets a much-tougher draw against piping-hot Stephon Gilmore, whom PFF charged with just 8-of-25 targets allowed (32%) for 96 yards (3.84 YPA) and no TDs in his last five games. Rodgers’ willingness to throw into tight coverage keeps his top receivers matchup proof, however, and Adams would be silly to fade in this projected shootout. Adams is a fade-opponent Week 9 play. … Green Bay resorted to a four-way WRBC with Allison and Cobb back in Week 8. Allison ran the second most routes (23) behind Adams (25) but was targeted once. MVS’ route total (22) was right behind, and he was the lone complementary wideout to make a big play, dusting Rams CB Troy Hill down the right sideline on a 40-yard scoring bomb. Cobb was fourth in routes (17) and St. Brown ran 5. All are fringe plays, but for Week 9 I’d rank them MVS > Allison > Cobb. … On the off chance Gilmore does limit Adams, Graham stands out as a potential beneficiary. Popping as Week 9’s No. 2 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model, Graham lost a first-quarter TD to replay, drew an end-zone target on the very next snap, and was swarmed by Rams linebackers and safeties the rest of the way. The Patriots have allowed the NFL’s ninth-most yards (505) and a league-high five TDs to tight ends. 

Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Packers 28

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