The New England Patriots head to Green Bay for the first time since 2014 without their starting quarterback as Mac Jones has officially been ruled out for Sunday. The Patriots’ 2021 first-round pick was injured on his final pass against Baltimore. New England now hands the ball to backup quarterback Brian Hoyer against one of the best teams in the NFC.
The Patriots were at a disadvantage at the QB position before Mac Jones’ injury. Jones is a second-year QB going through a sophomore slump, while Aaron Rodgers is a multiple-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl Champion, and future Hall of Famer. The Packers have already beaten one of their hated rivals in the Bears and a Super Bowl favorite in the Buccaneers. On paper, this should be a cakewalk for Green Bay, but games aren’t played on paper.
The one place it seems the Patriots should have the advantage is at head coach. Bill Belichick has six Super Bowl Championships and coached New England to three other appearances. This is Matt LaFleur’s fourth season as Packers head coach, but he has a 41-11 record in that time. In theory, Belichick should coach circles around LaFleur, but we’ve already seen the Patriots lose to a head coach coaching his first-ever game this season. Plus, Belichick brought back a former defensive coordinator and former special teams coach to split offensive play-calling duties, so it seems like Belichick is outcoaching himself at this point. Right now, Brian Hoyer might be New England’s best option at both quarterback and offensive coordinator.
WHAT DOES NEW ENGLAND HAVE TO DO
The most important aspect of the game this weekend is ball control. Aaron Rodgers can’t beat you if he’s on the sideline. New England must control the time of possession to have any chance to win. The running backs have to be great. Brian Hoyer only has to not lose the game, but Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris are the keys to a Patriots win. The defense also needs to get physical with Green Bay’s receivers. New England won’t be able to outsmart Aaron Rodgers, but they can push around the other players at the line of scrimmage and throw off his rhythm. The question is if they do all of that, will it be enough?
In past years, this was a must-watch game on the calendar, but right now the Patriots are hard to watch. Is it impossible for New England to win? No. Winning in Green Bay in early October will be a lot easier before Lambeau Field becomes the “Frozen Tundra.” If New England can keep Rodgers off the field and throw off his rhythm when he’s on it, they can keep it close, but I don’t see that happening. I think Green Bay wins in a rout.
Packers 34 | Patriots 14
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