After a thrilling win in Tampa Bay, the Green Bay Packers (3-0) will head home to face off against the New England Patriots (1-2).
The Patriots are coming off a home loss against the Baltimore Ravens in which starting quarterback Mac Jones left the game early due to a high ankle sprain. After Bill Belichick avoided questions all week regarding the ankle injury of Jones, the Patriots officially ruled him out on Friday.
Brian Hoyer vs. the Packers Pass Rush
Entering his thirteenth season, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer will likely get the start against the Packers. He will have his work cut out for him as the Packers pass rush that features Kenny Clark, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary among others will be licking their chops after last week’s dominant performance in Tampa Bay. Poised for a breakout season, outside linebacker Rashan Gary already has three sacks and 12 total tackles in only three games.
“When you’re an elite rusher, a lot of times they can’t just let them go one-on-one,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “So it’s something that, I think, this is part of the evolution of Rashan, that he’s just gotten better and better and with that reputation comes attention.”
Aaron Rodgers vs. the Patriots Linebackers
Last week the Packers offense came out firing on all cylinders putting up 14 points on Buccaneers defense in the first half. Before the game, Rodgers stated the difficulty of playing against the blitz-heavy Todd Bowles defense. To combat this, the Packers ran a plethora of RPO plays, reading the linebackers, emphasizing getting the ball out early and limiting throws downfield. However, in the second half, the Buccaneers stiffened up their defense and didn’t allow another score. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may employ a similar defensive scheme to slow down the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense. If that happens, the Packers will need to utilize jet motion to put pressure on the eye discipline of the Patriots linebackers. If pressure is continually put on the Patriots linebackers, the run lanes should open up and Aaron Rodgers will have more opportunities to make plays downfield.
Packers Corners vs. the Patriots receivers
On Friday, the Packers announced that star cornerback Jaire Alexander is questionable ahead of Sunday’s contest. If he can’t play, the Packers will likely slide Rasul Douglass outside and put Keisean Nixon in the slot as the nickel cornerback. Last week, while filling in for the injured Alexander, Nixon forced a fumble and had seven tackles. After the Packers secondary got burned by Justin Jefferson in Week 1, the defense has been more aggressive by playing more man coverage. Expect the secondary to continue to be aggressive and create turnovers against an average Patriots receiving core led by Jakobi Meyers, Devante Parker and Nelson Agholor.
X Factor: Matt Lafluer
On paper, the Packers outmatch the Patriots in almost every category. With the injury to Mac Jones and the Packers recent defensive play, the Packers should be in control and win comfortably if Matt Lafluer can keep his foot on the gas.