What to Watch For: Packers vs Patriots
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Joe Calabro, GoLocalWorcester Sports Team
|Tom Brady faces Aaron Rodgers for only second time in history|
New England enters the game with a record of 6-2, while Green Bay comes in with a record of 3-3-1.
"I think we're just trying to stick [to] it, trying to keep getting better, keep competing. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season where I would want to be midway through the season, I want to be undefeated. I think that's everybody - you want to win every game,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Thursday.
See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below
The game will also mark just the second time in history that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will face each other.
“We need it. This is a great team. You're right, they have a great quarterback and it's just a great test. They've been a great team for a long time, very well-coached team that executes really well under pressure. They play well at home, they play well on the road. We just can't have anything less than our best,” said Brady during his press conference on Friday.
Game time is set for 8:20 p.m.
Patriots vs Packers
The Patriots and Packers have met 11 times in their history, including one Super Bowl, with Green Bay leading the series 6-5.
The last meeting between the teams came in 2014 when Green Bay edged New England 26-21 at Lambeau Field.
That also marked the first-ever meeting between Rodgers and Brady.
Prior to that, the Patriots beat the Packers 31-27 at Gillette Stadium in 2010.
Rodgers did not play in that game as he was injured.
See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below
Brady vs Rodgers
Sunday night's game will be just the second time in history that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will face each other.
The only other time coming in 2014 when Rodgers beat Brady at Lambeau Field.
"He's a great player and I think he's going to play his best. He always does. He plays pretty great every week," said Brady during his press conference on Thursday.
This season, Rodgers has completed 174 passes for 2,283 yards with 13 touchdowns for a completion percentage of 61.3 and a quarterback rating of 100.4.
He has also rushed for 116 yards this season and has extended numerous plays with his legs.
"I'd say playing against Aaron Rodgers is very, very difficult. He's as good as anybody that I've faced and we've faced a lot of good ones through the years. That's not to take anything away from anybody else. I'm just saying the guy is a great player. He can do everything that a quarterback needs to do consistently. He does it well. He throws a lot of touchdowns. He doesn't throw very many interceptions," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Wednesday.
Brady enters the game having thrown 16 touchdown passes and seven interceptions on the season. He has thrown for a total of 2,200 yards and has a completion percentage of 67.1.
"I had a great guy to watch every single day in Brett Favre, but Tommy's been at the top of his game for a long, long time. So, I watched most of the snaps from the '07 season and I've always been a big fan of his. Just the stuff he does on the field is phenomenal and then to see him, as he's gotten older in his career, continue to reinvent himself year after year and play at a high level every single season, obviously winning the championships, he's a phenomenal player," said Rodgers during his conference call with the New England media on Wednesday.
Adams vs Gilmore
One of the key matchups in the game will be Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore against Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
Adams has become one of Rodgers go-to guys, hauling in 52 receptions for 690 yards and six touchdowns.
He averages 13.3 yards per reception.
"Davante Adams is a great receiver. We got to see it first-hand his rookie year when we went down to Green Bay and had to play against him. He was really tough then. You just add the years since 2014 and his continued progress, improving. He's a handful," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Thursday.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick added, "He's a big one. Again, a vertical receiver, does a great job down the field, catch-and-run player, strong runner, hard to tackle. It's hard to play off him, it's hard to play up on him. He does a very good job of beating man coverage with his quickness and route technique."
According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore has a defensive rating of 84.3 and is ranked as the fourth-best cornerback in the league.
However, if Gilmore struggles against Adams, expect New England to bring help or play more of a zone.
What is wrong with Rob Gronkowski?
So far this season, Gronkowski hasn't been a major factor in the Patriots offense like we are used to seeing.
In seven games, Gronkowski has 29 catches for 445 yards and just one touchdown, which came in week one.
"I think the end zone misses me," Gronkowski said earlier this week.
Even more concerning, Gronkowski has been targeted just twice in the red zone and has no catches.
"I don't think we've played our best offensively over the last eight games. So I'd say we've got to all figure out - whether it's me and Rob, or me and Josh [Gordon], or me and Jules [Julian Edelman] or everyone, I think we're just trying to work at it every week," said Brady during his press conference on Friday when asked about Gronkowski.
By comparison, last season at this time, (through 7 games) Gronkowski had 34 catches for 509 yards and five touchdowns.
In the red zone last season, Gronkowski caught 11 passes on 22 targets for 94 yards and six touchdowns. The 22 targets were the sixth most in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers traded away safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix earlier this week giving their secondary a bit of a new look.
Prior to being traded, Clinton-Dix played every defensive snap for Green Bay this season and every snap last season.
The Green Bay secondary is now made up of rookie Jaire Alexander and Tramon Williams, who will mostly see time in the slot.
Jermaine Whitehead and Kevin King round out Green Bay’s secondary personnel.
Certainly, Whitehead’s done a good job for them in a lot of different roles. [Jones is a very talented player that I’m sure has more than enough skill to play that position – not sure where exactly they are on him. But, I mean, give him a good opportunity to play, I think he would play more. If it’s Williams, it’s Williams. I mean, they have a lot of depth at cornerback with the two rookie corners. So, they have a lot of options," said Belichick.
Even with Clinton-Dix, the Packers defense has given up less than 29 points just one time this season, and that came in a 22-0 shutout of Buffalo.
Look for the Patriots to take advantage of the Packers secondary by spreading them out and getting the ball out quick.
Starting right guard Shaq Mason has been ruled out of the game with a calf injury that he suffered against the Buffalo Bills on Monday.
With Mason out, that means Ted Karras is likely to replace him on the offensive line for his fourth career start.
Look for the Packers to test Karras early on in the game, bring pressure to his side and try to beat him.
“Defensively, they have a lot of looks, a lot to prepare for. They do a good job of pressuring the quarterback, a really good third-down team, a good coverage team on the kicking game,” said Belichick.
On the season, the Green Bay defense has 23 sacks, led by linebacker Blake Martinez and nose tackle Kenny Clark, who each have four.