NFL Week 15: Packers-Patriots Preview: No Boston Massacre…
It was Ugly. Detroit Lions 7, Green Bay Packers 3. Aaron Rodgers goes out with a concussion and is likely out this week.
That’s all I am going to say about last week as that game just raises the blood pressure of ALL of Cheesehead Nation. Lets move on.
This Sunday the Packers travel to Foxborough to face the red hot New England Patriots on a nationally televised Sunday night game.
The past two weeks the Patriots embarrassed the Bears in Chicago in a snow storm and the Jets at home. Two of the supposed elite teams in the league were beaten senseless by likely NFL MVP Tom Brady and a defense that is maturing faster than most thought.
Now the Patriots get to face an already depleted Packers squad who now has to go with an untested backup at quarterback.
Will McCarthy’s men fall to their knees before the almighty Patriots or will they put up one last valiant effort with their playoff hopes on life support?
Breaking down the Patriots
It all starts with Tom Brady.
Two years removed from major knee surgery, Brady looks like he did during the Patriots near-perfect season of 2007 and without Randy Moss.
That said, he’s never faced a defense like the Packers’ who lead the NFL in defensive touchdowns.
Throw in a much improved rushing attack lead by Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (whose nickname of “The Law Firm” might be the coolest in the NFL) and this offense provides Dom Capers the biggest challenge of his two year tenure as defensive coordinator in Green Bay.
The Patriots offensive line deserves and enormous amount of credit for this success. Despite Logan Mankins holding out for part of the season, the line keeps Brady upright and creates holes for the run game. They do their job exceptionally well.
The Patriots defense was expected to be their weak link this season, but as with any Bill Belichick-led squad, they have found a way to beat expectations.
With a defensive line anchored by Vince Wilfork, the Patriots’ young linebacking corps and secondary has grown up rather quickly. With Jerrod Mayo looking like another Clay Matthews and rookie Devin McCourty playing like Charles Woodson, the defense makes the Patriots a lethal team on both sides of the ball.
Much like the Packers, the Patriots create turnovers at will. Leaving Brady a short field has been key to the Pats success this season.
When the Packers have the ball….
Let’s go with the odds and say Matt Flynn is the starting quarterback for the Packers.
He has to run the ball. Letting Flynn air it out in a snowstorm has blowout written all over it. I defended McCarthy big time this week against what I thought was over the top criticism. If he expects to beat the Patriots with a Flynn-led aerial attack, I will eat crow.
The Patriots will blitz Flynn like mad. It’s not hard to rattle a young untested quarterback and I would expect the Pats to do that early and often.
When the Patriots have the ball….
If I’m Dom Capers, I’m watching tape of Super Bowl XLII over and over again.
In that game the Giants pressured Brady like there was no tomorrow. They knocked him off rhythm enough that he wasn’t even close to leading a game winning comeback.
Capers will likely unleash Clay Matthews and company. The defense has got to get to Brady if there is any chance for the Packers to win this game.
The Patriots will continue to ride Brady’s hot hand as he spreads the ball around to his receivers. They also will likely take advantage of Cullen Jenkins‘ absence and run the ball right down the Packers’ throats.
B.J. Raji better be ready.
Three keys to the game
1. Weather the weather
The Bears folded in a bad weather game at home against the Patriots. Will the Packers do the same on the road?
Brady has played in poor conditions before. Flynn hasn’t. You couldn’t think of any worse weather for a quarterback to make his first start in. His team will have to carry him if Flynn wants his first start to be a victory.
2. Don’t quit
If the game starts to get out of hand early, the Packers have to keep fighting. Any sign of surrender would be disappointing.
You’re in the thick of a playoff chase. Two games remain and anything can happen. If the Bears win and the Packers lose, the Bears win the division and the Packers face long odds to get in as a wild card.
Not many people expect the Packers to be competitive in this game, much less win it. The Packers shouldn’t be displaying any woe is me attitude. This is precisely the kind of game where monumental upsets occur.
3. Stop Brady
You could also call this “Mission Impossible.”
Seriously though, if the Packers force the Patriots into some early mistakes and keep the game close through halftime, they might just have a shot. Getting to Brady early is key and it is very hard to rattle him.
Woodson and Matthews have to step up. This is when your playmakers have to make plays. It’s do or die time. It’s pretty hard not to get up for a game like this.
Packers 9, Patriots 7
Yes I am serious and don’t call me Shirley (RIP Leslie Nielsen).
All the makings are there for the Packers to pull off the upset.
No one thinks they have a shot.
The Pats have not lost a home game to an NFC opponent since 2002. The team that beat them? The Packers.
These are the kind of games where McCarthy and his staff do their best work. No one gave the Packers a shot to beat the Jets and they did.
Not to mention the Patriots did lose to the Cleveland Browns earlier in the season.
Capers’ defense has carried this team all year. The defense knows it’s up to them to keep the season afloat.
I recently watched the 2004 World Series DVD. Remember when the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS? No one believed they would come back but they did and broke the Curse of the Bambino.
On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.
I believe in the Green Bay Packers.
We Believe. Go Pack Go.——————
Kris Burke is a freelance sports writer currently residing in Wisconsin. His work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke