Game Preview: Packers vs. Patriots, Week 13

What to watch when the New England Patriots visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday for a match-up of elite teams.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson by Brace Hemmelgarn—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson by Brace Hemmelgarn—USA TODAY Sports.

The Green Bay Packers (8-3) host the New England Patriots (9-2) at Lambeau Field on Sunday Nov. 30 at 3:25 p.m. CT in a game televised on CBS.

 

The Big Picture: What's at Stake?

Hailed as a potential Super Bowl preview, Sunday's game features the team with the best record in the AFC and the team currently in possession of the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

According to online oddsmaker Bovada.lv, the Patriots and the Packers are the two NFL teams with the best odds to win the Super Bowl, 3-to-1 and 4-to-1 respectively.

 

What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball

A) Keeping Pace with the Patriots: The Packers may very well win this game, but even if they do, there's little chance it's because the defense shuts the Patriots out.

Green Bay has the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 32.2 points per game, surpassed by only this weeks' opponent. New England averages 32.5 points.

It will be imperative for the Packers offense to keep pace with the Patriots, if not set the pace, with the burden falling on the shoulders of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has become one of the league's best offensive conductors, deftly operating the no huddle and scoring points at break-neck speed.

B) Eddie Lacy Sustaining Drives: Coming off his best game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings in which he ran for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns, Lacy earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

The most impressive part of Lacy's performance was the Packers' final drive in the fourth quarter when he carried the football five straight plays, converting two first downs and allowing them to run out the clock.

If the Packers are going to maintain possession of the football, keep the chains moving and minimize the time the Patriots own possession, they're going to need another efficient day from Lacy and the rest of the Packers running backs.

C) Jordy Nelson in Contention for the Best Week Ever: Nelson's week got off to a good start when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, an honor of national significance.

It got better when he joined the leaders in Pro Bowl voting among players at his position when the NFL released results on Wednesday. If his week ended there, Nelson might be featured on the VH1 television show.

To keep his fortunes headed in the right direction, Nelson will need to have a better performance than he did against the Vkings when he was held to a modest 68 yards and an average 8.5 yards per reception. Likely to be lined up across from Darrelle Revis for much of the day, his job doesn't get any easier on Sunday.

 

What to Watch When the Patriots Have the Ball

A) Defending Tight End Rob Gronkowski: The Packers have to be concerned about the NFL's leader in receiving yards and touchdowns among players at his position when they face Gronkowski. The Patriots tight end has 58 receptions for 812 yards and nine touchdowns.

Lining up across from Gronkowski a majority of time will probably be Micah Hyde, who has largely taken over the slot cornerback duties from Casey Hayward. The Packers will likely need to roll coverage to Gronkowski's side of the field with help from safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett over the top.

Green Bay's defense made another switch in personnel last week when they inserted Brad Jones in the dime defensive package. Jones could also be called upon to guard Gronkowski from time to time, but it's questionable whether Jones will keep his role if Nick Perry returns to action.

B) Tom Brady Matching Aaron Rodgers on His Home Turf: Rodgers and Brady have both been in the league for the past 10 years, but surprisingly, it's the first head-to-head meeting between the two elite NFL quarterbacks, missing an opportunity in 2010 when Rodgers sat out their match-up with a concussion.

Brady is the more accomplished of the pair, having led his team to five Super Bowls, winning three of them, but Rodgers might be the NFL's best quarterback at this point in time. In the midst of a season with 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions, Rodgers is the favorite for the league's MVP award.

The Packers secondary showed it could be vulnerable last week against the Vikings, but it's not going to be easy for Brady to come into Lambeau Field and come away with a victory, especially if the Green Bay defense is healthy and all hands are on deck.

C) Stopping Whoever's at Running Back: The Patriots rushing game isn't prolific, but considering the revolving door at the running back position, the moderate level of success they've been able to have is all the more notable.

Back for his second stint in New England after signing with the Patriots on November 20, LeGarette Blount rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back last week against Detroit.

It was very likely a challenge for the Packers defense this week, preparing for the Patriots running game and not knowing who might carry the ball. Whether it's Blount, Shane Vereen or Jonas Gray, the Green Bay defense is going to need to limit their effectiveness in order to keep the Pats in long down-and-distance situations.

 

What to Watch on Special Teams

Those Doing The Dirty Work: Special teams players on coverage and blocking units don't often get recognition for their play, but the Packers and the Patriots have two of the best in the business.

When Pro Bowl balloting results were released earlier this week, Matt Slater of the Patriots led all special teams players in voting with Jarrett Bush of the Packers coming in at No. 2. Bush, however, is fighting through a groin injury and is listed as "questionable" on the team's injury report.

When Bush missed last week's game in Minnesota, Demetri Goodson took his place on the active roster for just the second time this season. The rookie cornerback made a nice tackle on kickoff coverage but negated his impact with a 15-yard penalty for interference with the opportunity to catch a punt later in the game.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

NFL Categories: 
0 points

Comments (11)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

November 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm

What to Watch for Away from Lambeau:

A) I will be wearing my lucky sweatshirt (now 7-1).
B) I will have my Packer gnome on my coffee table.
C) G-force flag will be hanging from my mantle.

I have done all I can do. Hope the team steps up similarly.

0 points
0
0
FITZCORE1252's picture

November 30, 2014 at 01:27 am

Your effort will pay off.

0 points
0
0
4thand1's picture

November 30, 2014 at 09:08 am

Not depending on luck for this game, skill of AR will win it + the D forces 2 turnovers.

0 points
0
0
Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

November 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

Dressing appropriately and surrounding yourself with the proper game day items is a skill not unlike TT assembling his team. We all do what we can. The only luck involved was me finding a sweatshirt to wear under my Rodgers jersey that worked.

0 points
0
0
PackerAaron's picture

November 30, 2014 at 07:40 am

More empty promises.

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

November 30, 2014 at 08:28 am

He already has another name all ready to post under I'm sure.

0 points
0
0
denniseckersley's picture

November 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

Meow

0 points
0
0
Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

November 30, 2014 at 08:11 am

The importance of this game just went up threefold. Go Pack! Silence of the cows.

0 points
0
0
4thand1's picture

November 30, 2014 at 09:04 am

buhbye

0 points
0
0
denniseckersley's picture

November 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

Meow

0 points
0
0
DraftHobbyist's picture

November 30, 2014 at 08:12 am

Special Teams Pro Bowl voting is a joke. Bush has been far from elite on ST's this year. Missed tackles have been a problem. Bush has failed to recover fumbles when he has had the opportunity and he has had at least one personal foul penalty this season. Nine Special Teams tackles over 11 games gets you to the Pro Bowl? Okay.

0 points
0
0