This is the kind of matchup that feels like an itch that you can’t quite reach. On paper, it looks like the beginning of a four-game stretch where the Pack should start stacking wins against overmatched opponents.
In reality, it’s Bill Belichick coming to town off a loss, with everyone doubting his team. He’s armed with a backup quarterback and he’s missing his best run stuffer (former Packer draft pick Lawrence Guy). Everyone is doubting the Patriots and everyone expects the Pack to roll at Lambeau.
You can’t underestimate Belichick’s ability to rally his team and you can’t ignore the potential trap game spot for the Packers, coming off a hard fought emotional win in Tampa and with their first trip overseas looming next week.
Will Green Bay be able to match the intensity New England will bring, desperate to avoid a 1-3 start? Can career backup Brian Hoyer, still looking for his first win as a starter, manage the game, avoid mistakes and keep the chains moving and keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines?
The Pack has history on its side: Matt LaFleur is a perfect 6-0 against AFC teams at Lambeau and he’s 11-1 in the month of October. The two-headed running attack of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon should find plenty of holes against the Pats’ porous run defense. While corner Jonathan Jones is off to a great start, the other corners are mediocre at best and two, Jalen Mills and Adrian Phillips, are banged up and questionable to play.
Romeo Doubs undoubtedly got the Pats’ attention with his play last week and we’ll see if New England shadows him with Jones. Rodgers and the offense have yet to find its groove, but the return of Christian Watson will allow the Pack to take some deep shots and may prevent the Pats from loading up the box all afternoon and daring Green Bay to pass. In Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise, they have two top flight pass rushers—but with the Pack’s two stud tackles back on the field, their impact shouldn’t be huge.
Last week, the Pats were in a generous mood, turning the ball over four times in Baltimore. Look for Hoyer to be much better at ball security as he hopes to spend his afternoon handing off to his two talented backs, Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, who combined are averaging nearly five yards per carry. We know Green Bay’s run defense has run hot and cold to start the year. This is a game where they need to wrap up and tackle well and not allow Belichick to bleed the clock. Getting an early lead and forcing Hoyer to put the ball in the air is the recipe for success this week for the Pack.
Yes, the Packers are double digit favorites and yes, this is just one of two home games between now and November 13th and the Packers have been lights out at home under LaFleur. But Belichick is Belichick and he’ll have his team ready to fight. I want to believe Green Bay will be more than ready to match their intensity and they clearly have the more talented team on paper.
Can the Pack avoid the trap and take care of business? Yes, but it’s unlikely to be pretty.