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Patriots Limp into Week 4 Lambeau Clash with the Packers

Fresh off facing one former MVP quarterback in the form of Lamar Jackson, another awaits the New England Patriots this weekend at the not quite yet frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers. This would have been a phenomenal test for this 1-2 squad on the road, if not because Mac Jones is all but certain to be inactive this weekend at the bare minimum with a severe high ankle sprain.

Going up against arguably the best pass defense in football, Bill Belichick will turn to Brian Hoyer to step in for the interim. However, the Patriots could have the faintest glimpse of hope based on some admittedly early season data. More on what that data entails, and the rest of this Week 4 clash of NFL bluebloods here.



Game Info

Date: Sunday, October 2nd

Start Time: 4:25 EST

Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Stadium: Lambeau Field

TV Info: CBS (Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call)

Green Bay Packers

Defense

The NFC touts several elite defenses and Green Bay could have the best of the bunch in 2022. That starts with their starting cornerback trio, which is pound-for-pound the best in the game. Jaire Alexander is the focal point, and the Packers were wise to lock him up on a monster four-year extension earlier in the season. Worth noting that he did not practice on Thursday as he is currently dealing with a groin issue. On his flank is second-year cover man Erik Stokes out of the University of Georgia, whom Tom Brady completely ignored just last weekend. Moving into the slot you have Rasual Douglass, who may have been this team’s defensive MVP a year ago after being signed off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

The Packers also carry a formidable safety duo in the form of Adrian Amos, whom they stole from the Chicago Bears a few years ago, and Darnell Savage. Moving up to the pass rush, Green Bay isn’t lacking there either. Rashaan Gary in his fourth season has real Defensive Player of the Year upside, currently on a sack per game pace. Preston Smith and Kenny Clark additionally are formidable up front, however, those three have over 75% of all the Packers' pressures through 12 quarters of play.

One thing I mentioned to myself while watching the Packers' Sunday Night Football tilt against the Bears in Week 2 was that the Green Bay run defense looked noticeably rough in spots. Although the standard stats show that they are a solid run-defending squad, one advanced statistic proved that comment correct. In terms of Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average), they rank dead last in the league for run defense. Something that bares watching really all season for them.

Offense

Aaron Rodgers: Four Time NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion, Key&Peele and Game of Thrones extra, Ayahuasca Enjoyer, Family Non-Enjoyer, “Immunized”. After an unsuccessful “Last Dance” (on the topic, unhinged to call it that when the Packers haven’t made a Super Bowl since the 2010 season), he is still in the Green and Yellow, which wasn’t my expectation earlier in the year. Regardless, he is leading a still work-in-progress Packers offense which is averaging 16 points a game, good for sixth worst in the NFL.

The loss of Devante Adams certainly isn’t helping things, but Rodgers should hopefully get on the same page with his two rookie wide receivers soon for the sake of Packer fans. Their camp darling this summer Romeo Doubs had his early season breakout game in Tampa Bay, catching all eight of his targets for 73 yards and a score. If the Packers do end up righting the ship offensively, he will be a major reason why. Second-rounder Christian Watson should hopefully get more involved as well moving forward. His status for this Sunday is up in the air after missing Week 3 with a hamstring issue. Allan Lazard will likely be the wideout to do the most damage here. Taylor Kyles pointed out that the Packers have moved him into the slot against man defense. Assuming that matches him up with Myles Bryant, that is big trouble for the Patriots.

The glue for this Packers offense so far has been their running back duo of AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones. Contributing at a high rate in both the run and pass game, they’ll have opposing defenses on their toes all year long. Jones specifically has started 2022 with a bang, averaging shy of seven yards a carry and 76 receiving yards. The offensive line in Green Bay however has been dealing with some injuries and the availability of some of their key guys are in question for Sunday. Keep an eye out for David Bakhtiari and Elton Jenkins specifically, both of whom have missed at least a practice so far this week.

New England Patriots

Defense

For all the frustration and concern with the offensive down in Foxborough, one thing is becoming abundantly clear early on; the Patriots have an absolute wagon of a defense. The points per game number they are at (23.7) isn’t entirely on them, on top of the fact they rank eighth in passing defense with two of their games coming against Miami and Baltimore, not too bad I’d say. Having a lot to do with that is Jonathan Jones, who three weeks into the year is the single highest graded cornerback in all of football via PFF. Going from primarily the slot to being a primary outside corner is not an easy transition and he has shown that he is one of the NFL’s best.

Although Lamar Jackson went for 107 rushing yards last week, the Patriots have objectively shut down opposing running backs to this point. Six teams have held opposing running backs collectively under 200 yards this season, the Patriots are one of them. With that said, they could be missing a key cog up front this week in Lawrence Guy, who went down against Baltimore and has yet to practice this week. The good news is that Kyle Dugger has been practicing this week in a limited fashion and could hopefully translate into him playing this Sunday.

Now for the pass rush, which has been good in the statistics and eye test department. Not much of a surprise, but Matt Judon leads the way in the pressures department with 10 so far this year. What is absolutely a surprise is the scorching hot start Deatrich Wise is off to. His four sacks rank second in the entire league and is one away from a new career high. Additionally, he has sneakily become an every-down defender, for the time being, playing in 86 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps so far. Awesome to see this from Wise, who has been a consummate professional and locker room leader from the moment he arrived in Foxborough. This unit will have their hands full again this Sunday but look for another good performance from them.


Offense

Bill Belichick, in his masterclass of a press conference, confirmed that Brian Hoyer is the Patriots starter should Mac Jones be inactive (he should be). The last time Hoyer started for the Patriots was in 2020 in relief of Cam Newton who had a bout with COVID-19, going up against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. The nicest thing I can say about that performance is that it happened, and it only lasted one half. Ultimately the less said about that game the better. To be fair to Hoyer as well, he was solid in an admittedly limited sample size in the preseason. Safe to say that this Packers defense is better than any defense he saw in August.

One thing that was common in Hoyer’s last 10 or so starts is that he likes to go to the tight ends. That is massive for Hunter Henry, who has yet to make a splash this year. Both he and Jonnu Smith could have productive days should the plan be to avoid the Packers corners if the Patriots can help it. For the receivers, it will be interesting to see how DeVante Parker backs up a career game, and how Kendrick Bourne is used. After Nelson Agholor’s second backbreaking fumble of the season, he should be in line for a downtick in snaps.

If you remember the Packers' run defense DVOA rank really comes into play for the Patriots, here’s where it does. The Patriots running back tandem of Rhamondre Stevenson, and Damien Harris have the Patriots ranked as the top DVOA rushing offense as of now. Stevenson specifically was tremendous against the Ravens, averaging a fraction over six yards a carry. Meanwhile, Harris hasn’t had the YPC numbers to match but has been more than solid. Both could be in line for a boatload of touches this week.


Betting Odds:

Points Spread: NE +9.5 (-108) | GB -9.5 (-112)

Moneyline: NE (+360) | GB (-460)

Over/Under: O 39.5 (-114) | U 39.5 (-106)


Short and sweet with the betting advice this week. The last time Brian Hoyer won a regular-season start was six years to the day of this Packers matchup. With that said, all those games except for the 2020 Kansas City games were surprisingly very close. Packers outright should hit here, and I would lean Packers -9.5 if anything ATS. For the O/U, I would lean under with both offenses being in the shape that they are currently.


Prediction:

Had Mac Jones not gotten hurt last weekend, I would have picked the Patriots to win this game. With where Green Bay is right now offensively, this would have been a good spot on the schedule to catch them in. Jones in tandem with the run game would have just been enough in that regard. Hoyer entering the equation obviously hurts that. The Packers should be loading up the box with regularity and dare the Patriots to throw most of the time. As for the defense, expect them to exploit any Lazard on Bryant matchup if they can help it.

Final Score: Green Bay Packers 24, New England Patriots 13

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