Green Bay Packers Face NFL’s Hottest Team in New England

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A questionable Aaron Rodgers and a 7-3 upset by the Detroit Lions has the Green Bay Packers limping into one of the biggest games of the season. At a full game back of the NFC-North leading Chicago Bears, the Packers will desperately look for a win on Sunday night in Foxborough against the NFL’s hottest team.

While the New England Patriots (11-2) will be more than just another bump in the road, the Packers (8-5) need to find a way to overcome this offensive funk they have found their selves in. Particularly on third down where the Packers went 2-for-12 in the loss to the Lions. If they cannot do this, they may be a ten-win team looking from the outside when it comes time for the playoffs.

By: Nick Grays

To Packers fans, the ineffectiveness on third down should be eerily familiar. Through their first eight weeks, the Packers ranked 26th in the league with a pitiful 35.1 conversion rate.

Since then, Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Rodgers appeared to fix the problem by shooting up to 6th in the league with a 42.7 conversion rating. All was looking better until Rodgers received his second concussion of the year and the Packers fell right back into the third-down trap.

The question of whether Rodgers will play against New England has been one of the biggest questions of the week. As of Thursday, Rodgers has yet to practice and expects to be a Saturday/Sunday decision. While he did play against the Miami Dolphins in week six after suffering his first concussion just a week earlier, you would have to think the Packers will be thinking long-term when it comes to their elite quarterback.

Here’s what McCarthy had to say about the situation earlier this week.

“We’re not doing anything different than we normally would do with any of the players. We understand the importance of the quarterback position, but this is about Aaron Rodgers, first, No. 1, being healthy, and then after that we’ll make a decision on whether he’ll play or not,” said McCarthy.

If Rodgers cannot go, the Packers will hand the ball to back-up Matt Flynn. While Flynn did not look terrible in his limited action last week (15-27 for 177 yards), he was no Rodgers, most evident from his costly interception in the end zone at the end of the third quarter.

Despite Flynn’s lack of experience, it’s not necessarily the passing game the Packers need to worry about, it’s the running game. Brandon Jackson has failed to take over for the injured Ryan Grant and rookie James Starks is strides away from being a dependable back.

Flynn should be good for at least a couple of touchdowns against a mediocre Patriots pass-defense. Not sure you can say the same about a running game which becomes more and more important when weather conditions worsen. Not all teams have Tom Brady who plays out of his mind in snowy and cold conditions.

All of that on the offense and I haven’t even mentioned the Packers’ defense. That’s because they rank first in the league in scoring defense and really have held their own throughout a season which should be declared the year of the injury in Green Bay. The main core or Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams has helped defensive coordinator Dom Capers mix in young talent like Charlie Peprah, Sam Shields and Frank Zombo with ease.

Expect Brady to take a step back in the MVP race this week because Woodson and Williams should be able to limit his ability to spread the ball around to Deion Branch and Wes Welker. If the Patriots are to beat the Packers in the passing game, it will have to be via the tight end. The trio of Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will have to capitalize on the mismatches presented to them throughout the game.

For purposes of predicting the game, I would love to know if Rodgers will play. Nevertheless, I will go against the grain and pick the Packers to put forth a courageous effort and pull out a surprising victory. It will be the first loss in Foxborough for Tom Brady since 2006.

Prediction: Packers 30 Patriots 24

Do you disagree and think it’s nearly impossible for the Packers to beat the Patriots? Let me know by commenting below!

Follow Nick Grays on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.

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