NFL Preview – New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3) (ET)

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

( – If you are a fan of foreshadowing, keep an eye on
Lambeau Field this Sunday.

The New England Patriots, perhaps the AFC’s best team, will invade the frozen
tundra to take on one of the NFC’s top contenders, the Green Bay Packers, in a
potential Super Bowl XLIX preview.

The Pats have won seven games in a row, including a 34-9 victory over Detroit
in Week 12, a triumph that clinched the organization’s 14th consecutive
winning season. New England is the first to accomplish that since San
Francisco did so in 16 straight seasons from 1983-1998.

During the Pats’ current seven-game run, quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 22
touchdowns and posted a 111.7 passer rating.

Against the Lions, Brady threw two touchdown passes and carved up the NFL’s
then-top-ranked defense, completing 38-of-53 passes for 349 yards.

LeGarrette Blount had two rushing scores in his first game back with the AFC-
leading Patriots, who have won 14 straight against NFC North teams and 15
consecutive at home.

“I thought our guys did a good job, being ready to go,” said Patriots head
coach Bill Belichick. “Any time you keep a team out of the end zone like
Detroit, that’s good. We were able to put some points on the board, make plays
in all three phases of the game.”

The Packers, however, are 5-0 at Lambeau this season, outscoring opponents
219-85 in those games and scoring at least 50 points in each of its past two
homes games.

Quarterback and leading MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers has thrown 322 consecutive
passes and 29 touchdowns in a row without an interception in Green Bay; both
NFL record streaks.

The Pack wasn’t quite as impressive on the road in Minneapolis last weekend
but managed to outlast the upstart Vikings 24-21 behind Rodgers, who had two
touchdown passes, and Eddie Lacy, who scored twice.

“This week was a little bit more of a grind-it-out thing,” said Green Bay
receiver Jordy Nelson. “But we needed to see a game like this because if you
want to win it all, you have to be able to win all sorts of games.”

Rodgers went 19-for-29 for 209 yards while Lacy finished the game with 25
carries for 125 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for 13 yards and
a score for the Packers, who have won three straight and now sit atop
the NFC North by one-half game after the Lions’ drubbing of Chicago on
Thanksgiving Day.

“He had a great game and made a lot of huge plays for us,” Nelson said of
Lacy. “He got two touchdowns, and the way him and the O-line finished off the
game for us was impressive.”

The Patriots own a 5-4 lead over the Packers in the all-time series between
the two teams and have won two straight, including a 31-27 win the last time
they met back on Dec. 19, 2010.

New England actually whitewashed Green Bay 35-0 in its last trip to Lambeau
behind four Brady TD passes but that was way back in 2006 when Rodgers was a


These are the two top scoring teams in the NFL with the Pats pacing the 32-
team league at 32.5 points per game and the Packers a tick behind at 32.2.

This is likely the final leg of a four-game stretch against division-leading
opponents for New England and so far Bill Belichick’s bunch has passed the
test with flying colors, winning the first three games by an average of over
three TDs per game.

The Patriots topped AFC West kingpin Denver 43-21 on Nov. 2 and AFC South
stalwart Indianapolis 42-20 on Nov. 16 before disposing of Detroit in Week 12,
a development that enabled Green Bay to vault over the Lions.

“It’s not realistic for us to expect to continue to blow teams out like that,
or, I don’t want to say blow out, but win by a large margin,” Belichick said.
“I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I think it’s a culmination of
things and preparation.”

After Sunday’s game, New England travels to San Diego, which could also be
tied for the AFC West lead if things break correctly in Week 13.

Since losing to Kansas City to fall to 2-2 on the season, New England has been
scoring nearly 40 points per game (39.5 to be exact) and Brady has taken off,
averaging 315.3 passing yards per game with the 22 touchdowns against just
four interceptions.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to that has been the health of All-World tight
end Rob Gronkowski, who is feeling good after a myriad of injuries in recent
seasons and has amassed 27 receptions and five touchdowns in his last four

The Pats have also begun to mirror their former success with the two-tight end
offense when Gronkowski teamed with Aaron Hernandez, before the latter’s
personal life went off the rails. Tim Wright, who was acquired from Tampa Bay
before the season, has six TDs on his 23 receptions.

If there is one team that can keep up with the Patriots, though, it’s the
Packers, especially at Lambeau.

The key to Green Bay at home has been blitzing people out of the starting
blocks. The Packers have outscored their opponents by an amazing 66-0 margin
in the first quarter of their last four home contests. That number expands to
128-9 at halftime.

Foes have been looking up and finding the score 14-0 in the first four or five
minutes of a game and that has enabled a flawed Packers defense to excel as
teams become more one-dimensional.

“We’re playing Green Bay in Green Bay,” Belichick said. “That’s where they’ve
been very dominant, really, in terms of getting ahead and playing from ahead,
first quarter. The numbers are staggering.”

Rodgers has thrown for 18 touchdowns without an interception at home this
season. Overall, the All-Pro leads the NFL with a 119.3 passer rating and has
thrown for 30 scores against just three INTs.

“I think Aaron’s a great quarterback,” Belichick said. “He does everything
well, is very smart, does a great job with his team in situations and seeing
things at the line of scrimmage, putting them in good plays and (a) very
accurate passer, very good with his feet, hard to sack, hard guy to bring
down, has real good awareness. I think pretty much everything with his game is
excellent to outstanding.”

Rodgers’ favorite target, Nelson, averages over 120 yards receiving per game
at Lambeau and has scored at least one TD in the team’s five home games this
year. Randall Cobb isn’t bad either, snaring 20 balls with two TDs in his last
three at home.

“Teams are going to take away what we do best, and what we’ve done best is get
the ball to Jordy and Randall,” Rodgers said. “They’ve had big statistical
seasons so (opponents) try to take them out of the game.”

Minnesota did that at home and New England is better equipped than most to do
it because of star cornerback Darrelle Revis, perhaps the best man-to-man
coverage corner in the game. Opponents often assume Belichick will just lock
up Revis with their best receiver but the Pats’ coach is usually a step ahead
and he could use Revis to lock up Cobb and then double Nelson.

Either way that’s where the powerful Lacy comes in. A bowling bowl of butcher
knives, no one wants to tackle Lacy in the open field, especially when things
gets cold.

“He’s a workhorse,” said Rodgers. “We need him in the winter months.”


Something has to give here because New England has won seven in a row overall
and the Packers are a perfect 5-0 at Lambeau. The guess here is home field
holds up with the Patriots being far more competitive them most visitors to

Sports Network predicted outcome: Packers 34, Patriots 24