Here Comes Rodgers vs. Brady II

It's probably the game of the season in the NFL--or at least it was when the schedule came out (the upcoming Rams-Chiefs tilt in Mexico City have have surpassed it). Rodgers vs. Brady for just the second, and likely the last time ever.

For those that are not die hard fans of the teams, this is the dream matchup and we've been hearing all about the mutual respect between the head coaches and the quarterbacks. The lovefest will continue to be talked about up until kickoff, as will the opportunity to debate who is the better quarterback.

For Patriots fans, it's just another game, against a QB they don't see very often, sure, but they expect to see an entertaining game that their team pulls out, because they virtually always do that. They own the league's best home record since '02, by a long shot (84%; the Packers are fifth at 69%). Half their roster is listed as questionable, but it just doesn't matter. Tom will take whoever is available and put points on the board; while Bill diagnoses the Pack's weaknesses and devises a way to win the game.

For Packer fans, this is a game that can completely change the course of the season. A win on Sunday night in Foxborough, coming off a narrow loss in LA, will provide a glimpse at what the second half of the season could be.

If the team that takes the field at Gillette Stadium resembles the one that played last Sunday, the Packers will beat the Patriots. What cost the Pack was four special teams plays (fake punt, allow punt to be downed at the one, poor punt late by Scott and the fumble by Montgomery). They can't afford those mistakes again or the result will be the same. New England is renowned for its special teams play year after year, so the Pack must clean that up. They improved in the penalty department, flagged just twice, and only wasted one timeout.

Now let's consider what happened on trade deadline day. The team jettisoned a pair of players who were not contributing, play in and play out and who were being vocal about their displeasure or their uncertain future. I think this will be a positive in that locker room and I think it will show on the field. Tramon Williams will take Clinton-Dix's spot as safety, clearing the way for Josh Jackson and/or Bashaud Breeland to get on the field. Williams has played some safety for Pettine in the past and could pull of a Charles Woodson-like late career switch. With Montgomery out of the picture, Jones and Williams get all the carries. Let's hope it's a 75-25 split in favor of #33.

The Packers will move the ball on the Patriots, who rank 25th in yards allowed. They don't have much of a pass rush and Rodgers will find matchups he likes. He'll observe whether Stephon Gilmore can hang with Davante Adams. With Geronimo Allison out, he'll have speedy rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling testing aging veteran Jason McCourty, or his twin brother Devin. With Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham patrolling the middle, and New England having to respect the running game, Rodgers will rise to this challenge and be at his best. Giving Jones at least 15 touches will help--let's hope McCarthy agrees.

Then there's the defense, which gave reason for hope against the high flying Rams, but face a tougher task this week in a stadium where most of the fans are not on their side, unlike the Coliseum. Belichick and Josh McDaniels love to change things up week to week. At least the Pack get the benefit of playing them on a short week, which may have hampered their preparations bit. It's hard to know who they will feature, since virtually every skill position player is listed as questionable, including Gronk, Michel, Edelman, Gordon and Patterson.

There will be plenty of passes to the running backs and you can bet Brady will test the Pack with some deep throws, to see if Tramon Williams is comfortable playing at his new spot at free safety. I would expect Kevin King to shadow Josh Gordon, who at 6'3" is by far their tallest, and speediest receiver. Will Jaire Alexander remain outside like last week against Brandin Cooks, or will he move back to the slot to cover Edelman. That will be interesting to watch. Jackson and/or Breeland should see plenty of action since the defense will likely spend a lot of time in the dime, like they did last week.

Rodgers has reminded everyone that he's never lost to Brady (1-0). It makes for a good chuckle, but you know that means a lot to him. He'd love to be able to sit in his rocker in 50 years when a youngster comes up to him and asks, 'Who was better, Mr. Rodgers? You or Tom Brady? He grins and says, 'All I know is, he never beat me.'

He wants this game and I think he's going to get it. Maybe the Pack is trailing 24-23 late and driving for a game-winning field goal. But he takes a deep shot and what do you know:

Packers 30 Patriots 24


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