NEW ENGLAND (9-2) at GREEN BAY (8-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 3:25 p.m., CBS
OPENING LINE: Packers by 3
RECORD VS. SPREAD: New England 7-4, Green Bay 5-5-1
SERIES RECORD: Tied 5-5.
LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Packers 31-27, Dec. 19, 2010
LAST WEEK: Patriots beat Lions 34-9; Packers beat Vikings 24-21
AP PRO32 RANKING: Patriots No. 1, Packers No. 2
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Packers beat Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl after 1996 season in New Orleans, with Desmond Howard winning Most Valuable Player award. ... Matchup of only two teams in league to make playoffs each of last five seasons. ... Patriots have won 14 straight against NFC North teams, including 3-0 this season - longest current streak by team against another division. ... Patriots playing fourth straight game against first-place opponent. They won previous three as part of seven-game winning streak. ... QB Tom Brady has 63 300-yard passing games, tied with Dan Marino for third on NFL career list behind Peyton Manning (90) and Drew Brees (84). ... Offense has scored 40 or more points four times in 2014, one behind franchise mark set in 2012. ... With 1,140 points, K Stephen Gostkowski needs 19 to pass Adam Vinatieri to become franchise career scoring leader. ... TE Rob Gronkowski stands one touchdown short of becoming first tight end with four seasons of double-digit touchdowns. ... LB Rob Ninkovich has 13 fumble recoveries since 2010, most in league in that span. ... First meeting between Brady and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers as starters. ... Rodgers' 119.2 passer rating leads NFL. ... Packers have won six in row at home against AFC teams when Rodgers starts. ... WR Jordy Nelson with three touchdown catches of 65 yards or more this season has most by Packer since WR Antonio Freeman had four in 1998. ... Eddie Lacy with 100-plus yards from scrimmage and receiving touchdown in three straight games is first Packers running back to do so. ... DE-LB Julius Peppers first player in NFL history with 100 career sacks and four interception returns for touchdowns. ... DB Micah Hyde has two interceptions and sack in last three games.
SUNDAY’S HIGH FIVE
COVERED UP: Rodgers has been pretty good himself this season, throwing 30 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. There are few better in the league than Rodgers when it comes to extending plays and making pinpoint throws under pressure.
"You definitely don't want a quarterback like him having more time than what he already has," Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers said.
But Sunday's game will severely test the abilities of receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to get open against the Patriots' cornerback duo of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. It will be a case of strength on strength when Rodgers try to throw to his top wideouts.
GUARDING GRONK: On the other end, 6-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski will test young Green Bay safeties Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a rookie. Matchup nightmare Gronkowski might also draw Clay Matthews in coverage, though that could take the star linebacker away from his pass-rushing duties more often than the Packers might prefer.
TURNOVER TIME: The Packers are tops in the league in turnover differential at plus-15. The Patriots are second at plus-11. This could be a game in which the winner will need to cash in on any rare mistakes.
"Probably turnover margin, that's what it usually does," Rodgers said first when asked about the top keys to victory. "Turnover margin and situational football."
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: The Patriots will be trying to extend their winning streak against NFC North teams to 15 games. They've already routed the other three division clubs this season: Minnesota 30-7, Chicago 51-23 and Detroit 34-9. Since the divisions were realigned in 2002, the Patriots have lost only one game against an NFC North team: 28-10 to Green Bay on Oct. 13, 2002. The 14-game run is the longest current winning streak by a team against any other division.
SECOND THAT: Patriots coach Bill Belichick always emphasizes the need to improve as the season goes on and it seems to have worked. New England has been the NFL's best team in the second half of the season since 2010. Starting with that year, the Patriots are 32-3 after the midpoint. Second best? The Packers at 24-10-1.
So far this season the Patriots are 3-0 in the second half. They were 8-0 in both 2010 and 2011. In Belichick's 15 years as their coach, the Patriots are 92-23 in the second half.
|Turnover Margin (+15)||1||1|
|Points Scored (32.2)||1||2|
|Points Allowed (22.4)||7||16|
|Total Offense (368.8)||4||9|
|Total Defense (371.1)||11||23|
|vs. Rush (136.7)||15||30|
|vs. Pass (234.4)||6||13|
|Third-Down Offense (45.3%)||3||4|
|Third-Down Defense (43.1%)||12||25|
|Red-Zone Offense (63.6%)||5||9|
|Red-Zone Defense (47.2%)||3||6|
|Passing: Rodgers (119.2)||1||1|
|Rushing: Lacy (672)||7||12|
|Receptions: Nelson (68)||4||8|
|Rec. Yds.: Nelson (1,066)||1||5|
|Interceptions: Hayward (3)||4t||9t|
|Sacks: Peppers (5.0)||15t||31t|
|Turnover Margin (+11)||1||2|
|Points Scored (32.5)||1||1|
|Points Allowed (20.6)||4||12|
|Total Offense (385.9)||4||7|
|Total Defense (350.3)||8||14|
|vs. Rush (108.2)||7||14|
|vs. Pass (242.1)||11||17|
|Third-Down Offense (44.2%)||5||9|
|Third-Down Defense (41.0%)||9||13|
|Red-Zone Offense (63.8%)||4||8|
|Red-Zone Defense (57.6%)||12||21|
|Passing: Brady (101.0)||4||6|
|Rushing: Ridley/Vereen (340)||21t||38t|
|Receptions: Edelman (70)||4||7|
|Rec. Yds.: Gronkowski (812)||6||15|
|Interceptions: McCourty/Revis (2)||11t||31t|
|Sacks: Jones (4.5)||21t||43t|