Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots-Packers Pt.3

Our Packers and Patriots insiders, Bill Huber of Packer Report and Jon Scott of PatriotsInsiders.com, break down the four big matchups that will determine the outcome on Sunday night. Leading off: How will Matt Flynn fare against Bill Belichick?

Don't miss out on PART 1, or PART 2

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON DEFENSE

Linebackers vs. TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski: The New England tight ends have made life difficult for opposing defenses for one simple reason; they're not ordinary tight ends. In the most common scenario, NFL tight ends are little more than glorified blockers, with the exceptions of Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzales and perhaps one or two others. The Patriots use their tight ends in typical fashion, as blockers, either on interior runs, or blockers downfield. Rob Gronkowski is a massive player big enough to level a typical linebacker, on the inside, or outside. Alge Crumnpler is a devastating block in the ground game while Aaron Hernandez is more of a Dallas Clark type – a TE who creates matchup problems for LBs or DBs. With Frank Zombo out it will be up to Clay Matthees and Eric Walden to find a way to contain the edge or bring pressure on Brady. When thye do, they'll create voids for Gronkowski and Hernandez. It's a defensive coordinator's nightmare; Bring pressure and expose the secondary to two of New England's best pass receivers.

CB Charles Woodson vs. WR Wes Welker: Overall, Woodson isn't having the same kind of year as 2009, when he was named the NFL's defensive player of the year after picking off nine passes. But he remains arguably the best slot cornerback in the league. He figures to line up almost exclusively against Welker, who does most of his work while lined up in the slot. Welker isn't big and he's not fast but he knows how to get open. With 80 catches, he's Tom Brady's trusted target. Woodson will try to get physical, so the officials will play a key role.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON OFFENSE

QB Matt Flynn vs. coach Bill Belichick: The million-dollar question was whether Aaron Rodgers would start. The answer is no. You can bet that Belichick will throw the book at a quarterback making his first NFL start. The book on Flynn is that he's highly cerebral but lacks a big-time arm. So, expect Belichick to take away the underneath stuff and dare Flynn to beat his complex coverages vertically.

OTs Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton vs. OLBs Jermaine Cunningham, Tully Banta-Cain: Baluga and Clifton will have to hold up on the edge against the Patriots' outside linebackers, who are not known for their rush. With Flynn starting, expect New England to dial up the calls for Banta-Cain, Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and company to pour on pressure to force early throws. New England has also used cornerback Kyle Arrington as a speed rusher from the outside, but with Jonathan Wilhite on injured reserve, a new speed rush on the edge will come from someone (or somewhere) else. Patrick Chung is another. Typically teams have done well to block down on the inside, but have allowed the Patriots to split the guard tackle gap.

THE PACKERS WILL WIN BECAUSE …

… This team has a tendency to play its best when its backs are against the wall. It did it last season, when a 4-4 start was reversed with a 7-1 finishing kick. And it did it this season, when a 3-3 start was reversed by a four-game winning streak. The Packers' offense will find holes in the Patriots' defense and the Packers' defensive backs are better than anyone Tom Brady has faced this season.

THE PACKERS WILL LOSE BECAUSE …

… They've run out of healthy bodies to get after Brady. Against the pass-happy Patriots offense, leading sacker Clay Matthews has been slowed by a shin injury and No. 2 sacker Cullen Jenkins is out again with an injured calf. Plus, injuries to Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo have left Erik Walden – who was unemployed for most of the first half of the season – starting at outside linebacker. The Patriots are not a team you want to face when your top pass rushers are dressed in street clothes.

THE PATRIOTS WILL WIN IF ...

New England can win the game if they continue to play mistake-free football. Tom Brady has thrown 268 consecutive passes without an interception. Another 41 and he breaks Bernie Kosar's record of 308. New England hasn't turned the ball over in five straight games, the longest streak in the league. If New England continues to avoid bad plays, then it'll be able to lean on its offense – the most efficient in the league with 415 points (31.9 per game). With that many points on the board, Green Bay, which averages just 23.5 per game, will have a hard time keeping up.

THE PATRIOTS WILL LOSE IF ... Don't be surprised if the Patriots struggle with the Packers' offense on the field. Green Bay converts third downs 41 percent of the time. Meanwhile, opponents are converting a league-high 48 percent of third downs against New England's defense. Even a struggling offense tends to do well against the Patriots. The Jets had multiple turnovers when in scoring position against New England, snuffing out opportunities to keep the game close. The Colts, Steelers and Lions all used soft New England defense to keep a blowout closer than it should have been. If the Packers just try to sustain drives, without trying for home runs, they should be able to march up and down the field on New England's 27th-ranked defense.

BILL'S PREDICTION

The Packers, with their season on the brink after a litany of close losses early in the season and last week's flop at Detroit, will play surprisingly well with Flynn in at quarterback, but the Patriots are the hottest team in the league and Brady's 26-game home winning streak speaks volumes. Patriots 27, Packers 17.

JON'S PREDICTION

New England will probably keep Tom Brady's consecutive win streak at home alive, moving the record to 27 in a row. Without a healthy Aaron Rodgers to keep it close, the Patriots' secondary should be able to find a way to limit the damage that an explosive Packers offense can muster with Matt Flynn. Snow is in the forecast, and under Bill Belichick, New England is 10-0 in the white stuff. Patriots 30, Packers 20.



Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

# # #

Jon Scott has covered the NFL since 1995, and has been a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, Comcast SportsNet New England. and FOXSports.com Magazines. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), Jon has appeared a guest analyst on the NFL Network, Sporting News Radio, ESPN Radio and other outlets around the web. Follow him on Twitter: @JScottNFL or You can



Patriots Insider Top Stories


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","mobileBody":"Don't miss out on PART 1, or PART 2

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON DEFENSE

Linebackers vs. TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski: The New England tight ends have made life difficult for opposing defenses for one simple reason; they're not ordinary tight ends. In the most common scenario, NFL tight ends are little more than glorified blockers, with the exceptions of Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzales and perhaps one or two others. The Patriots use their tight ends in typical fashion, as blockers, either on interior runs, or blockers downfield. Rob Gronkowski is a massive player big enough to level a typical linebacker, on the inside, or outside. Alge Crumnpler is a devastating block in the ground game while Aaron Hernandez is more of a Dallas Clark type – a TE who creates matchup problems for LBs or DBs. With Frank Zombo out it will be up to Clay Matthees and Eric Walden to find a way to contain the edge or bring pressure on Brady. When thye do, they'll create voids for Gronkowski and Hernandez. It's a defensive coordinator's nightmare; Bring pressure and expose the secondary to two of New England's best pass receivers.

CB Charles Woodson vs. WR Wes Welker: Overall, Woodson isn't having the same kind of year as 2009, when he was named the NFL's defensive player of the year after picking off nine passes. But he remains arguably the best slot cornerback in the league. He figures to line up almost exclusively against Welker, who does most of his work while lined up in the slot. Welker isn't big and he's not fast but he knows how to get open. With 80 catches, he's Tom Brady's trusted target. Woodson will try to get physical, so the officials will play a key role.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON OFFENSE

QB Matt Flynn vs. coach Bill Belichick: The million-dollar question was whether Aaron Rodgers would start. The answer is no. You can bet that Belichick will throw the book at a quarterback making his first NFL start. The book on Flynn is that he's highly cerebral but lacks a big-time arm. So, expect Belichick to take away the underneath stuff and dare Flynn to beat his complex coverages vertically.

OTs Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton vs. OLBs Jermaine Cunningham, Tully Banta-Cain: Baluga and Clifton will have to hold up on the edge against the Patriots' outside linebackers, who are not known for their rush. With Flynn starting, expect New England to dial up the calls for Banta-Cain, Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and company to pour on pressure to force early throws. New England has also used cornerback Kyle Arrington as a speed rusher from the outside, but with Jonathan Wilhite on injured reserve, a new speed rush on the edge will come from someone (or somewhere) else. Patrick Chung is another. Typically teams have done well to block down on the inside, but have allowed the Patriots to split the guard tackle gap.

THE PACKERS WILL WIN BECAUSE …

… This team has a tendency to play its best when its backs are against the wall. It did it last season, when a 4-4 start was reversed with a 7-1 finishing kick. And it did it this season, when a 3-3 start was reversed by a four-game winning streak. The Packers' offense will find holes in the Patriots' defense and the Packers' defensive backs are better than anyone Tom Brady has faced this season.

THE PACKERS WILL LOSE BECAUSE …

… They've run out of healthy bodies to get after Brady. Against the pass-happy Patriots offense, leading sacker Clay Matthews has been slowed by a shin injury and No. 2 sacker Cullen Jenkins is out again with an injured calf. Plus, injuries to Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo have left Erik Walden – who was unemployed for most of the first half of the season – starting at outside linebacker. The Patriots are not a team you want to face when your top pass rushers are dressed in street clothes.

THE PATRIOTS WILL WIN IF ...

New England can win the game if they continue to play mistake-free football. Tom Brady has thrown 268 consecutive passes without an interception. Another 41 and he breaks Bernie Kosar's record of 308. New England hasn't turned the ball over in five straight games, the longest streak in the league. If New England continues to avoid bad plays, then it'll be able to lean on its offense – the most efficient in the league with 415 points (31.9 per game). With that many points on the board, Green Bay, which averages just 23.5 per game, will have a hard time keeping up.

THE PATRIOTS WILL LOSE IF ... Don't be surprised if the Patriots struggle with the Packers' offense on the field. Green Bay converts third downs 41 percent of the time. Meanwhile, opponents are converting a league-high 48 percent of third downs against New England's defense. Even a struggling offense tends to do well against the Patriots. The Jets had multiple turnovers when in scoring position against New England, snuffing out opportunities to keep the game close. The Colts, Steelers and Lions all used soft New England defense to keep a blowout closer than it should have been. If the Packers just try to sustain drives, without trying for home runs, they should be able to march up and down the field on New England's 27th-ranked defense.

BILL'S PREDICTION

The Packers, with their season on the brink after a litany of close losses early in the season and last week's flop at Detroit, will play surprisingly well with Flynn in at quarterback, but the Patriots are the hottest team in the league and Brady's 26-game home winning streak speaks volumes. Patriots 27, Packers 17.

JON'S PREDICTION

New England will probably keep Tom Brady's consecutive win streak at home alive, moving the record to 27 in a row. Without a healthy Aaron Rodgers to keep it close, the Patriots' secondary should be able to find a way to limit the damage that an explosive Packers offense can muster with Matt Flynn. Snow is in the forecast, and under Bill Belichick, New England is 10-0 in the white stuff. Patriots 30, Packers 20.



Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

# # #

Jon Scott has covered the NFL since 1995, and has been a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, Comcast SportsNet New England. and FOXSports.com Magazines. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), Jon has appeared a guest analyst on the NFL Network, Sporting News Radio, ESPN Radio and other outlets around the web. Follow him on Twitter: @JScottNFL or You can


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