Packers & Patriots begin the long road to Super Bowl 50 together on Thursday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Follow us as we break down the NFL odds & share our free pick.
The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots played one of the best regular season games in the NFL last year. They very nearly met in the Super Bowl, but the Packers dropped an onside kick late in the NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks and lost in overtime. No one would be surprised if these teams met in Super Bowl 50.
What We Know About The Coaches
Mike McCarthy is 18-18 all-time in preseason games for the Packers. He’s gone 1-3 and 3-1 in his last two preseason campaigns. New England coach Bill Belichick is 34-28 in the preseason, and he’s posted records of 3-1 and 2-2 in his last two preseasons. Belichick merits a slight edge, but it’s always worth remembering that preseasons carry their own select contexts, as you’ll soon find out.
Aaron Rodgers is the starter for Green Bay, but he’s not likely to play anything beyond two series in this game. The backups will load up on work in this one. The number two quarterback for the Packers is Scott Tolzien, and he should play at least a quarter and a half if not two. The third-string guy is Brett Hundley, a fast runner but not a particularly strong-armed thrower. It’s going to be very tough for Hundley to stretch the field and give the Packers a downfield dimension in their passing attack in the fourth quarter.
Tom Brady, it was said on Wednesday afternoon, was not likely to play in this game, a reasonable outcome of all the court appearances he’s had to make as a result of his continued fight with the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady has other more important things to do right now, especially since he is fighting precisely for the right to be able to play the first four games of the season, or at least have his suspension reduced from four games to two. In his absence, Jimmy Garoppolo, who saw a very small bit of regular season action early in the 2014 season, will play a long time in this game, at least a full half and probably deep into the third quarter, if not for all three quarters. Then, in the fourth quarter, you should see a little bit of Ryan Lindley, whom the Patriots just picked up while releasing Matt Flynn. Lindley, though, was terrible for the Arizona Cardinals in a relief role last year. He will do little more than hand the ball off. He knows very little of the playbook and should be expected to play a lot more in week two of the preseason, not now. The Packers have a considerable edge at the quarterback position, although there is the chance that Garoppolo will do a lot better in the second quarter, once the Packers’ defensive starters leave the game.
Team Depth & Rotations
The Packers are very young a lot of areas on their depth chart. They will want to see if Raijon Neal as a third-string running back; Sam Barrington as a starting left inside linebacker; Damarious Randall as a second-string cornerback; and Sean Richardson at backup safety can all perform at a level which will make the team feel it has quality depth across the board. The receiver spots seem pretty solidified. The offensive line is an area where Green Bay wants to avoid injuries and doesn’t have to see much more beyond that. The defense is truly the focus for most of the unproven players on the roster.
The Patriots have some thin spots on their roster. Second-string interior offensive lineman Ryan Wendell is on the physically unable to perform list, as is first-string receiver Brandon LaFell. Backup linebacker Dane Fletcher and backup defensive tackle Chris Jones are also physically unable to perform, according to OurLads’ scouting reports. Since Green Bay’s Scott Tolzien is a solid backup quarterback, New England’s defense is going to have a tough time keeping pace in the second and third quarters of this game.
Outlook & Pick
The Patriots have the coaching edge, but the absence of Tom Brady and the injuries on defense leave New England shorthanded. Take Green Bay.
NFL Pick: Packers +1.5 at The Greek