After yet another convincing win, the New England Patriots will look to continue rolling towards the playoffs when the Green Bay Packers come to Foxboro on Sunday night. The Patriots (11-2), became the first team to clinch a playoff spot after their complete dismantling of the Chicago Bears (9-4). The Patriots’ next test comes in the form of the 8-5 Packers, who missed out on a golden opportunity to take a share of the lead in the NFC North by losing to the Detroit Lions 7-3.
Perhaps an even more devastating loss is that of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers left in the first half of Sunday’s game with a concussion, his second of the season. Matt Flynn relieved Rodgers, but was ineffective at-best, throwing for 177 yards and an interception and no touchdowns. Rodgers’ status for the game is unknown, but if the Packers are going to have a chance they will need him under center. Rodgers is the fourth highest rated quarterback in the NFL at 98.5, and has thrown 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Flynn has yet to throw a touchdown in his career, and has a career completion percentage of 54.3. That won’t get it done against a Patriots defense that is drastically improving and is developing a knack for forcing turnovers. One potential issue for the Patriots, especially if Rodgers plays, is the health of cornerback Devin McCourty, after leaving Sunday’s game with a rib injury. McCourty has emerged as not only a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but also as a true shutdown corner and one of the key parts of the team’s defense.
After Sunday’s game, McCourty told reporters that he was fine, but his official status will remain unclear until later in the week. If both McCourty and Rodgers are able to play, the key match-up of the game will presumably be McCourty against Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings is one of the best receivers no one talks about. His 996 yards on the season is fifth best in the NFL, and his 11 touchdowns are third behind only Dwayne Bowe (14) and Calvin Johnson (12). If McCourty is able to keep him in check, the Packers will have trouble keeping up with the Patriots. And if it’s Flynn, there is a good chance of another convincing win, as the offense will stall with an experienced quarterback and an iffy running game.
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