What to Look For…

Sunday night’s match-up between the Patriots and the Packers was looking to be one of the biggest games of the 2010 NFL season…and then Aaron Rodgers sustained a concussion.  Even without their star quarterback, the Green Bay Packers are a dangerous team.  Here is what to look for tomorrow at Gillette…

-As you all probably know by now, Aaron Rodgers is out for Sunday’s game.  This means that third year quarterback Matt Flynn will be attempting to lead the Pack’ into Gillette and steal a win from the Patriots.  Last week, in relief of Rodgers, Flynn went 15 for 26, threw for 177 yards and an interception.  Although his numbers weren’t very good against the Lions, I thought that Flynn played even worse than the numbers show.  He was indecisive and anxious in the pocket.  Flynn is now afforded the opportunity to practice for an entire week with the first team offense, so we will see if any improvements were made.  What to look for: How Matt Flynn performs in his first full game as a starting quarterback.

-The Green Bay Packers defense is ninth in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (314.1), third in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (196.8), fifth for sacks (37), first in scoring defense (14.5 points per game allowed), and tied for third in interceptions (18).  As you can see, the Packers defense is pretty damn good.  The way the Patriots offense has been playing, many of us have fallen under the impression that no defense can slow the Pats down.  That may very well be true, but one thing that is the Achilles heel of a great offense is a defense’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback.  Right now, there may be nobody in the NFL better at that than Clay Matthews.  What to look for: How effective the Patriots are in limiting Clay Matthews’ impact on the game.

-The Patriots defense has improved on nearly a weekly basis.  As their younger players get more familiar and comfortable in the Pats’ defensive scheme, their play has improved, as expected.  But, the injury bug has finally started to catch up to some of the young players, and that may have an impact on the continued development of this defense as a whole.  Many were fearful that Devin McCourty would be forced to miss some game action because of a rub injury, but all signs are pointing to him starting on Sunday.  We all know about Spikes’ suspension, and Gary Guyton did a good job filling in for Spikes last week, but I’m interested to see if that continues.  Kyle Arrington is dealing with an elbow injury and Ron Brace has sustained a concussion and it is unknown whether or not he will play.  Although many of these players will still suit up on Sunday, the impact that they have may be limited.  What to look for: How the abundance of injuries (and a suspension) will hinder the defense, if at all, on Sunday.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 31 – Packers 10

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