Tag Archives: Jaire Alexander

Players To Watch Patriots-Packers Week 9 SNF

Steve Balestrieri
November 3, 2018 at 7:49 am ET

“Once More unto the Breach”

The New England Patriots return home and face off next against the Green Bay Packers in yet another primetime game this Sunday night. Remember when the Patriots played on Sunday afternoons? This primetime stuff is getting ridiculous.

A lot of the fun of watching two future Hall of Fame QBs with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers going head to head against one another is lost when the ridiculous “who’s better” crap gets injected into the equation ad nauseam. Like our politics of today, neither side is going to budge, so just sit back and enjoy the offenses of each doing their thing on Sunday and revel in it. These matchups aren’t going to be around much longer.

This is an important game for both teams, the Patriots have won five in a row and are right in the mix for one of the top teams in the AFC and an all-important first-round bye in the playoffs. The Packers are a much better team than their 3-3-1 record and need to get on a roll. They nearly pulled off a huge upset last week against the undefeated Rams. So, how they react this week will have a lot to say about the rest of their season.

So, from a Patriots perspective if we can tear ourselves away from the Red Sox celebration for a moment, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Stephon Gilmore:

The Patriots very talented corner has been outstanding all season and is now facing arguably his toughest test of the season. Davante Adams is Rodgers go-to guy and he’s having an outstanding season. He’s caught 52 passes for 690 yards and 6 TDs thru just the first seven games of the season. He’s on pace for 118 catches, 1,577 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns.

Gilmore will have his hands full with the speedy Adams who said this week, he doesn’t believe anyone can cover him. And he may be right, the Patriots may have a plan for Gilmore to cover him underneath with safety help over the top. It would seem to be the normal Patriot M.O of trying to limit the top weapon of the opposition. If it isn’t Adams, Gilmore would draw Randall Cobb, not much of a break there is it?

But regardless, Gilmore has been outstanding since the first OTA session this spring. He should garner some serious Pro Bowl consideration this winter. The soft-spoken Gilmore has drawn Sammy Watkins of the Chiefs, Allen Robinson of the Bears and Kelvin Benjamin of the Bills the past three games. Those receivers combined for a total of five catches for 67 yards in those three games. Opposing QBs have only completed 28 percent of the passes targeting WRs Gilmore is covering. This should be a great matchup.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best player on the front seven had a tremendous game against the Bills on Monday night. Six tackles, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and he should have had an interception of Derek Anderson but couldn’t hold on.

This week the stakes and the quarry are much, much tougher. The Patriots remember what Aaron Rodgers did to them in Green Bay a few years ago. The front seven will have to play a very fine balancing act. They have to be able to pressure Rodgers enough to get him to get rid of the ball asap but do so in a way that keeps him contained in the pocket. If he breaks containment, very bad things will happen and all of them will happen to the defense.  

They’ll need a big effort from everyone on the defensive front seven but a lot of the pressure will be on Flowers to lead the way. Flowers coming out party as a rookie featured a sack of Rodgers in Gillette several years ago in preseason. The Patriots will be hoping to see much more of that on Sunday night.

Trey Flowers (74) beats David Bakhtiari and sacks Rodgers in preseason action as a rookie. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ted Karras:

The Patriots will be minus Shaq Mason on the interior of their offensive line this week and Ted Karras who subbed in for Mason when he first got hurt in Buffalo on Monday night. Mason hurt his calf against the Bills and didn’t return.

Karras is the Patriots top backup at all three of the interior offensive line positions but is probably best suited for the center position but he’ll be at right guard this week. And his job will likely entail matching up with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, both of whom are having very solid 2017 campaigns.

This will be a big test for Karras, he hasn’t played in a ton of games thus far in his career and the Packers will be looking to test not only his skill but his communication with the other offensive linemen when the Packers stunt, or blitz. There’s no pressure on Karras…right? He’s just on the stage with the two of the best QBs in any era and it is on national television to boot.

James White:

The Patriots Swiss Army Knife has a lot of pressure on him since the injury epidemic has hit the New England running back position hard. Jeremy Hill is gone for the year with an ACL tear, Rex Burkhead is on IR with multiple concussions and isn’t eligible to return until Week 14. And Sony Michel seemed to avert serious injury in Chicago when his knee got twisted during a tackle.

White has been just outstanding out of the backfield catching 55 passes for the Patriots for 459 yards and six touchdowns. His career high is 60 and he could possibly break that on Sunday night with another big game. The Packers at times play a lot of dime packages on defense and they may opt to try to take White away in the passing game by putting a defensive back on him rather than a linebacker which is a mismatch.

But with Michel’s status up in the air this week, (he’s questionable, but we doubt he’ll play this week), the onus will be even heavier on White to produce. We’d expect to see Brady look his way often on Sunday, especially if the Packers begin blitzing.

Julian Edelman:

With Michel’s status in doubt and even Rob Gronkowski who is battling ankle and back injuries this week and is questionable to play, Edelman’s value as a circled member of trust with Tom Brady will no doubt play a big role this week.

With Pettine’s defense which uses the old Rex Ryan overload schemes and multiple blitz packages, there will be times where Brady will be forced to make a decision and get the ball out very quickly. And in the past several years, he and Edelman have been outstanding at working in sync doing just that. Many times they’ll both recognize a look presnap and with just a look between the two, they’ll know right where they plan to go.

Edelman had a big game in Buffalo and this game in Gillette against the Packers could be a tailor-made game for #11. Look for Brady to call his number early and often.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Packers Week 9, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 2, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for a Sunday Night Football game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Patriots finished off a perfect (4-0) October and have won five games in a row. They’ll be looking to make it six against the very explosive Packers who are smarting off a late loss to the Rams.

This week is the second Patriots prime-time game in a row and the fourth in the past five weeks. They’ve already appeared on Sunday Night Football twice this season. A week three loss to Detroit and the win over Kansas City. Amazingly enough, this is only the second time that Brady and Rodgers will be on the field against each other. That alone will be worth tuning in to watch two of the all-time greats to compete at the same time.

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (6-2) defeated the Bills 25-6 on Monday Night. The game was actually much closer than that for the majority of the game but two late touchdowns put it away. The offense only scored one touchdown but the defense scored one and held Buffalo to only a pair of field goals.

The Packers (3-3-1)  lost to 29-27 to the Los Angeles Rams last week in what seemed like a home game for them in LA. Packers fans outnumbered the Rams fans but Ty Montgomery’s fumble on a kickoff return sealed it after the Rams kicked a go-ahead field goal.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Packers don’t meet very often, this will only be the 12th meeting between the two teams. The regular season matchup is tied at 5 wins apiece. The Packers beat New England in Super Bowl XXXI in the only post-season meeting. Green Bay beat the Patriots in their last matchup 26-21 in Lambeau in 2014. You would have to go all the way back to 2010 since the Packers last visited Gillette. That one was most remembered as the game that Rodgers missed with an injury and Dan Connolly, the Patriots right guard returned a kickoff 71 yards, nearly scoring a TD. It was also, coincidentally the last game the Packers lost that year.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Packers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Green Bay

The Patriots running game had taken off during the last month as Sony Michel has given the Patriots the balance on offense that they were looking for. It worked so well that they were averaging 38 points or better every week for that month. But injuries have really hurt the position.

Jeremy Hill was lost for the year with a torn ACL, Rex Burkhead was placed on IR with multiple concussions, (he can’t return until Week 14). And then Michel went down in the loss to the Bears. They were forced to use WR Cordarrelle Patterson in the tailback role in Buffalo and he, not surprisingly had issues finding holes to run thru.

The Packers have had some issues stopping the run and are allowing 119.1 yards per game and 4.4 yards per rush. Part of that rests with the aggressiveness of the defense, Mike Pettine uses the old Rex Ryan Jets overload scheme and they can be susceptible to the quick hitters to beat the blitz.

With Michel in the backfield, the Patriots would get the nod here, but I tend to think that although he’s back at practice, he probably won’t be able to go this week. That gives the nod to Green Bay.

Patriots WRs vs Packers Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have plenty of weapons for Tom Brady to utilize with Julian Edelman back in the fold, although both Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski have been slowed by injuries. Brady also has Chris Hogan and the invaluable James White out of the backfield. Gronkowski, just coming off ankle and back injuries was laboring in Buffalo. On a short week, it will be interesting to see if he gets a jump back in his step.

More intriguing is the injury to Edelman. He took a shot to his shoulder/neck area in Buffalo and was in obvious discomfort the rest of the game. He missed practice on Weds. If he can’t go it is a huge blow to the offense, that is already hurting.

The Packers have been very improved against the pass this season. Led by Jaire Alexander, they cover much better and they have 23 sacks thus far. The overload schemes make things very difficult on the opposition. They allow just 221.7 yards per game thru the air which is the 5th best in the league.

One question will be who replaces Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. Dix was traded at the deadline and played nearly every snap this season. He was the team’s leading interceptor (3) and second-leading tackler (27). They probably will turn to Jermaine Whitehead who was their go-to guy in sub packages, but we may also see CB Tremaine Williams at times. When Pettine was in Cleveland, he often would play Williams at safety. They also have 2017 2nd round draft pick Josh Jones, but he’s been mainly a special teamer this year.

If he can go this week, this will be another tailor-made game for Julian Edelman. His ability to make the tough third-down catches and with he and Brady having the chemistry to read presnap what the defense may do, he’ll be invaluable when the Packers blitz. We look for James White to get a lot of looks once again in the passing game. He currently leads to the team with 55 catches.

It should prove to be an interesting chess match between Pettine and Brady. The two have faced each other quite frequently and the GB defensive coordinator will show plenty of different looks trying to confuse Brady. They’ll show six or seven at the line and then drop seven into coverage or overload blitz on one side. With Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason banged up on the offensive line, the communication between the backups will be key.

Next up the Green Bay offense:

Packers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Green Bay running game will scarcely miss Montgomery after his trade. He fell to the third position in their running game by committee group. They have found their man, however, in their 2nd year running back Aaron Jones. While he’s not the biggest guy at 5’9, 208, he is electric with the ball in his hands. Last week his 33-yard touchdown right up the middle sparked the Packers comeback in the second half.

The Patriots run defense has been steadily improving over the course of the season. Last week they held Bills running backs to just 46 yards in 19 carries. Shady McCoy had just 13 yards on 12 carries. The big men in the middle plus improved linebacker play has been the difference. Kyle Van Noy filled in for Dont’a Hightower last week and was outstanding in the middle.

Look for the Packers to feed Jones who had a career-high 12 carries last week more than that on Sunday night. With the Patriots possibly opting to bring A-Gap pressure with either Hightower or Van Noy, it will be the perfect antidote.  

Packers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Green Bay

The Packers Aaron Rodgers is averaging about 308 yards per game and has a plethora of talented receivers who can all be dangerous with the ball in their hands. It starts with Davante Adams who leads the team with 52 catches for 690 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a threat to take it to the house on every down if he gets free.

Rodgers also has Randall Cobb, TE Jimmy Graham, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and reserve TE Lance Kendricks who can chip into the passing game. Rodgers remains excellent at making plays with his feet, once he’s flushed out of the pocket. The Packers have given up 24 sacks but coming after Rodgers is a risky proposition.

The Patriots have given up a lot of yardage this season, that won’t change on Sunday but the key is making some stops in the red zone. Going back to that 2014 game, Rodgers shredded the NE secondary but they only scored two touchdowns. They’ll need that kind of effort again. The issue is pressure or lack of it from the Patriots defensive line. They have to squeeze the pocket without losing containment or they’ll get toasted this week.

Look for Rodgers to spread them out and try to run those crossers underneath that drive the Patriots mad every week. Adams and Stephon Gilmore should be a good battle to watch but the key this week is the secondary targets Cobb and Allison going against Jason McCourty. The Patriots will also have to watch Graham closely with Chung and LB help.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have gotten another very solid season from Stephen Gostkowski but the rest of their special teams play has been wildly inconsistent. After getting two scores from STs in Chicago, they took a step back in Buffalo.

The Packers counter with the normally automatic Mason Crosby but he went thru a rough patch and has only hit 17-22 field goals this year. Their return game is where they miss Montgomery the most. They can either use Marquez Valdes-Scantling or activate WR Trevor Davis from IR.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This much-ballyhooed matchup between Brady and Rodgers who both throw the ball extremely well may come down to which team runs the ball better. The Packers are a much better team than their 3-3-1 record indicates and could easily be a 5-2 or 6-1 team right now. Part of that rests on head coach Mike McCarthy. They’ve come out flat in a few games and they saw that they just can’t show up and win. They came out strong and played an excellent 60-minute game against the undefeated Rams last week and if not for Montgomery’s fumble may have won that one.

Now they travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots where they are awfully tough to beat. Rodgers has the personnel to do that and the experience to take what is out there. They won’t panic if they get down a score or two because they are so explosive.

Third downs and special teams play may ultimately decide who takes away the win here. While a lot of people are expecting another huge scoring game akin to the Kansas City Week 6 matchup, I see this one playing out like the 2014 game, with scoring in the mid to high 20s.

If this game were in Green Bay, I’d say the Packers and Rodgers would cruise, but it isn’t and Gillette is a tough place to play too. Like last week in LA, a late special teams return will spark New England to bring home a tough, hard-fought win. Patriots 28-27

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.