FOXBORO — The New England Patriots are looking to even their record on the 2022 NFL season as they prepare to face off against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The last meeting between the two teams resulted in a 31-17 Patriots win at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 4, 2018. This is New England’s first visit to Green Bay since their 26-21 loss on Nov. 30, 2014.
The Patriots lead the regular season series with Green Bay, 6-5. The Packers beat New England in their lone postseason meeting, a 35-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXI.
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Packers.
As starting quarterback Mac Jones continues to recover from a high ankle sprain suffered during New England’s 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, Hoyer will get the start under center. While Jones has had some recent success in throwing the ball downfield, Hoyer’s passing game is much more effective in short yardage situations.
The Packers defensive front has been dominating the line of scrimmage throughout the early stages of the season, allowing only 302 yards per game overall. Green Bay ranks seventh in the league by allowing 189.3 yards per game through the air, while surrendering just 113 yards per game on the ground.
In an effort to counteract the Packers ability to stifle the Pats offensive game plan, Hoyer will likely incorporate more quick-game concepts in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. Such a move should entail greater usage of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith both over the middle and in the red zone.
With top wideout Jakobi Meyers out due to a knee injury, Hoyer is going to lean on receivers Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne as his perimeter targets. While frequent shots downfield are unlikely, expect Hoyer to at least test the effectiveness of Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander. While he is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup, Alexander continues to be bothered by a groin injury. Should he be able to suit up, his mobility is likely to be compromised. This may allow a window of opportunity for Hoyer and the Pats passing game to test the abilities of fellow Packers’ starter Eric Stokes as well as backups Rasul Douglas and Kelsean Nixon.
Throughout the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots rank eighth in the league in expected points added per rushing attempt (+0.02) and tenth in success rate (44.9%). Despite dealing with a stout Packers’ run defense, Hoyer should be expected to test the effectiveness of his runners early and often; especially Stevenson.
Stevenson was particularly successful in Week 3, having taken the field for 41 snaps against the Ravens while carrying the ball 12 times for 73 yards and one touchdown. New England’s offensive line has been effective when incorporating gap schemes and pulling blocks to help spring both Stevenson and feature back Damien Harris for significant runs.
Green Bay’s run defense is allowing an average of just 113 yards-per-game on the ground, led by nose tackle Kenny Clark and defensive ends Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry. Inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell gives the unit a notable boost, by actively contributing to run stoppage, as well. Yet, the Packers also yield nearly five yards-per-carry. The Pats may look to Stevenson to use his physical, powerful running style, along with his vision and athleticism to make tacklers miss in short yardage in situational runs. The 24-year-old also possesses the necessary intangibles to be an effective option in receiving out of the backfield, having caught seven of nine targets for 34 yards in 2022.
Barmore’s ability to push the pocket and take a stand against the run has earned him the respect of his opponents, as well as his status as one of the team’s premier defenders. The Alabama product plays with good leverage, and is strong enough to take on double-teams. He locates the ball quickly, chases with good effort and has excellent range for his size. The 23-year-old has also demonstrated quick hands, which has made him effective in both stuffing the run, and challenging the passer.
Due to his prowess along the defensive line, Barmore has drawn the attention of opposing blockers along the offensive line. As a result, Patriots’ linebackers and edge rushers are often left one-on-one on the edge. This has freed linebackers, such as Matthew Judon, to pursue the quarterback. While Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to be among the NFL’s best traditional passers, his mobility has lessened throughout the years. Still, he has the ability to find success on the ground, as well as through the air, Barmore will need to pull upon his dual threat capabilities to be a disruptive force against Green Bay’s versatile offense.
Aided by some notable injuries along their offensive line, Rodgers has been sacked eight times in three games. Should Barmore once again draw significant double teams from the Packers’ blockers, players such as Judon and defensive end Deatrich Wise may be able to generate pressure on Rodgers. As such, Barmore can play a major role in determining the Patriots success, even if he does not illuminate the stat sheet in Week 4.
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