All signs are pointing to an offensive battle when the Green Bay Packers (4-1) visit the Patriots (3-2) at Gillette Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Both of these talented teams possess powerful offensive attacks and have struggled at times early in the season on the defensive side of the ball. While the Packers are coming off of an important divisional win on the road 34-21 against the Bears, the Patriots look to get back on the winning track. New England has lost two games in a row for the first time since the initial games of 2001 and is coming off of an AFC Eastern division loss 26-13 at Miami.
A Packers defense that has been anything but dominating is also currently reeling with numerous injuries. Green Bay listed 11 players on the injury report early in the week including a key loss in defensive end Joe Johnson who is gone for the year after tearing a triceps muscle against the Bears. Other key players that are dinged up on the Packers defense are safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Mike McKenzie.
Tom Brady and the New England offense will likely look to put points on the board as often as they can against a defense that has allowed an average of 27 points a game this season. Both teams have shown the ability to score and any team that has Brett Favre can be considered nothing less than potent. The only thing that could slow these two offenses down is the 50-percent chance of rain that is forecast for the area on Sunday. With rain starting on Friday and continuing through much of the weekend, including during an MLS playoff game between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew at Gillette on Saturday night, the field will be put to the first test of its short history.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick had nothing but good things to say about the Packers during the week and also spoke well of Packers third year head coach Mike Sherman.
"I think we all know what kind of explosive offense that the Packers have," Belichick said. "Mike Sherman has done a real good job with this club. They're real solid in all phases of the game from top to bottom. They are experienced and know what they are doing. Offensively, they have a lot of weapons and have real good skill people."
Green Bay's offensive attack also consists of more than just Favre. Running back Ahman Green ranks second in the NFC with 88 carries for 416 yards and has also hauled in 17 passes for 124 yards. Favre's receiving corps is led by wide out Donald Driver (25 catches for 440 yards), former Patriot Terry Glenn and tight end Bubba Franks.
And while the easy story of the week leading up to the game has been the return of Glenn to play against his former team, most around the team have tried to downplay the angle. Glenn has had a decent season to date totaling 24 receptions for 367 yards and is coming off of his best game when he burnt the Bears with eight catches for 154 yards. Patriots players and coaches alike have chosen to focus on the multiple weapons that the Packers present on both sides of the ball.
Regardless of the weather or underlying stories, the game boils down to an extremely important one for the Patriots. Heading into bye week, New England can ill afford to lose a third consecutive game and head into the bye week at 3-3 after such an impressive 3-0 start to the season. The Packers are coming off a key win on Monday night and with a short preparation week and significant injury issues appear to be the underdog of the matchup. If the Patriots want to reaffirm themselves as a part of the elite group of NFL teams, a win on Sunday would be a step in the right direction.
The last matchup between the two teams was a Packers 28-10 victory on Monday night at Foxboro Stadium on Oct. 27, 1997. … The two teams have played seven times, splitting the regular season matchups 3-3, and the Packers winning the only postseason meeting 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. … The Packers defense ranks 20th in the NFL, while the Patriots defense ranks 8th. The offenses rank 3rd and t5th respectively. … The Packers have given up at least 21 points in all but one of their five games