This week, the writers of Patriots Unfiltered weigh in with their takeaways from the overtime loss to the Packers and preview this weekend's throwback game against the Detroit Lions.
What were your biggest takeaways from the OT loss in Green Bay?
The Patriots were up to the challenge. From the challenge of playing in Lambeau Field to facing Aaron Rodgers and a very good Packers defense, the Patriots went toe to toe with their opponent. How they managed the quarterback situation and the defensive game plan gets coaching an A grade. It was a game from which to build. -Fred Kirsch
The Patriots character and toughness. They've been constants over the last 20-plus seasons and they were on display at Lambeau. -Paul Perillo
That the Patriots can run the ball regardless of who is playing quarterback. With Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe under center, you'd expect the defense to sell out on stopping the run and limit the Pats on the ground. But the backs still ran for 4.8 yards per rush, and they're Football Outsiders' top-ranked rush offense in DVOA. For all the lamenting about Matt Patricia, they have an elite rushing attack. -Evan Lazar
The rookie class isn't as underwhelming as everyone assumed. After the draft many were upset with the Patriots draft class but after the game at Lambeau, we got a glimpse of exactly what the coaches saw in their draft class. -Tamara Brown
It was a really encouraging loss with minimal turnovers, New England's run game is a strength, and now I need to see them pull off a convincing win. -Alexandra Francisco
Assuming Bailey Zappe gets the nod, what will you be looking for from him in his first NFL start?
Decisiveness when asked to pass. Lack of decisiveness is the Achilles heel of most young quarterbacks. Trust the call, your receivers, and your ability to deliver. -FK
More of what we saw against Green Bay: strong running game, play-action passes and avoid mistakes. -PP
Better poise in the pocket. Zappe made the layups presented to him off play-action, but his drop-back passing reps left something to be desired. He needs to improve his comfort level in an NFL-sized pocket and make first-read throws without panicking when he feels the pass rush. -EL
I'm hoping to see Matt Patricia ease up on the conservative calls a tad to see Zappe air it out on a few plays. If there's a time to see what he can do it's against arguably one of the worst defenses in the NFL who's allowing almost the same amount of points as they're scoring on offense. -TB
Fewer instances of those rookie-type mistakes than we saw last game after a week of practicing like the starter. -AF
He's going to have to find a rhythm in the short passing game. I'm sure the team will do their best to keep him out of third and long, but against an offense like the Lions that can score points, Zappe will have to make more critical throws this week to keep pace. -MD
Who is your Lions x-factor?
If wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D'Andre Swift can play and are healthy, it adds two talented players to an offense that leads the league in points per game. -FK
De'Andre Swift. He's been banged up with shoulder and ankle injuries but he's the type of versatile back that gives the Patriots trouble. -PP
The health of wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown missed last week's game against the Seahawks due to an ankle injury, and yes, the Lions still scored 45 points against a bad Seattle defense. But Bill Belichick's defense won't make the same mistake of forgetting to cover T.J. Hockenson as the Seahawks did. If St. Brown can't play, the game plan becomes all about Hockenson, and you feel good about New England shutting down Detroit's passing game if that's the case. -EL
With Amon-Ra St. Brown's status up in the air, I'd say rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is the Lions' x-factor. In four games, he has three of the Lions' seven total team sacks. -TB
Jamaal Williams – especially with D'Andre Swift out. Williams has a league-high six rushing TDs. -AF
Jamaal Williams – If the Lions can run the ball with success it could really challenge the Patriots offense to produce points with reduced time of possession. Williams is one of the few healthy weapons left and he will certainly test the Patriots' run defense. -MD
What is your key matchup to watch?
Bill Belichick vs. Dan Campbell. In his Wednesday summary of the opponent, Belichick stressed the Lions aggressiveness. Look for Belichick to play into that aggressiveness to cause Lions' mistakes, either on the field or the sideline. -FK
Isaiah Wynn vs. Lions rookie DE Aiden Hutchinson. Hutchinson's put-up decent pressure stats but some of those have been when he's unblocked. Regardless, we are reaching a breaking point with Wynn. If he can't hold his own against Hutchinson, who primarily rushes over the right tackle, it's Marcus Cannon time. -EL
I'm going to pull an audible and instead of a key matchup to watch, I'm going to go with a key position to watch which is obviously who starts at quarterback for the Patriots. There is so much uncertainty at that role right now that will really change the game depending on who is under center. -TB
Linebackers vs. Lions offense. For what the Lions lack on defense they I guess balance it out with their high-scoring offense, and the Patriots have struggled to stop the run. -AF
Patriots running game vs. Lions defensive front. Whichever team has more success on the ground should likely win the game. The Patriots will look to control the tempo with their two-headed monster of Harris and Stevenson. -MD
Your key to a Patriots victory?
DEFENSE! The Lions have plenty of playmakers and a quarterback in Jared Goff who can get hot. Better play against the run is critical, particularly from the linebacker corps. That, and complementary defense against Goff when he passes, will lead to a New England win. -FK
No big plays allowed. Detroit's offense has been potent but the Patriots can slow it down by eliminating the chunk plays the Lions have consistently made. -PP
Limiting the Lions rushing attack. The Patriots run defense is 31st in DVOA, while the Lions lead the NFL in yards per rush attempt (5.9). The Pats defense doesn't need to become a shutdown run defense, but they need to be better than they were in the first month. Big test for them this week. -EL
The key to the Patriots victory is going to be taking advantage of the Lions' lack of discipline on defense and also stopping the Lions' in their tracks and keeping the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL from putting up a 40-burger. -TB
Run the ball all over the worst defense in the NFL and keep the ball out of Goff's hands as much as possible. -AF
Score touchdowns. I don't care how they come but they're going to need score well into the 20s in this one. Whether it's straight-up offense, pick-sixes or fumble-sixes, or special teams scores, they need points early and often. -MD