New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers NFL Free Pick
Recommendation: Take Under 58 points.
NFL Totals don’t get much higher than this, with the current Over/Under posted in the 58/58.5 range for Sunday’s Patriots – Packers clash. And I can certainly understand why this total is posted in this range – we’re looking at two teams that rank #1 and #2 in points scored this season; two teams with elite QB’s playing at the top of their game; and two teams that are a combined 12-2 to the Over since the beginning of October.
But all of that is most assuredly factored into this inflated number – the bookmakers and the betting markets aren’t flying blind at this late stage of the season. Game temperatures at Lambeau Field are expected to be below freezing at kickoff, with the lookahead weather forecast showing the potential for foggy conditions as well (never a good thing for either downfield passing game). And both teams are likely to emphasize the run on Sunday, efforting to control the clock, control the gameflow and keep the opposing elite quarterback off the field.
And make no mistake about it – we’re talking about two Super Bowl caliber defenses here! Both the Packers and the Patriots rank among the top dozen NFL defenses according to Football Outsiders DVOA rankings. Green Bay hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in any game on this field since Week 2. They’ve held nine of their last ten foes to 24 points or less. Cornerbacks Tremon Williams and Sam Shields have been stellar all year; while safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have kept nearly everything in front of them.
The Patriots are a team capable of changing their gameplan completely from one week to the next. Two weeks ago, New England spent more than half the game in a power run formation with six offensive linemen, grounding out yards against the Colts. Last week, the Pats opened the game with a 52-13 pass-to-run ratio before garbage time against the Lions. In this particular matchup, I’m expecting a classic Belichick switcheroo back to a run-first attack; looking to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as possible and to take advantage of a Packers run defense that’s a notch or two weaker than their pass D.
New England’s defense has held nine of their last ten opponents to 25 points or less, controlling the flow week after week. And the strength of that defense, much like that of the Packers, is in the secondary. Darrelle Revis and Alfonzo Dennard are both legitimate shutdown corners. Safeties Devin McCourtey and Patrick Chung simply don’t get burned deep very often. Last week in this space, I recommended a play on the Patriots Under vs. Detroit an it cashed thanks to the Pats keeping the Lions out of the end zone. I don’t think New England keeps Green Bay out of the end zone here, but I’m certainly not expecting a shootout in which both teams approach 30 points, and that’s what it’ll take to cash an Over ticket. Take the Under.