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Packers-Patriots Week 4 Q&A: 5 Questions with Pats Pulpit

What should Packers fans expect from the Patriots with QB Brian Hoyer starting? We asked those who know New England best.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Sunday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers will host the New England Patriots for a week four matchup at Lambeau Field. Long gone are the days of this matchup being an Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady thriller — we saw that last week with Packers-Buccaneers instead — and a late-game injury to the Patriots’ normal starting quarterback has this game feeling like it could be even less interesting than before.

However, Bill Belichick is always up for a challenge and has been known to surprise before. Without Mac Jones, he’ll need to come up with creative ways to get quarterback Brian Hoyer to move the football, as the veteran is expected to start on Sunday. But what can Hoyer really bring to the table at this phase of his career, and how should the Packers prepare for him?

To answer those (and some other) questions, we turned to our colleagues at Pats Pulpit, the SB Nation blog covering the Patriots. Taylor Kyles was kind enough to give us some insight into some of the issues that have plagued the Pats so far this season and what they will try to do with Hoyer this week.

We give our thanks to Taylor for his time and look forward to Sunday’s game.

APC: Both the Packers and Patriots have historically been good at winning the turnover battle, but the Pats are sitting -4 through three games, with 8 turnovers and just 4 takeaways. What’s responsible for this imbalance so far this season?

The biggest factor has been Mac Jones’ uncharacteristically poor decision-making at times, particularly when locking in on DeVante Parker downfield. Jones had some ugly turnover-worthy plays as a rookie, but now they’re popping up every week, multiple times a game. The hope is that Jones’ field vision will improve as he gains confidence in the new system and builds rapport with Parker, but only time will tell.

The Patriots should make life as easy as possible for backup Brian Hoyer should Jones sit out with a high ankle sprain, but Hoyer showed some pretty awful decision-making himself during his last start vs the Chiefs in 2020.

APC: As of Thursday, there are growing rumblings about Mac Jones trying to play on Sunday after last week’s gruesome ankle injury. Do you think the Patriots would — and should — risk his long-term health to play in a game where they are nearly double-digit underdogs (according to DraftKings), or will it be the Brian Hoyer show after all?

I don’t have a ton of confidence in Brian Hoyer as the team’s starter, especially if he’s forced into action for multiple weeks. That said, risking your franchise quarterback’s long-term health in Week 4 sounds like bad business to me. Former Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore is on record stating he didn’t like how the team handled his quad injury in 2020, which ultimately led to each side going their separate ways. But the team usually takes a conservative approach with significant injuries, so I’m hoping they stick to that tendency and let Jones rest up.

APC: Every defense has a weak spot or two; if you were Matt LaFleur or offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich, whom on New England’s defense would you try to target to get an advantageous matchup to lead to some big plays?

Slot cornerback Myles Bryant has been solid this season, but I think Allen Lazard should capitalize on his height advantage at least a couple of times on Sunday. Bryant also lacks explosive athleticism, so Lazard could also get by him on slot fades.

The Patriots added speed to their linebacking corps in the offseason, but I still think Aaron Jones could have a productive day if Green Bay decides to exploit those matchups.

APC: New England’s rushing defense struggled mightily last week against the Ravens. Is that just the Lamar Jackson effect, though, or do you think the Packers can get a big game out of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon against the Patriots’ defense?

The Patriots had no answers for the Ravens’ gap-read schemes last week, specifically when Jackson kept the rock. He was able to bounce a couple of carries against Deatrich Wise, who’s an exceptional pass rusher but has struggled defending the run at times in his career. Jackson also took advantage of over-pursuit at second level, leading to some explosive runs up the gut.

Aaron Jones may be able to take advantage of some cutback lanes, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up against a defense that tends to load the box and looks much improved against the run from last season. AJ Dillon could have success on inside rushes if the Patriots match his presence with lighter box defenders.

APC: What are your realistic expectations for this year’s Patriots team, both in Sunday’s game and for the rest of the 2022 season?

I expect this to be a team that relies on its defense and run game until their passing offense finds its groove. This will be even more true if Mac Jones misses time. There are reasons for optimism, including a breakout game from DeVante Parker last week and the eventual return of 2nd-round pick burner Tyquan Thornton from injured reserve.

This team has the talent to sneak into the playoffs, which we saw at times against a Ravens squad that looks like legit contenders. But we won’t see that potential realized if the turnovers, penalties, and other self-inflicted woes plaguing them persist.