After a slow start, the New England Patriots have proven to be the best team in football, winning seven straight games. In Week 13, the team with the NFL’s best record will face their toughest test of the 2014 season, possibly previewing Super Bowl XLIX.
New England heads on the road to visit the Green Bay Packers, who have just one fewer win than the Patriots this year. As well as Bill Belichick’s team has played, the Packers have been just about as good, forcing Las Vegas oddsmakers to make Green Bay a three-point favorite.
The two teams have almost been mirror images of each other in 2014. Both had two losses through four games, but have become the favorites in their respective conferences. Led by the top two MVP candidates, they rank No.1 and No.2 in scoring.
Tom Brady has put to rest the notion that he could be nearing the end of his career, throwing 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. Aaron Rodgers continues to make his case to be recognized as the best quarterback in the league, ranking first among starters with a 119.3 passer rating, as well as throwing for 30 scores and three interceptions.
Since the two teams average a combined 64.7 points per game, the over/under could become the highest of the regular season, by the time the game kicks off. It stands at 58.5 after the conclusion of Week 12, but it's as high as 59.5 at some online sportsbooks.
While both quarterbacks have been terrific this year, the recipe for beating the Patriots or Packers has been to limit the effectiveness of their signal callers. Brady’s two worst passer ratings have resulted in New England losses, and Green Bay has come up short in each game that Rodgers has failed to register a passer rating of at least 99.7.
Getting pressure on Brady has been the key to slowing down the Patriots offense, though few teams have been able to do so. The quarterback has been sacked six times in New England’s two losses, and just eight times in the other nine games.
The Packers are averaging three sacks per game in their last seven contests. Since their 36-16 loss in the season opener, Green Bay has only allowed more than 24 points to the New Orleans Saints.
Teams have been able to beat the Packers when they’ve forced Rodgers to throw the ball away. He’s only been intercepted in two games, both of which were Green Bay losses.
The Patriots are tied for eighth on the season with 12 interceptions, and their defense has been one of the league’s best, during their winning streak. New England hasn’t given up more than 25 points since they lost 41-14 in Week 4, and they’ve had success against a few of the league’s top quarterbacks. Peyton Manning threw two interceptions when the Denver Broncos lost in Foxboro, and New England held Andrew Luck to fewer than 312 passing yards for the first time in eight games.
Considering the two teams are so evenly matched, the location of the game is what tips the odds in Green Bay’s favor. The Patriots haven’t lost at home since the 2012 season, but they were beaten on the road twice this year, both times by at least 13 points, The Packers are just 3-3 on the road, but they’re undefeated at Lambeau Field, winning by an average of 26.8 points.
PREDICTION: Green Bay over New England, 34-28