While everyone is focused, rightfully, on Sunday night’s showdown between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, we’re overlooking what might possibly be the greatest characteristic of Packers-Patriots: It’s the last time the Patriots are scheduled to be in prime time this season.
Flex games be damned, New England has had to endure five of its first nine games under the lights, a showcase slot that red-eyed fans would be glad to surrender after a month of late-night baseball games. But unless some TV exec sees it fit to file a Pats-Jets game into prime time, we’re back to the wonderful world of Sunday afternoon starts beginning next week.
Patriots at Titans, 1 p.m.
Patriots at Jets, 1 p.m.
Patriots vs. Vikings, 4:25 p.m.
Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Patriots at Steelers, 4:25 p.m.
Patriots vs. Bills, 1 p.m.
Patriots vs. Jets, 1 p.m.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
This week’s picks:
Greg Cote. Miami Herald: Patriots 31, Packers 27. “It’s the G.O.A.T. Bowl on Sunday night: Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers. It’s being pimped like a Super Bowl and it’s been a Tom-Aaron bromance in the buildup. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth already are hyperventilating. Increasing the anticipation: This incredibly is only the second head-to-head for the two iconic QBs, the other a Pack win in 2014. Now here’s why the game may be a letdown: Patriots are all but impenetrable at home, while Pack have lost five straight on road, with a defense that tends to crumble away from Lambeau. Still, In Aaron We Trust. Not to win. But to beat the spread, at least.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “This is a matchup of a couple teams with all-timer quarterbacks and overrated surrounding casts. The difference is the cheating hoodie-wearing coach is better than the coach on the other sideline who should really just get out of Aaron Rodgers’ way.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 37, Packers 33. “This will be a treat to watch since it’s just the second meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. It could be the last as well. So enjoy it. I will. I think both quarterbacks will light it up through the air, but the Patriots at home coupled with the Packers playing consecutive road games will make for a tough go for the Packers. Patriots will take a close one.”
CBS Sports staff: Six out of eight pick Green Bay (Pats -5 1/2). Six out of eight pick New England straight-up.
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Patriots 39, Packers 28. “Aaron Rodgers has never played in New England, so it will be an entertaining prime-time matchup of the best two QBs in the league. The Patriots, though, are unbeaten at home (4-0) and have averaged 39 points in their past three at Gillette Stadium.”
David Steele, Sporting News: Packers 29, Patriots 27. “So, about the Michael Jordan factor … yes, Tom Brady against Aaron Rodgers is what prime-time professional football is all about. It’s a borderline tragedy for the sport that these two not only have never met in a Super Bowl; it’s a fantasy to think they ever will by now. Brady’s perch has been threatened from expected sources (Patrick Mahomes) and unexpected (Trubisky). Logic dictates he’ll win this, too. Rodgers, though, defies logic.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 38, Packers 34. “The Patriots will need to regroup after a short week to gear up for the rare Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers duel, which probably will never happen again unless they meet in a Super Bowl soon. They’ll hope to be healthier in the running game, but they’ll feel confident in letting Brady air it out to keep up with Rodgers. The home No. 12 has more seasoned, diverse weapons and a better head coach behind him, and that will be the slightest difference in a classic.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Green Bay (+5 1/2). “I’ve watched enough of the Packers to know that they’re not all that good. They played probably their best game of the year last week; they lost. So I think the Patriots will win, but I also don’t think the Patriots are good enough to win comfortably against decent teams. They could barely manage a comfortable win against the Bills. And the Bills are the worst! I just hope the final score is something like 72-68. Is that asking for too much?”
SB Nation staff: All New England.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Packers 21. “Aaron Rodgers may be the better quarterback, but Tom Brady has much better support around him. And Brady is playing at home. And Brady won’t want to lose to a guy who hasn’t won on the road all year.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Packers 21. “The Packers’ secondary is down a starting safety after the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix trade, and I think Tom Brady will know just where to attack.”
MassLive staff: Split. (New England -6). “If you think of this game as Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady, well it’s an outstanding showdown. But the Packers are just 3-3-1 and haven’t really played consistently enough to look like a Super Bowl contender. The Pats are banged up but they’re at home and have played well against good teams after shaking off their slow start.”
Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots. “Get ready for this to continue to be billed as a battle of the two best quarterbacks in the NFL. The assessment is correct, as would be calling Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers two of the top five quarterback to ever play. But one plays for the better team with the far better coach.”
FiveThirtyEight: Patriots with an 81 percent chance of winning.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 34, Packers 30. “The stellar group of researchers at the NFL West offices — Jack Andrade, Bill Smith, Eric Lemus and the gang — put together a book of knowledge on the Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady faceoff that rivals the booklet that used to be offered on late-night TV by the guy in the Riddler suit promising that the government could bankroll your life. Well, this Packers-Patriots game is so money, it knows it’s money — NBC will hype it up to Madden-Favreian proportions. And the truth is, this matchup is special. Green Bay came a deeper kickoff away from potentially knocking off the undefeated McVays last week. And when the Pack and Pats last faced off, Green Bay pulled out one of the top games of 2014, with a 26-21 win at Lambeau. Both Rodgers and Brady posted passer ratings north of 100 in that contest. Because these two reside in separate conferences, as well as Rodgers’ injury history, the future first-ballot Hall of Famers have only played against each another as starters that one time. This is Meeting 2.0 — similar to Joe Montana and Dan Marino, who only duked it out twice. Ditto Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Hopefully this Rodgers-Brady bout replicates the Packers-Colts classic from 2004. Since 2014, Brady paces the NFL in touchdown passes; Rodgers is second on that list. More relevant is that Brady is 9-2 during that span at home in prime time, while Rodgers is 3-6 on the road.”
It says here: Patriots 35, Packers 28. The Packers are at a crossroad, while the Patriots are just laying the groundwork for what we should expect the remainder of the season. The safe assumption is that it’s better than what the Packers have left.