Patriots

What experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Packers game

The Patriots are heavy underdogs as they might be without Mac Jones.

Two of the games greats in Aaron Rodgers and Bill Belichick are set to face off on Sunday. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Mac Jones is caught in a pickle.

If his Patriots teammates are to “not count him out” for this Sunday at Green Bay, as the quarterback reportedly said on Thursday, then the question becomes how was the second-year kid ready to return eight days after it looked like someone had just removed his spleen with nothing but a spork?

Which was two weeks after it seemed Jones’s back might have locked into an upright position.

That’s not to question Jones’s “toughness.” I think we all saw Thursday night why any medical diagnosis in the NFL should come with some level of doubt. But if Jones was that hurt and cleared to play only days later, then what was the show for last Sunday?

If Jones does not return from a reported high ankle sprain (he’s taking it day-by-day, in case you hadn’t heard), then it’s fair to wonder why he hasn’t yet undergone the seemingly-miraculous tightrope surgery in order to get back to the field of play faster than ingesting a bottle of TB12 magic pills.

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In any case, it will (most likely) be Brian Hoyer suiting up and taking snaps under center when the Patriots face the Packers in the late window Sunday afternoon. The good news is the backup probably can’t be any worse than Jones has been the last three weeks. He’s been the worst-rated quarterback in the NFL.

Don’t count him out? Right now, you might want to do that anyway.

This week’s predictions:

Globe staff: Five out of six (Ben Volin) pick New England (+9.5).

Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub: Patriots (+9). “This feels like an appropriate time to cite the words of the Big Boi, Greg Bedard, who once famously uttered the following: don’t sleep on Brian Hoyer. Murray is the outlier here, but let’s focus on the facts. Right now, the drop from Mac Jones to Hoyer doesn’t feel that big. The Packers have had trouble scoring and their best weapons are in the backfield. The safest bet here is probably the under 40.5, but we don’t do over-unders here. You are reading correctly. The show – minus Murray – likes the Pats to cover.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Packers 27, Patriots 14. “The Patriots will be without Mac Jones in this one, which means it’s Brian Hoyer at quarterback. That’s not a good thing against the Green Bay defense. The Packers are also back heathy on the offensive line, which will help get the passing game get going. I think that happens here. Packers big.”

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CBS Sports staff: Seven out of eight (Dave Richard) pick the Packers (-9.5).

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Packers 30, Patriots 14. “Aaron Rodgers bested Tom Brady in last week’s marquee matchup in Tampa. Now he gets to match strategy with Brady’s former coach, Bill Belichick. But the Packers are about more than Rodgers. They can run the ball and get after the quarterback, especially a backup.”

ESPN staff: All Packers.

David Hill, New York Times: Patriots (+10.5). “Mac Jones looked tough last week in New England’s loss to the Ravens, but he sprained his ankle sprain in the fourth quarter after the game was all but lost. Brian Hoyer, a 14-year N.F.L. veteran, will replace him. The markets have shown little confidence in Hoyer, who is 1-12 as a starter since the 2016 season, as the line moved from 8.5 to as high as 11 after Jones’s injury on Sunday. It sat at 10.5 as of Wednesday. The Patriots have yet to cover a spread this season, but this week get the biggest spread on the board.”

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Packers 31, Patriots 13. “The Patriots probably will have Brian Hoyer at quarterback with no weapons and a bad offensive line. Green Bay’s defense is tough, and Aaron Rodgers is getting used to his new weapons.”

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Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Green Bay (-9.5). “Would probably like the Packers here even with a fully healthy Mac Jones. I get that the Packers aren’t really the Packers just yet, but this feels like a get-right week for them. Plus, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers. Plus, even though New England’s defense is fine, it’s still a unit that’s prone to mistakes. Facing the Patriots’ D in Green Bay after playing the Bucs’ D in Tampa is going to be a welcome change for the Packers.”

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Packers (-9.5). “Mac Jones will miss this game — and probably several more — with a high ankle sprain. His replacement is (checks notes)… Brian Hoyer. Hoyer hasn’t won a start since 2016. He was 0-1 in 2020, 0-1 in 2019, 0-6 in 2017, and 1-4 in 2016. He has lost 11 straight starts.”

USA Today staff: Packers across the board.

Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Patriots (+9.5). “The lookahead line on this game last week was Packers -6.5. It’s 9.5 now and you can probably find this one at Patriots +10 later in the week if you are patient. Is Mac Jones’ injury really worth 3.5 points on the spread? I don’t think so. I’ll trust the Patriots’ defense to keep it close.”

MMQB staff: All Packers.

Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer: Patriots (+9.5). “Green Bay is obviously the superior team, but there’s a scenario here where the Patriots are able to run the ball and ugly this one up a bit. This is the pick I’m most likely to regret once Sunday evening rolls around, but …”

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Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Packers 30, Patriots 10 (Iyer’s “Lock of the Week.”) “The Packers are back rolling with the ideal offense-defense complementary football with Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers after their typical Week 1 mess. Rodgers outdueled the GOAT last week and now he’ll take to the shell of his former team against a shockingly reeling Bill Belichick defense. The Patriots will need to hope that Brian Hoyer, filling in for an injured Mac Jones, can dig deep to find something more in the passing game while being too run heavy. That won’t work well on the road in their current dysfunctional offensive state.”

Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Packers 24, Patriots 15. “Mac Jones (ankle) status is in question, which means Brian Hoyer would be up at Lambeau Field against a tough Packers’ defense that ranks sixth in scoring defense through three weeks. The spread is way too high given Green Bay’s offensive struggles and how Bill Belichick can exploit some of those. Rodgers, however, makes enough plays at home – where he is 23-2 in the regular season since Matt LaFleur took over.”

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Packers 28, Patriots 20. “A Super Bowl matchup that never happened will be anything but super for the team that has won six of them.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Packers 28, Patriots 13. “With Mac Jones injured, the Patriots’ stagnant offense will look even worse. The Packers should cruise.”

FiveThirtyEight: Packers, 73 percent.

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Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Packers 21, Patriots 15. “Mac Jones’ injury is a shame because the Patriots’ offense was showing signs of life. They are first in rushing DVOA and were throwing the ball downfield better than in Jones’ rookie year. It’s hard to imagine Brian Hoyer doing that, especially in this matchup. It’s also hard to give the Packers nearly 10 points when they are averaging 16 per game.”

NFL Pickwatch: Ninety-nine percent, Packers (-450).

It says here: Packers 37, Patriots 20. This isn’t an indication of how bad Brian Hoyer will be. It’s a warning about the totality of obstacles facing the Patriots.

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