October 30, 2014

Worry Wart – Game Fourteen vs. Packers

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Not to complain, but New England’s 36-7 blistering of Chicago just makes our job harder here at Worry Wart. What can we point to for fret fodder? What do we have to preoccupy ourselves with this week as the Patriots prep for the Packers?

We can think of a few things. Hey – it’s what we do.

Aaron The Side Of Caution: First off, what quarterback will New England face? With starter Aaron Rodgers getting knocked on the noggin in Detroit (his second concussion of the year), Coach Mike McCarthy has been understandably coy, delaying a final decision until Saturday. Though the prospect of not having to face Rodgers may comfort some fans around here, it leads to the following three concerns…

Matt Finish? When Rodgers left the game last week, Green Bay looked to backup Matt Flynn. While the LSU product has failed to light up the league (stats here), the potential switch forces the Foxboroites to deal with an unknown. Yes, New England’s pass defense has improved, but considering where they started that’s a little like Noah saying, “See? I told you it would clear up.”

Wildcat Wildcard: If McCarthy uses his imagination, he could take some pressure off of Flynn by installing a Wildcat offense using Packer receiver/emergency QB/extra from Hoosiers Jordy Nelson. The former Kansas State Wildcat played quarterback in high school, where he ran for 1,500 yards. Are the Green Bay coaches working overtime to debut the Wildcat at Gillette?

No, probably not. But if they do, I’m gonna look like a smartypants.

“Trap” Ease: Young teams tend to get overconfident. A quick score comparison shows the Packers losing to Detroit, the same team New England roasted on Thanksgiving. Easy. Right?

Exactly. Just like Cleveland. Remember Cleveland.

Corner’s Report: How’s Devon McCourty doing? A rib hasn’t gotten this much attention since Adam. The home team’s pass defense becomes very different without their rookie corner holding down one side of the field.

Needing Moore: Free agent pass rusher Eric Moore is so new to the team, you can still see him listed on the Florida Tuskers roster. (While checking out the UFL lineup, take note of former Patriot Jermaine Wiggins.) Moore had an impressive debut in Chicago, strip-sacking Jay Cutler and tackling Matt Forte for a loss. New England needs a boost to its pass rush, as evidenced by Moore’s one sack putting him in a season tie with rookie linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.

Clay Matthews

Feat Of Clay: One who needs no help in pressuring the QB is Green Bay’s Clay Matthews. Matthews – the former 166-pound walk-on at USC –  has 12.5 sacks this year. Can the offensive line hold down their spots and keep Matthews from getting in Tom Brady’s face? His otherworldly, angular, Stetson-selling face?

What? I’m only human.

Point One Graham: Want an unusual stat? (Sure you do!) Since he joined the Patriots, kicker Shayne Graham has a higher percentage on field goals (a perfect 8-for-8) than extra points (22 of 24). Once again, not a big concern in recent blowouts, but like the arrows said to the sticks, every point matters.

Return Policy: The Bears’ long kick returns proved that the Pats need to tighten up their coverage, at least to the point where we don’t swear at the television. Missed tackles mean little when leading 33-0 at the half, but they can kill you in a close game.

Let’s hope this week doesn’t feature one of those.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

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