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The New England Patriots have lost two of their first three games. And they are now in danger of letting their season slip away. Their starting quarterback is out of action. And they will be going up against a signal-caller who will assuredly be a first ballot Hall of Famer. These are the conditions under which they’ll face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. BetOnline customers can see the action at 4:25 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.

In last week’s 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Matt Jones, the second-year quarterback out of Alabama, suffered a high-ankle sprain. He was hopeful of participating, but the latest word is that he has been ruled out of the contest. Head coach Bill Belichick will give the start to veteran backup Brian Hoyer, who is well-versed in the system.

The Packers got off to a very poor start, losing 23-7 to the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener. Then they won a decisive 27-10 verdict over the Chicago Bears, and grinded out a 14-12 decision over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. The defense hasn’t done a bad job, although opponents have demonstrated they can run on them.

Packers vs Patriots, here are the numbers…

In the NFL betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Packers are laying a bunch of points:

Team SP/RL TOTAL ML
Patriots +9½ (-110) 40½ (-110) +365
Packers -9½ (-110) 40½ (-110) -490
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From the New England Patriots’ perspective

Mac Jones had a bad afternoon against Baltimore, throwing three interceptions. He was averaging a little more then eight yards per attempt in completing 66% of his passes. Hoyer comes in as somebody who Belichick trusts, and has been in the system for a while. He has started for a number of teams. However, he has lost twelve of his last 13 NFL starts. He once led the NFL in yards per completion. But that was back in 2014, when he was a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Many observers figure Belichick is keeping him around with the hopes of making him a quarterback coach or offensive coordinator someday. And speaking of that, the philosophy of the offense is that they’re trying to stretch defenses by going downfield. Jones could do that, but there has to be some question as to whether Hoyer can.

There are no game-breaking wide receivers, but you could make the case that Hoyer could spread it around a little, with the likes of DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jacobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor to turn to.

From the Green Bay Packers’ perspective

Four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers overcame a rough season opener against Minnesota, and now he has completed 72.3% of his passes. Rodgers has been going through an adjustment period, because his go-to guy, Davante Adams, went off to Las Vegas to join the Raiders. He’s been seeking out veterans, although his top receiver is rookie Romeo Doubs, a fourth-round pick out of Nevada who has caught 14 passes for 137 yards.

The backfield is Green Bay’s strength. They have two very solid running backs. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have run for 355 yards between them. And Jones in particular is a beast after contact. Packer backers are hopeful that the offensive line will experience more stability now that tackle David Bakhtiari is back after an injury.

So what’s the verdict?

The Patriots will likely go to more of a ball control game with Hoyer at the controls. And not that Jones is so dynamic, but the Pats can do more with the youngster than the vet. So New England will be limited in that regard.

The Packers have run the ball almost 45% of the time. That’s a relatively high frequency in this day and age. That tells us Rodgers is content with moving the ball that way. We wouldn’t be surprised if Green Bay took a conservative approach. And Rodgers doesn’t have to take a lot of risks without fear of being “outgunned” from the other side. So we lean in the direction of an UNDER.

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