GREEN BAY—For all the hype surrounding the first meeting between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the reality is the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will never be on the field at the same time on Sunday.
One of the league’s top receiving duos and one of the top cornerback tandems will be, however, and their battles on the perimeter could go a long way toward deciding the game.
The Packers’ Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have combined for more than 1,900 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns through 11 games this season. Their counterparts from the Patriots will be cover men Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
At this point, only New England’s guys know who’s got whom come Sunday. The Packers are waiting to see.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll get one or the other,” Nelson said, stating the obvious. “You just watch them both (on film) throughout, how they play, try to get a feel for it and have a game plan for each of them.”
Nelson isn’t making any predictions because film study tells him nothing is certain. Revis is the Patriots’ top corner, yet, last week against Detroit, New England put the bigger Browner on Calvin Johnson and matched up Revis on Golden Tate.
Earlier this season against Denver, Nelson said the Patriots began the game with Browner on Demaryius Thomas and Revis on Emmanuel Sanders, but later they changed things up, putting Revis on Thomas and Browner on tight end Julius Thomas. How the Patriots deploy their safeties varies as well.
One thing the Packers know not to expect is for one corner or the other to stay strictly on one side of the field, as the Seahawks did with Richard Sherman back in Week 1. The Packers let Sherman take then-No. 3 receiver Jarrett Boykin out of the game.
Boykin has since been replaced as the No. 3 by rookie Davante Adams, while tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers have both been more involved in the offense lately than they were early on.
“It’s a matchup defense,” Aaron Rodgers said. “They’ll figure out who they want on Jordy, who they want on Randall, who they want on ‘Q’ and who they want on Davante. We’ll run our offense and adjust if we have to. That’s football. We adjust, they adjust, and whoever can be more efficient will probably end up winning.”
Efficiency has been the Packers’ calling card during their current stretch of seven wins in eight games. They’ve scored 38 or more points five times, and they’ve converted 66 percent of their red-zone possessions into touchdowns (23 of 35) going back to Week 4.
Their only sub-50 percent red-zone conversion rate in that stretch came in New Orleans, Green Bay’s only loss in the last two months.
Last week, New England held Detroit out of the end zone the entire game as Revis and Browner limited Johnson and Tate to a total of just eight receptions.
“They’re obviously very focused on personnel matchups. Past games will tell you that,” Mike McCarthy said. “We do some things we like versus certain people and certain coverages, and that’s not going to change. We’re going to run our concepts.”
However the Patriots decide to defend those concepts, the Packers won’t be surprised.
“You look forward to these games,” Nelson said. “It’ll be a fun game, a great matchup across the board. This is what you want to play games for.”