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Normally the preseason is a time to get excited over rookies taking their first snaps in the NFL. Sometimes we fall in love with those names on the fringe of the roster, beating the UDFA odds to stay around in Week 1.
The Patriots and Packers have plenty of rookies and exciting UDFAs to watch. But the biggest story to watch for has nothing to do with either. Ezekiel Elliott debuts in the AFC East for New England, and fans will get a first glimpse of him on Saturday night.
Green Bay will line up its starting lineup for at least a quarter after Jordan Love’s team saw a pair of drives last week. The Packers will certainly want to see more of quarterback Sean Clifford after an up-and-down day with plenty of positives and negatives to chew on. Third-string quarterback Alex McGough also didn’t attempt a pass last week, so maybe the team switches that up this week.
The Packers (-190) stormed out to a 36-19 victory over Cincinnati last week, easily covering a four-point spread. The Patriots didn’t fare as well, as Bill Belichick’s squad stumbled out to a 20-9 loss to the Texans.
New England should also play its starters a fair amount. That said, Louisville product Malik Cunningham made a strong case for some playing time, Bailey Zappe needs as many reps as possible as the firm QB2 and Trace McSorley needs to compete with Cunningham.
Joint practices this week have gone both ways, with the Packers being the better side Wednesday before a stronger Thursday for the Patriots. It exemplifies a close spread of just 2.5 points between the two sides; Green Bay being slightly favored as the home team.
Here’s how you should approach Saturday’s game.
Belichick is one of the best active head coaches ATS (50-39 with the Patriots) in the preseason. The Patriots may have failed to cover last week while Mac Jones sat, but there’s a very good chance of reversing both of those statements this week.
Jones will likely get a few drives in this week, and the Patriots defense should prove a real test given its depth all over the field. The first team played terrific defense last week, and there should be even more of that this week. Clifford also won’t play as well as he did last week — those ups and downs prove especially punishing when going against Belichick.
The Patriots will likely be without Mike Gesicki and Michael Onwenu this weekend. Cole Strange also missed time in practice this week. That’s three starters, including two offensive linemen, who may not play against a strong Packers pass rush.
The under and Bill Belichick have a fun history, especially in the preseason. The defense holds most teams within 20 points, and the offense lacks the explosive plays to hit the over. Meanwhile, Clifford is going to have a much tougher time under center in Week 2 than he did a week prior.
Green Bay won’t come close to 36 points again.
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Michael Sicoli has been writing about fantasy football and betting within the NFL space since 2020. He works as a writer and content creator with ClubFantasyFFL and runs an NFL defensive (IDP) newsletter with The IDP Guys. A graduate from Quinnipiac University, Michael is a long-time NFL fan with a love for soccer and the NBA.More info on Michael Sicoli
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