NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Best of the Best
by Dennis Ranahan

Two of the more storied franchises in the National Football League meet tonight when the New England Patriots host the Green Bay Packers. The name of the trophy awarded the Super Bowl winner is named after the legendary Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, and no team in football has captured that award more than Bill Belichick’s Patriots.

Two quarterbacks with as sure of a shot at entrance on first ballot Hall of Fame honors square off in this contest with Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers and the home team led by Tom Brady. If you think there could be a better matchup of quarterbacks, you are mistaking.

This year, Rodgers has had to take his Packers on his back as the Green Bay defense has dropped to the middle of the league status. He has done it while still overcoming an opening week injury and with almost no running game. The results have been as spotty as the Packers defense, and last week’s loss to the Rams in Los Angeles was Green Bay’s third setback in their last five decisions.

Still, no team in the NFC North Division, which the Packers share with the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, have run away from the pack. With a win tonight, the Packers could stay within a game of the Bears and Vikings, who both won earlier today.

In their path to a win is New England.

Seems the Patriots reflect their coach as much as any team in the league. Belichick is always focused on the next game and his fear of an opponent, whether their competition is as weak as the Buffalo Bills or as formidable as the Packers. Seems Belichick never gets ahead of his team’s talent, but rather is always putting them in a position to overcome the oncoming obstacles.

That is the case tonight.

Instead of boosting success over five straight wins and a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, a division they have won nine straight years and 14 consecutive seasons with Brady at quarterback (he missed the 2008 season with an injury suffered on opening day), the Patriots are once again talking about what they need to overcome. A number of players are on New England’s injury list this week, which more often seems to elevate the athletes in action than hurt the Patriots chances for a victory.

The injuries, and hype around Rodgers running the Packers offense, has got a number of bettors to back the road team tonight in Foxboro.

Most often that is a mistake.

It is more often the wrong side to back Brady’s opponent when New England is laying less points than the opening line. Tonight’s game opened with the Patriots favored by a touchdown, a line that has been reduced to New England by 5 points currently.

The Patriots, at home, laying a reduced point spread is the better of the two choices in this primetime matchup tonight.