Patriots-Packers matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Dec. 14, 2010 @ 6:42 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a matchup to watch in the Week 15 game between the Packers and Patriots:

Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Patriots ORT Sebastian Vollmer

Few teams have been able to rattle Tom Brady this season. The Patriots have allowed just 21 sacks, although Brady's been sacked three times in each of the last two games.

Not that it's slowed him down.

Matthews is one of the best in the NFL in getting to the quarterback. He is second in the league with 12½ sacks, but his production has gone down lately, as he seems to be affected by a shin injury that's getting worse.

The 'backer will often challenge Vollmer and the right side of the Patriots O-line. The Pats have to be pleased with Vollmer's progression. The second-year player has started every game this season and has rarely made a mistake. He is likely the left tackle of the future.

Other speed-rushers from the linebacking position that have faced the Patriots include Cameron Wake, Shaun Phillips and James Harrison — all of whom recorded one sack of Brady, and sometimes that's all you need to change the game. If Matthews can get into the backfield, he will go for the strip-sack, but that won't be easy, either. Brady has great footwork in the pocket and the Pats have not turned it over in five games.

Another thing to keep an eye on with Matthews is watching him in coverage. He has four passes defensed and an interception this season. With the Patriots' reliance on short-to-intermediate passing routes, Matthews could show some disguise and drop back into a zone and pick Brady. The Packers need to find a way to create turnovers to slow down the Patriots. Brian Urlacher almost had a pick when he dropped into coverage, same with LB Nick Roach in last Sunday's game. Either way, the Packers will be counting on Matthews to make an impact.